Two Olympic stars were on hand to put local dignitaries and pupils through their paces at the opening of a new state-of-the-art table tennis centre in Gedling last night (12).
The new centre, which based at Carlton le Willows Academy, officially opened the doors at the special ceremony held to mark its completion.
Six-times national table tennis champion and GB national team coach Alan Cooke joined special invited guests at the event on Monday night where he entertained the audience with an exhibition match again Commonwealth silver medallist and GB Olympian Kelly Sibley.
During the evening, chair of Table Tennis England Sandra Deaton officially opened the £450,000 centre – a flagship project part-funded by Table Tennis England – by cutting the ribbon on a commemorative plaque.
She told the gathered audience: “This centre is a shining example of what can be achieved if everyone works together and I am sure it will be very successful. We thank you Carlton le Willows for sharing the passion we have for our sport and wish you the very best of luck.”
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Guests on the night, who included Mayor of Gedling Coun Sandra Barnes, also heard from Year 9 student Lorik Deliu who described his progress since first picking up a table tennis bat at school and also enjoyed music by Year 11 singer Moyege Oke.
The national standard facility, built thanks to the Academy’s links with Nottingham Sycamore Table Tennis Academy, is the first of its kind at a secondary school in the country and is one of just nine national table tennis development centres in the UK.
Olympian Kelly Sibley, who has played in arenas around the world, said she was “blown away’”by the centre.
She said: “They have great facilities, down to the flooring and the lights. It gives the students the opportunity to come and play table tennis every single day. That’s the most important thing.”
And Alan Cooke, back in the UK fresh from the Rio Olympics, echoed her sentiment: “Sport starts in schools so centres like these are vital. If every school had a table tennis centre like this, who knows what the future would hold.”
The facility will be used for PE lessons during the school day and can be accessed by Academy students every day after school. It will also be used as a talent development centre and a national centre for table tennis competitions.
Members of the wider community will also be able to use the centre, which will help increase primary school and family participation in the sport.
Headteacher Craig Weaver said: “The opening of this facility is a very special event for Carlton le Willows. Students have shown a passion for the sport since we introduced outdoor table tennis tables a couple of years ago and now, thanks to our partnership with Nottingham Sycamore Table Tennis Academy we can help develop the considerable talent we have here.
“We firmly believe at the Academy that education is about so much more than results. Sport raises aspirations and builds character and through table tennis we hope to bring our young people even more opportunities than before.”