In August, Joshua Stacey competed for Team Wales at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, becoming the Commonwealth champion after beating Ma Lin from Australia in the Men’s Singles C8-10 Gold Medal Match. Birmingham marked Joshua’s second time competing at the Commonwealth Games, after he won Bronze at the Gold Coast in 2018 at the start of his international para table tennis career. This year, Joshua has won numerous medals including Gold in the Men’s Singles C9 at the Czech Para Open in Ostrava, Silver in the Men’s Singles C9 and Bronze in the Men’s Doubles MS18 at the Egypt Para Open and Gold in the Men’s Singles C9 and Men’s Doubles MS18, along with Bronze in the Mixed Doubles at the Costa Brava Spanish Open. Joshua made his Paralympic debut having qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games representing Great Britain in para table tennis last year, and he is set to compete at the Greek Para Open at the end of October. We chatted to Joshua about becoming the Commonwealth champion at Birmingham 2022, competing at the Czech Para Open in Ostrava in June and representing Great Britain at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Last month, you competed at your second Commonwealth Games, how did you find the experience competing in Birmingham and representing Team Wales at The NEC Hall?
The experience of playing my second Commonwealth Games was surreal, it was definitely a different experience but a very positive one. To have been competing at a Games so close to home was incredible, I was able to have family and friends there to support me and I always felt that the crowd would get behind the whole team when we were playing and it definitely helped massively.
What was it like winning the Gold medal in the Men’s Singles C8-10 and becoming the Commonwealth champion?
To have won the Gold medal and have my family there to watch was something I’ll never forget. To do it beating someone I have struggled to beat in the past was great for my confidence going into the back end of the season and I’m really looking forward to the World Championships in November.
How was it competing in the Gold Medal Match against Ma Lin from Australia and how did you stay focused during the competition?
The final was a very difficult game. Ma Lin really raised his level after I had won the first set and I knew going into the fourth set that I would need to change something to make sure I gained some momentum and confidence to take it to a deciding set. I felt I did it very well and put Ma under a lot of pressure to try and break my focus and momentum. The fifth set was one of the best I’ve ever played and I think the score line reflected that. To stay focused I actually just made sure I was occupied outside of the hall so I could switch off and detach from the fact I was competing in such a huge event, which allowed me to feel refreshed and excited to play when I went into The NEC to practice or compete, and I think it was a healthy way of going about it.
What was it like staying in the athletes village and how different was it competing at these Games opposed to your debut Commonwealth Games in 2018?
These Games were definitely not very similar to Gold Coast in terms of the village but I felt as though the fact we were such a cohesive team that it didn’t affect us and we just enjoyed every moment as a collective!
What do you remember most from competing and winning Bronze at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games towards the start of your international para table tennis career?
What I would say I remember about Gold Coast is just how inexperienced I felt going onto the table to compete in my first match. I felt out of my depth but seemed to play rather well in my first few matches and to have been able to come away with a medal was just the icing on the cake as I went into the Games thinking about gaining experience for later on in my career. Quite quickly after, it started to bug me that I was so close to getting to the final and potentially winning the Gold so it has without a doubt been a massive motivator for the last four years.
In June, you represented Great Britain at the Czech Para Open in Ostrava, where you won Gold in the Men’s Singles C9, what did you enjoy most about competing in Ostrava and how was it winning the Gold?
I competed in Ostrava earlier this year and I was really pleased with how it went and my level throughout the competition, I always love playing in Ostrava and have done well there the last couple of times I’ve played there. It boosted my confidence going into the Games knowing how I was playing and how well I coped with the high-pressure situations.
Can you tell us about your time at the Egypt Para Open earlier this year, which saw you win Silver in the Men’s Singles C9 and Bronze in the Men’s Doubles MS18?
At the Egyptian Open, I managed to get to the final and lost out to the world no.1 but I felt like I competed really well and my improvement was clear when playing against him. I also played with a younger player, Theo, and it was great for us to manage to get a medal, and with it being Theo’s first international medal, it was really nice.
Your first international competition of the year was the Costa Brava Spanish Open, how did you feel becoming the Gold medallist in the Men’s Singles C9 and Men’s Doubles MS18 and the Bronze medallist in the Mixed Doubles?
I competed in Spain in the first tournament of the year and didn’t really know what to expect in terms of how well I would do but started to play really well from the word go and that was the first tournament I beat Ma Lin and then went on to beat a Spaniard who had also played a really good tournament. It gave me a lot of confidence going into the doubles event and it was the first time I competed with Ross and we surprised each other with how well we played as a unit and I think getting Gold showed how well we complimented each other on the table.
How was it representing ParalympicsGB at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games last year and what was it like finding out you’d been selected for the team?
Representing Team GB at the Paralympic Games was the proudest moment of my career so far and an experience I’d like to have again in Paris. Finding out I had qualified to be selected was fantastic as we hadn’t found out before COVID hit so I was waiting and hoping to be told I had qualified and thankfully I managed to. I think it was mainly a feeling of relief and then I think excitement set in pretty quickly after that.
Do you have any favourite memories from your time in Tokyo that you can tell us about?
My favourite memory of the Games was just seeing all of my teammates manage to win medals and fulfil a lifelong dream.
What was it like competing at a major international multi-sports event during COVID restrictions and how was it getting back to competitions after the pandemic had paused them?
Getting back to competition when COVID restrictions had been eased was very strange, of course, and something I think all athletes had to get to grips with again but after the first one, it just felt natural again to compete.
What are some of the stand-out highlights of your career so far and can you say about some of the other competitions you’ve been part of over the years?
My stand-out moments of my career are definitely competing at the Paralympic Games, winning a Bronze medal at the European Championships in 2017 and finally the Gold at the most recent Commonwealth Games.
How did you get into table tennis and when did you know you wanted to do it professionally?
I started playing table tennis when my lifelong coach Simon Oyler came in to host a taster session in one of my PE lessons in high school and I was hooked from that point on and never looked back. I’d say when I was around 15 and had been playing for two years, I knew that this was what I wanted to do, and I was going to do everything I could to be the best athlete I could be.
What is a typical training day for you and how does your training change in the lead-up to a major competition?
A typical training day for me consists of one two-hour table tennis session from 09:00 to 11:00 and then a gym session from 12:30 to 13:30. We will then have an afternoon session from 15:00 to 17:00 and that is from Monday to Friday, having the weekend to rest.
Have you been given any advice throughout your time as a table tennis player so far that has stuck with you and what advice would you give a new table tennis player starting out?
One piece of advice I received that I still carry with me is that you’ll never regret competing if you’ve given it your all and that’s all anyone can ask for. To any young player who has just started to play, I would suggest listening to your coach and trying to play as much as you can. I think doing those two things alone will really guide their development.
Is there anything you enjoy most about competing in table tennis?
The thing I enjoy most about competing in table tennis is without a doubt how different every match you play can be, you can never play the same match twice and it excites me to compete constantly.
Do you have any competitions coming up that you can tell us about or have any that you are targeting?
I am going to compete in the Greek Para Open at the end of October to try and boost my world ranking and put me in a better seeded position for the World Championships in November.
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