She’s known for her exploits in the world of table tennis, but before the days of Olympic Games and Commonwealth medals, it was sport on a different kind of table which caught a young Kelly Sibley’s eye.
As a youngster, Sheffield-born Sibley was tutored by her father and grandfather on all things snooker – although her size meant she was often required to use the rest, while pool, played on a smaller table, also came into the equation to help her out.
It was actually her mother Lynn Bolitho – a former county-level table tennis player – who inspired her to try out a spot of ping pong aged eight at Lillington Free Church table tennis club.
Five years later, Sibley junior then moved to live at the National Training Centre in Nottingham for two years before switching to Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport.
It meant the valuable time spent with her family sharing their love of snooker was restricted – although it is a passion that has never left Sibley, as demonstrated by her appearance in the crowd at this year’s World Snooker Championships at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield where she watched eventual runner up Ding Junhui play Alan McManus at the semi-final stage.
“I love all sports – my Dad watches snooker and my granddad used to watch it, so I followed it through them,” she explained.
“Any opportunity I can get to watch elite sport, I’ll take it. When I was younger I tried playing a bit of snooker but I was too small so had to use the rest all the time!
“I play a little bit of pool but only because the table is smaller – I’d love to give it a go though.
“With lots of atmosphere it is really good and it ups your game. I think Alan could see the crowd was getting behind him, so I think that spurred him on, although he just came up short.
“It’s always great for players to compete in venues where the atmosphere is really good and it brings out the best in them.”
When it comes to big venues, Sibley certainly has experience of the highest level having represented Team GB at London 2012 four years ago and England at senior level at the Commonwealth Games, European Games and World Championships.
The 27-year-old, who is currently ranked as England’s number one women’s singles player, also won a bronze medal in the mixed doubles at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
And she admits adding to that tally on the Gold Coast in two years time is high on her list of priorities for the future.
“I’m feeling good at the moment. I’ve got a couple of English competitions coming up and I’m top of the Grand Prix standings which is good. I’ve got two more of those left this season,” she said.
“Then we’ve got the Europeans which is after the summer so they are my short-term goals.
“I’ll be focusing on the Commonwealth Games in 2018 as my long-term target. I’d like to improve on the bronze I got in 2014 in Glasgow.
“I’m looking at my new training plans to get me in the best possible shape for that and hopefully I can go one or two better and bring back a gold.”