This week Aaron has taken his training aboard to Slovakia with his GB teammates as they step up their preparation for the European championships, which will be held in Slovenia. Aaron said “ Its important for us to get variation in our training and we are lucky to be able to come to such a great facility in Slovakia. It has been purposely built for table tennis so it has everything you could need, getting some different practice and insight is also important so we have taken full advantage that and hopefully improved the areas we worked on out here ”. Aaron and the team have just recently returned from their holiday and training intensity will begin to pick up in the coming weeks in the lead up to the European championships
On June the 14th Aaron took part in the German open in the city of Bayreuth, which would be the final Open he takes part in for the 2017 season. Aarons singles began positively with three 3-0 victories most notably against world number 13 LEDOUX Marc Philippe. This meant Aaron would top the group. In the last 16 Aaron came through a tricky contest against a young up and coming German URBAN Johanes 3-1 recovering from 10-5 down in the 4th set to secure the victory 12-10. In the quarterfinal Aaron met DIDUKH Viktor the world number one and the player Aaron lost most recently to in the final of the Slovenia open final. Sadly Aaron was again on the loosing side, but this time in the tightest of matches loosing 3-2 and 12-10 in the 5th set in a match that saw both players play at the highest level. After Aaron said “ its disappointing to not get across the finish line and take the victory but it was a really good match and I no now it’s a mater of time before I turn that into a victory so I’m really optimistic”
That meant it was the end of the singles for Aaron and would now begin preparing for the team competition. The GB pair didn’t have the greatest of starts having a surprise loss to a combines Irish and French team 2-1 in which Aaron lost his singles to the world number 4 BOUVAIS Thomas. The GB pair recovered with a 2-0 victory over Germany and won the group on count back. In the quarterfinals the GB pair won 2-0 against Slovakia placing them in the semifinal. Here the GB pair would face Belgium and after leading the doubles 2-0 were pegged back to 2-2 before Aaron and his partner ross regained the advantage to win 3-2. GB went on to win the match 2-0 meaning they were into the final where they would face Paralympic champions Ukraine. Aaron and his partner lost the doubles 3-2 and Ross lost to world number 1 DIDUKH Viktor meaning the GB pair would finish with silver. After Aaron said “ with my performance in the singles and loosing such a tight doubles in the final against Ukraine as a team me and Ross can take a lot of positives. We can see the improvements we are making are pushing us in the direction to beat the worlds best. We now have to go back train hard and make the changes we have seen from the competitions and will come again and see what happens next time”.
On the 6th may the Slovenia open commenced where Aaron took part along side his GB teammates. The Slovenia open is always one of the strongest competitions of the year attracting the world’s best players from all around the world. Aarons singles began with wins over both VAN DER BURG Roy from Holland and SAUNIN Aleksei of Russia. Aarons final group match was against world number 10 and London 2012 silver medalist CSEJTEY Richard of Slovakia in which Aaron won 3-2 to top the group. Moving into the knock out rounds Aaron came through 3-0 against LORENZINI Francesco of Italy and a tight 3-2 victory over IAKOVLEV Artem in the quarter final to guarantee a medal. In the semi final Aaron met LOICQ Mathieu of Belgium who was in great form as he previously beat CSONKA Andras of Hungary the Rio 2016 silver medalist in the quarterfinal to reach this stage. Mathieu showed this form with a quick start taking a 2-0 lead, but Aaron was able to compose himself and fight back to win the match 3-2 to make the final. In the final Aaron met DIDUKH Viktor of Ukraine the world number one. While the set scores were tight unfortunately Viktor proved one step to far and Aaron lost the final 3-0
Into the team event and Aaron would again partner up with his GB teammate Ross Wilson. They began there competition with 2-0 victories over both Holland and Australia meaning the GB pair topped the group. Into the quarterfinals and again the GB pair came through 2-0 against Slovakia to place themselves into the semifinal. In the semifinal the GB pair met the European champions Ukraine. The GB pair lost the doubles 3-1 and Ross lost to the world number one meaning the GB pair would have to settle.
On reflection of the competition Aaron said “ I’m happy with how the competition has gone. To make the final of the singles in a strong competition is a real positive and for me and Ross to medal when we haven’t had any focus on team event since returning for Rio is good signs for the Europeans. I feel mentally I have been really strong at this competition and came through a number of tricky matches which shows all the practice and psychological work im doing is paying off”
Aaron will return to England now as he prepares for the next Open in Germany in June
After such a successful year of sport in 2016 Aaron was invited as a guest to BBC Sport personality of the year along with all over medal winners in both the Olympic and Paralympic games. It was a great evening for Aaron, as he was able to celebrate and relive the sporting year along with his fellow Olympians and Paralympians. It was also a great opportunity to celebrate with the British public who’s support makes it possible for the British athletes to compete and represent them. A deserved winner of SPOTY 2016 was Andy Murray after becoming world number 1, winning the Olympic games as well as Wimbledon and the world pro tour finals
After the success of Rio 2016 Olympians and Paralypians came together to celebrate the success with the British public which was held in Trafalgar square. It was a great opportunity for the public to come and see all the athletes and gave the athletes an opportunity to say thanks to the public for all their support. After the event medalists were invited to Buckingham palace for a special reception to meet the royal family. Aaron said “ it’s a great day for us as athletes, to come here and have so many people turn out to see us is a special feeling. This day is more about the public though, without there support and people playing the lottery we are not able to even compete so we owe a massive thanks to them as their support makes it all possible. Going to the palace after was really special. It’s the second time I’ve been but it feels so strange to say you have been in Buckingham palace and spoke to the queen. Its not a normal thing to do, sport allows you to do some incredible things.
James Pendleton have announced they will be supporting Aaron towards the Tokyo 2020 games. James Pendleton, who are a local housing agency to Aarons home town of wandsworth were fundamental in supporting Aaron from London 2012 to Rio 2016 helping him take a medal at the games. Aaron said “ I feel really privileged to have the support of James Pendleton. They have supported me so much previously in the 4 years leading from London 2012 to Rio 2016 and I feel so grateful they have so much faith in me. I hope I can do them proud, its not often to find such Kind people like Lee and Lucy Pendleton who are willing to do so much to support someone else’s dreams “
On Aarons return from Rio 2016 he has wasted no time in putting the medal to good use. Aaron has been traveling around the country visiting lots of young children trying to inspire them to take up sport by speaking about his experience of Rio, showing his medal and answering questions they have. Aaron took special joy in returning to his own primary school where Aaron held an assembly and was taken around the school. Aaron said “ its amazing to see that other people can enjoy the medal and if I can play a small part in inspiring someone to take up sport or do something special that would mean a lot to me. It felt very strange returning to my primary school, everything looks so much smaller then I remember! “
While Aaron is on some down time on his return from Rio before they start back full time training Aaron will be heading to a lot of events to try to inspire the next generation
Aaron along with the GB team set off to their main goal of the 4-year cycle Rio 2016. After a successful build up, the team was in good spirits and glad the competition had finally arrived. Aaron began his singles campaign and just like in London 2012 Aaron was the first GB member to compete for table tennis in Rio 2016. Aaron sadly didn’t have the dream start he wanted, he ended up losing 3-1 to world number 3 BOUVAIS Thomas . As results went Aaron second opponent LEDOUX Marc Philippe beat Thomas meaning Aaron had to not only win to progress to the second stage but also win with a better ratio. Aaron came flying out of the blocks against Marc and secured a 3-1 victory over LEDOUX Marc Philippe. After points count back Aaron ended up toping the group which gave him a bye to the quarter finals. This is where Aarons singles would end as he lost out 3-0 to world number 6 CSONKA Andras who was the eventual silver medalist for Rio 2016. After Aaron said “ I’m obviously disappointed, I had a great opportunity to make a semi final here and be in contention of a singles medal. Looking to the future I can take positives in my first Paralympic games in London I didn’t win a singles match and this time around I made the quarter finals. Now is not the time to dwell we have the team event coming up and have a great opportunity if we can perform to our level.
The team event kicked off and Aaron was joined by GB teammates Will Bayley and Ross Wilson. The GB team started off with a 2-0 victory over Belgium who was previous world champions in 2010. Aaron and Ross won the doubles 3-1 and Ross finished the job with a 3-0 victory in his singles. In the quarterfinals GB met London 2012 silver medalist Spain. The GB team lost the opening doubles 3-1 meaning it was down to Ross and Will to win their singles matches which they both did to progress the team into the semi finals. In the semi finals the GB team met Ukraine the number 1 seeds. After loosing the doubles 3-2 it was an up hill battle and the GB would not progress to the final as DIDUKH Viktor beat Will Bayley 3-0 to knock the GB team into a bronze medal play off. In the Bronze medal play off GB would face china the current world champions. The match began with an amazing 3-2 victory in the doubles putting the GB team in touching distances. Ross Wilson was up next and was unable to finish the job when playing against a very in form ZHAO Shuai who managed to win the `Gold in the singles. It came down to Aaron Vs SUN Churen, the winner would secure the medal for their team and the loser would take the painful position of 4th place. In a real up and down match with the pressure clearly at the highest point Aaron managed to hold his nerve and come out victorious 12-10 in the 5th set to win the match and a famous victory over the power houses of china. After the match Aaron said “ This is a dream come true, this is 4 years of hard work for this one moment and it was worth every second. We were written off before the match, to win against china is never easy but we knew as a team we had a chance. This whole team event every member had to come out at some stage to carry the team over the line, so it feels amazing to have done this with the boys and think we can be really proud as a team of what we have just achieved”
The GB team came away with 3 medals for table tennis 2 singles gold medals and 1 Bronze team medal. As they move on towards Tokyo 2020 with such a young team they will look to improve their level and results. For everyone who has followed Aaron over the 4-year period and supported him he would like to thank you for all your help and hopes he can do even better in the future.
Aaron has just come back to the national center where he will be finishing off his final 8 weeks of preparation before the team fly’s out to Rio to compete in the games. On the 17th of June Aaron along with the rest of the GB team headed down to Adidas HQ for there kitting out. Aaron said, “ the excitement is defiantly kicking in now, we have tried the kit on and you can feel it getting closer. Wearing what we will be wearing in the games today has felt special and just cant wait for it to start”.
From Kit fitting Aaron returned home for a 2-week break to recharge and get ready for the final push. While Aaron was home it was important to maintain his fitness. He was grateful enough for Daley Thompson, one of the greatest GB athletes ever to allow him to use his Gym ( Daley Fitness) in Putney which is local to where Aaron is from. Aaron said “ why it is a break its vital to maintain my fitness and strength, with the games so close if I was just to lounge around for 2 weeks it would be very detrimental to my final preparations. I would like to say a huge thanks to Daley and their team, they were very kind to let me use their gym while I was home and it was a huge benefit”. Now Aaron is back in Sheffield and ready to go, keep up to date with him in his final prep leading into the games.
On the 29th of April the GB team left for a hectic few weeks of competitions in what would be some of the final preparation competitions before the main event at the end of the year Rio 2016. The competition began on the 5th of May in Slovenia, Lasko with the team being out there earlier for a training camp in there final preparations for the competitions.
Aarons singles began with a 3-1 win over Russian player SAUNIN Aleksei. Next came the much harder test of number 6 in the world CSONKA Andras from Hungary. Aaron ended up loosing this in very close-set scores 3-1. He said after the game “ Czonka is a top player and will be someone I’m competing against at Rio, its always a tight match and I feel at the big stages I didn’t get the luck but I tried a few new things and felt I played really well, maybe on a different day a few points could have gone my way and this result could be different. This left Aaron going into his last match needing to win to through to the K.O stages. Aaron came up against Van Amerongen Max of the Netherlands which he went onto win 3-1 and progressed to the last 16. Here Aaron met current parlympic Gold team medalist and World team silver medalist SKRZYNECKI Marcin in which Aaron won 3-1. Sadly moving into the quarterfinals this is where Aarons singles finished, with a 3-1 loss to world number 7 Andersson Emil. Aaron said after the game “ I had a really slow start in the match I was down 2-0 and then started to find my rhythm, it’s a shame because once I got going I felt I was in control and had every chance to win. Against opponents of his level you cant afford to start so slow as it was an up hill battle from there. Over all my singles has improved I’ve put in some good performances and will keep pushing to improve.
Onto the team event and Aaron was joined by his London 2012 teammates Ross Wilson and William Bayley who he took a Bronze medal at the last parlympic games. There competition started with wins over Italy, Russia and 5th seeds for the competition Hungary. This moved the GB team into the quarterfinals where they met Belgium. The British pair of Aaron and Ross lost the doubles 3-1. This left them needing to win both remaining singles to win the match. Ross went on to win 3-2 against LOICQ Mathieu with Aaron finishing the match off with a 3-0 victory against world number 12 LEDOUX Marc. This moved the GB team into the semi final where they met China. The GB team of Aaron and Ross lost the doubles 3-2 and Ross went onto lose 3-1 to world number 4 ZHAO Shuai meaning the GB team finished with a Bronze medal. After the competition Aaron said, “ There is lots of positives from this competition. To lose 11-9 in the 5th to china shows all the doubles practice we are doing is paying off and we are so close to one of the medal contenders in Rio that its only a positive “
The GB team moved onto their next competition with a lengthy bus drive from Slovenian to Slovakia to prepare for the next open. Here Aarons singles began with 3 victories over French opponent BERTHIER Clement Thailand opponent NGOENKRACHANG Lertsak and world number 15 LOICQ Mathieu. This meant Aaron topped his group and moved him into the last 16 where he met world number 9 CSEJTEY Richard. Aaron went onto lose this Match 3-1 and after said “ I’m really disappointed with this result, I’ve been working a lot of my receive of service and in this match I just made to many mistakes. The game score was really tight the first 3 sets but I was finding it hard to receive his service well, I’m hoping we draw Slovakia in the team event so I get another crack at him to put it right”
This is exactly what happened, Aaron teamed up with GB team mate Billy Shilton and in the group stage they beat Australia and Poland with there final match against Slovakia to top the group. Billy and Aaron won the doubles 3-0 leaving Aaron with a chance to finish the tie with a win against CSEJTEY Richard. Aaron went on to win the game 3-1 and after said “ I’m really happy to win this game, I felt I did myself justice today and after speaking to my coaches with what I did wrong in the singles against him, I think I changed this and in return the result turned in my favor”. This moved the GB team into the quarterfinals where just like Slovenia they met Belgium again. The GB pair of Billy and Aaron won the doubles 3-0. Aaron had a chance to finish the tie with another victory against LOICQ Mathieu like in the singles. Sadly it was Mathieu day and he came through to win with Billy going on to lose to LEDOUX Marc and send Belgium into the semi final. On reflection to the competitions Aaron said, “ today I just felt I had nothing left, I tried to get myself going and dig deep but was just struggling. To be fair Loicq played a very good match and would love the chance to play him in Rio to prove to myself it was just a slip up. It’s been a very long few weeks with ups and downs. I no where I am now and I’m really looking forward to the next few months of training to be as ready as possible by Rio. I’m more motivated then ever now to be the best I can by Rio and I no I will be “
Keep up to date with Aaron in his final few months of preparation for the games