Stonehouse table tennis star Billy Shilton will pick up a medal on his Paralympic debut, having combined with Aaron McKibbin to beat Hungary in the men’s class 8.
Shilton, a former Maidenhill School pupil, is guaranteed at least a bronze medal after Great Britain took on 2014 World bronze medallists Hungary, represented by the Rio 2016 Paralympic silver medallist Andras Csonka and former World number two and European medallist Gyula Zborai.
With World champion Ross Wilson unable to play having tweaked his back in the warm-up Shilton teamed up with McKibbin in the opening doubles and understandably they took a while to get into their stride.
Having lost the first game 12-10 they led 7-3 in the second but at 7-6 GB head coach Greg Baker called a timeout and they went on to take the game 11-9 to level the score. That appeared to settle the pair and they were always in control from that point, taking the third game 11-6 and a forehand winner from McKibbin sealed the fourth 11-6 for a 3-1 win.
Shilton then took on Csonka in the first singles. The 22-year-old had won their last three matches most recently at the Polish Open in 2020 in five sets and he made a good start, moving quickly to 5-1 and then keeping his focus to see out the game 11-8. From that moment Shilton grew in confidence and having won the second game 11-5 he took the third 11-7 to win the match 3-0 and secure a place in the semi-final and a guaranteed medal for his team.
“Obviously there was a last-minute change of plan with Ross having a little niggle in the warm-up,” said McKibbin, “but that is what is so good about our team, we have three really strong players. All three of us reached the quarter-finals in the singles, we can play any combination at any time and we know that all three will be good. I and Billy had quite a lot of experience last season playing doubles together so we knew we could bring it in. The first game was a bit shaky but we took our time and then that performance there from Billy was unbelievable. I’ve never seen him play that good – I literally knew from point one that he would win.”
“I think with the situation at the start there was a bit of uncertainty whether I was going to play or not,” said Shilton.
“I knew I had to step up and that was probably the best I’ve ever played. I was really nervous in the doubles but Aaron calmed me down really well. In the singles, I knew he (Csonka) would be nervous because I’ve won the last three matches against him so I knew I had a chance if I played my best game. I’m lost for words to be honest.
“I don’t think it has really sunk in but I’m so happy. Thanks to Aaron and Ross for all their support leading up to this point. We’ve still got a match tomorrow against China in the semi-finals so the job’s not done yet – we need to push on now and try and better the bronze medal.”