FLIGHT cancellations from Gatwick Airport prevented 11 members of the British Para Table Tennis Team Performance squad, including Stonehouse’s Billy Shilton from travelling to the Montenegro Para Championships in Podgorica.
Shilton, who scooped Tokyo Paralympic bronze in the team event for Great Britain last September, was one of 10 athletes and four coaches who were due to travel on a Wizz Air flight to Podgorica.
Shilton, 23, a former Maidenhill student who is now Sheffield based, returned to his family home in Stonehouse as he chewed over the flight misfortune, he said: “I’m really disappointed to not be competing in Montenegro as I feel like I have had a great few weeks of practice after Slovenia and was really motivated to do well. For me, I need to play competitions to be in a qualification spot for the world championships, so playing one less tournament this season puts more pressure on my next tournaments but I’m ready and looking forward to the challenge.”
BPTT Performance Director Gorazd Vecko, added: “The only alternative flight we were offered was the next day to Belgrade. We would not have been able to fly from there to Podgorica so we had to make the decision not to go. I think we can expect to get a full refund on our flights but altogether, with travel, hotel accommodation and parking this will cost our programme between £3,000-4,000.
“It will also have an impact on some of the athletes who needed to compete in Montenegro to gain the tournament credits for the World Championships later this year. They may now have to compete in Thailand or Argentina which will obviously involve long and expensive flights. It is very frustrating but totally out of our control.”