At 27 years old age, Kelly Sibley will be the oldest of Team GB’s three-strong table tennis contingent at the forthcoming European Games in Baku.
But while the inaugural Games in the Azerbaijani capital will be the latest competition in an impressive career encompassing Olympics, Commonwealth Games, World and European Championships, Sibley is adamant there is still plenty more to come.
Inspired by mother and former county-level table tennis player Lynn Bolitho, Sibley has certainly been a force to be reckoned with on the domestic stage, winning every title from the under-12s to a fifth women’s singles titles at March’s English National Championships after a 4-2 victory over Tin-Tin Ho.
Last summer proved to be third-time lucky as she took mixed doubles bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow having walked away empty-handed on previous occasions in Melbourne and Delhi.
But Sibley is not England’s sole female hope in the sport.
The Leamington-Spa born player lies second in the national rankings behind Joanna Drinkhall – currently taking a break from the sport having given birth to her first child earlier this month.
While Under-21 number one Tin-Tin Ho, winner of Commonwealth Games mixed doubles singles in Glasgow and runner-up to Sibley at this year’s nationals, is certainly one to watch in the future.
However Sibley is quick to play down any internal pressure, insisting it only drives her on.
“I’m not getting any younger but it’s great to have those guys like Tin-Tin coming through. It helps push you on,” she said.
“Tin-Tin did great at the nationals this year and definitely made me work for that title.
“We have some good players around in the country at the moment, you can see that in the results we got in Glasgow where we hit our target of five medals.
“But I’m feeling confident in my form at the moment. I’ve been training really hard.
“I definitely feel like I can improve though, and that’s important going forward. It’s about working on those weaknesses.
“Rio is obviously a great goal of mine, I’ve just got to get my head down, keep working hard and see what happens.”
This month’s European Games will provide a direct route for booking a spot on the plane to Rio too, with the men’s and women’s gold medallists guaranteeing automatic qualification.
Sibley has already had a taste of the Olympics having appeared in the opening round of the team event at London 2012.
And buoyed by a recent runners-up finish in the French Pro A championship with Lille-based side CP Lys LM 1, she insists she couldn’t be better prepared for Baku.
“I’ve had a great season in France for my club side and I can use that confidence and take that into Baku. I felt like I played some good stuff,” added Sibley.
“I’ve played in France for the last five years, it’s a great experience. People come and watch and we have 150-200 people watching us in an enclosed space.
“You’re playing with world class players, a few of whom are going to be in Baku, so it really helps your game.
“I’m really excited for Baku. It’s the first European Games and so we’re all going to be a part of history.
“Training has been going really well and hopefully I can give some good performances.
“A medal would be the main goal, I have worked hard and hopefully I can deliver.”
By Pippa Field, Sportsbeat
© Sportsbeat 2015