Table Tennis star from Lewes Old Grammar School Pupil surprised by Paralympian
County table tennis whizz James Brandon got to meet one of his heroes when gold medallist Paralympian Will Bayley came to his club to film for BBC Breakfast TV.
The 12-year-old Lewes Old Grammar School pupil was training at Brighton Table Tennis Club (BTTC) when Bayley, who is the world number one Paralympic player, arrived to film with BBC Breakfast’s Mike Bushell and Brighton Youtuber Saffron Barker, ahead of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing as all three were competing.
James, who started playing table tennis three years ago and is now ranked 91 in the country for his U13 age group, plays for the U15 BTTC Cadets as well as representing Sussex in the Sussex Cadets 2nd team.
He said: “My table tennis heroes are Timo Boll, Tom Jarvis and Will Bayley.
"I have met Will a few times, most recently when Mike Bushell came with the BBC Breakfast team to interview him at the club, along with Saffron Barker, ahead of the Strictly launch. I even ended up seeing myself on TV!”
And the schoolboy, who lives in Brighton, has been inspired by the meeting to aim high in his sport.
He added: “‘I am already so proud of what I have achieved, particularly having only started to play competitively a year ago.
"Not only have I been invited to join the Cadets at BTTC, but I have been asked to play in the National Junior League, and represented Sussex, which was a huge honour.
"But by the end of the 2019/20 season in July, I would like to be ranked in the Top 50 U13 boys.
"I am also hoping to progress into the Cadet Elites at BTTC next year and maybe in the future enter tournaments, and attend training camps with the club abroad, in places such as Portugal, Germany and Sweden.”
Brighton Table Tennis Club is renowned for its inclusive approach to the sport.
More than 1,250 people play in the club’s weekly sessions.
Their number includes people with learning disabilities, young people from the Brighton Travellers site, Looked After Children, people with physical disabilities, people from the LGBT community and young asylum seekers.
The youngest player is 2. The oldest is 98. The club is the world’s first recognised Club of Sanctuary, for its work with refugees.