LEAMINGTON could be filled with crowds welcoming home an Olympic champion in a little over a year’s time.
For England’s number one female table tennis player Kelly Sibley, who was born in the town, is giving it her all and going for gold in the 2012 Games.
Having recently completed a seven-week physical training camp, the 23-year-old is flying off to China next week for more intense training and to compete in the China Open, before coming back to take part in the European Championships, on top of other tournaments in Austria and Spain.
She said: “The training camp was quite tough and I can feel the benefits of it now. I feel physically fit and ready for the challenge.
“In China they are the best at table tennis and I will be training for seven to eight hours a day, so it will be tough. But I feel in really good shape and ready for the season.”
Having picked up her first bat at the age of eight, Kelly began playing at Lillington Free Church table tennis club and five years later found herself representing England at the 2000 English Schools competition. The next year she was invited to live at the National Training centre in Nottingham and table tennis has since been the biggest part of her life. On top of her competitions, Kelly, who, as well as representing England and Great Britain, also plays for teams on the Continent, has been coaching at summer schools and she spends almost every spare moment with her coach Alan Cooke at the National Training Centre in Sheffield, where she now lives.
But with such a jam-packed schedule, the sportswoman has no time to earn any form of income and is hoping to attract some financial support from businesses or individuals from the Leamington area.
She said: “We have had our funding cut, so I am finding it difficult. A couple of months ago, I thought I would have to come back home.
“If I could find a sponsor, it would take a lot of pressure off me so I could concentrate on the Olympics rather than have that worry.
“Sponsors would have their logo displayed on my table tennis kit and get a mention during interviews and I can arrange exhibitions for them as well.”
She added: “The importance of public support is massive.”
Kelly’s mum Lynn Bolitho, a former county-level table tennis player herself, added: “It’s difficult to pay for day-to-day things when you’re training all the time.
“If she got a sponsor, she could go out to China periodically between now and the Olympics as it is their sport and the training there is second to none.”
Anyone who can help with sponsorship can call 07739 902377 or email firstname.lastname@example.org