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Ping-pong star Kim’s the spin doctor

Whittington medic chases world para medal and sets his sights on 2020 Tokyo Games

11 October, 2018 — By Steve Barnett

Table tennis player Kim Daybell competing for Great Britain at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. PHOTOS: ONEDITION FOR PARALYMPICS GB

THERE’S one spin ­doctor who shared his praise for the NHS this week without trying to win your vote.

Paralympic table tennis star Kim Daybell joined the Whittington Hospital after qualifying as a junior doctor, and arrived in Archway thanking the public health service for the flexibility they continue to serve up while he chases further glory – including a
third appearance at the Games.

The 26-year-old is looking to fit in as much time at the practice table as possible after being included in a squad of 14 British athletes to compete in the World Para Table Tennis Championships, which get under way in Slovenia on Wednesday.

He will go into the showpiece in smashing form having returned home from the Gold Coast in Australia in April sporting a silver medal from the Commonwealth Games – narrowly losing the men’s class 6-10 singles final to his Team England compatriot Ross Wilson. The world number five seed has also won gold in the singles and team events at both the Czech Open and the Lignano Master Open in Italy this year.

Reflecting on his love for the sport, and the challenges that lie ahead, Kim said: “Table tennis matters a lot to me. Now I have finished medical school, qualified as a doctor and got work, I can switch my focus back to table tennis, at least for the time being.

“The NHS is a good organisation if you want to work part-time. I work a three-day week and train two days a week and it is working really well. Everyone at the Whittington has been really supportive.

“I am just going to take it major competition by major competition and, as long as I am still playing well and I love the sport, then I don’t see any reason to not carry on.”

Kim was born and raised in Sheffield. When he can’t make it home to practise, however, he heads for a new table in Westminster where he enjoys playing ping-pong just as much.

He joins coaches and children at Greenhouse Sports in Cosway Street, Marylebone, where the London-based charity uses sport to help young people living in the inner city to realise their full potential.

“It’s a great place to go,” said Kim. “I get down there when I can to spar with the children. Sometimes I head there to practise too.

“I’ve told all the coaches that whenever they want me to go along and work with the children, I’ll be more than happy to do so.”

Kim was born with Poland’s syndrome, a rare condition characterised by underdevelopment or absence of the chest muscle on one side of the body. That hasn’t stopped him from going on to represent his country in both Para table tennis and at able-bodied level.

He started playing at the age of nine at home in the garage with his dad and was immediately attracted by the speed and excitement of the sport. He made his international debut in 2008 at the age of just 16 and has since won gold medals in France, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Slovakia and Romania, to name but a few of his successful stomping grounds.

His impressive CV also includes representing ParalympicsGB at London 2012 and Rio 2016, while last year he won a team silver in the European Champion­ships.

“I’m at the highest ranking I’ve ever been, so I’m in a good place going forward,” said Kim, revealing that he also has his sights set on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

“The Europeans last year helped me settle and takes a bit of the pressure off when it comes to the majors. I feel a lot more comfortable playing among the top players as I feel that I belong there after winning medals at the Europeans and the Commonwealth Games, so it has been a confidence boost.

“London 2012 was a real career highlight for me. To compete in front of a home crowd on the biggest stage sport can offer really was a dream come true. The atmosphere was electric and I doubt if I will ever experience anything quite like it again. It was amazing to see how much people cared and wanted us to achieve.

“Obviously I’d love to medal at the Worlds but I just want to play my best really,” Kim added.

“I’ve put myself in a position where I can medal if I bring my best game to the table. I’ve beaten a lot of the players this year, so really I just want to play well, and if I do the results will follow.”

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