Sport England campaign This Girl Can aims to encourage more women to take up sport. But which one’s for you? Standard Issue is talking to different sportswomen to learn what they love about theirs. This week Standard Issue talks to England’s No 2 table tennis player Kelly Sibley.
Kelly and Danny Reed celebrate their Commonwealth Games victory.
Kelly Sibley is 26 and lives in Leamington Spa. She’s won four women’s singles national championships and in 2014 won the Commonwealth Games bronze medal in the mixed doubles with her partner Danny Reed.
Did you come from a sporty family?
Yes, we love to watch all sports especially football.
How and when did you get involved in table tennis?
I first got involved when I was eight years old. I started playing because my Mum used to play. She represented Warwickshire for many years and also won my town and county championships.
What’s the best thing about the sport?
One of the best things is that anyone of any age, gender or standard can play. It’s great that there are lots of opportunities to play such as youth clubs, local schools, sport centres along with local clubs and leagues.
What advice would you give a woman who wants to play table tennis?
My advice is just do it! It’s a great way to have fun and to keep fit. There are also plenty of clubs that have women-only coaching sessions, so if playing with men is something you find intimidating to begin with, then this is a great opportunity.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The very first time I won the English National Ladies Singles title will always be one of my biggest achievements, and a memory that will stay with me forever. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, I won a bronze medal in the mixed doubles with Daniel Reed. This was an amazing achievement and the best feeling ever. It was extra special as 2014 was a very difficult year for me and my family, as my four-year-old niece was diagnosed with leukaemia. My goal going into the Commonwealth Games was to win a medal and to dedicate it to her. Standing on that podium next to my teammates was an amazing feeling, made better knowing that my family were there to see it. Going home to my niece with a medal was worth all the hard work preparing for the Games!
Kelly and Dan on the podium.
What’s the best advice you’ve had?
Fight until the very end because if you do not believe you can win you won’t!
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I would have to say my Mum, she introduced me to the sport and has always been there for me, through the good and bad times. She has followed me all around the world when I’ve been competing. She supports me 100%.
I owe a lot to my family, but I owe a huge amount to my Mum.
When you’re not playing and training, what else do you like to do?
I’m very family oriented, so when I get any time off I love to spend time with them. I love taking my niece out for the day and spoiling her. I also like going to watch the Sheffield Steelers at Ice hockey. Myself and my partner also like to take part in all different types of events to raise money for Cancer Research, and recently completed the Birmingham Half Marathon
What can’t you live without?
My phone. It’s full of pictures of my family, which can be a real boost when I’m away training.
What song could be used to soundtrack your life so far?
One song that always means a lot to me is M People’s Proud. When I first got selected to represent England at a senior level this song was out in the charts. I had a family party to celebrate my selection for my first Commonwealth Games in 2006 in Melbourne and this song was played there and then again for the 2012 Olympic Games. Whenever I hear it, it automatically brings back good memories and makes all the hard work worth it.
• Kelly will be competing at the Senior National Championships on the weekend of February 28/March 1.
• For more info on table tennis clubs near you visit http://tabletennisengland.co.uk/
Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.