FELICITY Pickard has been selected for the GB Para Table Tennis Team to compete in two of its most important tournaments in the build-up to the World Championships in China later this year.
The Burnley teenager is part of a 14-strong team that will take part in the Slovenia Open from May 7-10 followed a week later by the Slovakia Open (May 14-17).
The Slovenia Open is regarded as one of the toughest outside of the World Championships and will be the perfect test for Pickard as she chases her Paralympic dream.
Pickard, a class 6 player, only started playing table tennis in 2010 and made her international debut a year later.
She represented GB in the European Championships last year and performed with great credit at her first major championships.
She was recently selected for the GB Para Table Tennis Team’s Podium Potential Programme, moving from the Pathway Squad to the Performance Squad.
“Joining the Performance Squad means the world to me,” said Pickard. “It’s been one of my ambitions and it’s definitely a great boost to my confidence.
“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs and I’ve still got a long way to go but this is an important stepping stone to where I want to be – which is winning medals at the Paralympic Games.
“Although I’ve been training with the Performance Squad I now feel that I’m officially part of the team and it is going to motivate me to train even harder.”
GB Performance Director Gorazd Vecko said: “The Slovenia Open is the strongest tournament outside of the World Championships this year with around 310 players from more than 40 countries.
“Most of the top players in the world will be there so it will show us where our athletes are and what we need to do better in the training hall to prepare for China. This is the first year that counts towards qualification for the Paralympics in 2016 and so it is also important that we give our really promising younger players experience and the best chance to qualify for Rio.”