Interview provided by Iain Fenton, journalist in esports news and betting for EsportsOnly.
Meet Kelly Sibley, a Commonwealth Games medalist and an Olympian for Team GB.
So first of all, how old were you when you first started playing table tennis? What got you into the sport?
Kelly: I was eight years old and I started playing at a club back in my home town of Leamington Spa called ‘Lillington Free Church’ I started playing because my mum use to play for our county, Warwickshire. I started playing competitively at the age of 10.
As a child how did table tennis help you in terms of the social, physical and mental side of the sport?
Kelly: It helped me a lot physically as I was very active during my training sessions. I met a lot of friends through my first club and I’m still very close to some of them now, I feel very lucky and honored to have come from Lillington free church and I feel like we are one big family. Whenever I’m home I always make sure I pop in and help out with some coaching as I think that it’s very important to give back and remember your roots.
Does playing competitive sport at a young age help to develop a strong mentality?
Kelly: Yea it did, when I was 12 I got selected to go and live at the national center in Nottingham and I had to move away from home to a new home. I found this really difficult. It still was, to this day one of the hardest decisions ever, but I knew I had to make that sacrifice if I wanted to give myself a chance of achieving anything in table tennis. It took a lot of mental strength and a lot of will power to get through those first couple of months, and with the support and help from my family and coaches I got through it and I felt a stronger person for it. The hardest decisions where you are escaping your own comfort zone definitely turn out to be the best ones.
When it comes to needing just one more point to win a match, how do you approach this? The same way as any other point or is it more difficult than that?
Kelly: I approach this as the same way as I would if it was 0-0. You have to. If you think about the score too much then you can tighten up. Just think about the tactics.
When it comes to Table Tennis, what do the Chinese athletes have that athletes from other countries don’t seem to?
Kelly: They start playing table tennis at the age of three or four for 7/8 hours a day. They also have more money going into the sport.
What do you think needs to be done in order for the UK to catch up to countries like China?
Kelly: It will never be as big as it is in China because that is the national sport of China. But I do feel like it’s heading in the right direction. More people are playing Table tennis and it’s in more schools and youth clubs now. But more money needs to be put into the sport, unfortunately that won’t be happening for the moment.
Can you foresee any GB Olympic medals in TT within the next couple of Olympic games?
Kelly: I feel that table tennis is going in the right direction and if we keep working hard and pushing as an association then who knows, hopefully we will be competing for medals.
For some sports, gambling has been a problem. Is gambling a problem within table tennis? Have you had any bad experiences from the fact that viewers can bet on table tennis?
Kelly: I know that you can bet/gamble on some of the big tournaments. But I’ve never experienced anything like this.
Finally, then, what does the future hold for yourself?
Kelly: My next main goal is the commonwealth games in 2018 which are being held in the Gold Coast, in between now and then I have my training programme that consists of training camps, in the UK and abroad and also some competitions, including some pro tours and challenge tournaments abroad and also the European championships in Luxembourg. While in doing this I’m also the University of Nottingham as I’m the head coach of the table tennis coach.