SUNDERLAND’s Joshua Weatherby helped England strike gold at the annual Primary Schools International Championship tournament.
The 11-year-old Fulwell Junior School pupil was part of a four-strong team taking on Jersey, Guernsey, Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales in the tournament held at St Bede’s RC High School in Blackburn.
The squad was aiming to retain the title won by England last year in Jersey and they got off to a superb start, winning all of their first three matches 10-0 against Jersey, Isle of Man and Guernsey.
Ireland put up a little more resistance but could not prevent England winning 9-1, before another whitewash over Scotland.
The final match proved the closest, but Wales were unable to prevent an 8-2 victory for England earning them the gold medal, with Ireland runners-up and Wales third.
The England squad was completed by Jamie Liu (Reading), Louis Moyes (Norwich) and Amirul Hussain (Oldham) and coached by Gail Johns.
In the individual competition, Weatherby reached the semi-finals, where he was beaten by England team-mate and eventual champion Amirul Hussain 3-2 (7-11, 11-5, 11-9, 2-11, 11-6) – winning a bronze medal to add to his treasured gold medal from the team event.
Proud dad Keith recalled the moment when Joshua arrived at the England camp, saying: “Joshua joined up with the rest of the England squad and was quickly whisked away for warm-up and practice under the watchful eye of the coach.
“It was amazing moment seeing your son representing his country – his sister Charlotte and mam joined me in cheering Joshua on to ease any nerves, but we needn’t have worried – he just took everything in his stride!”
Following the first two games on the Friday night, Joshua joined his team-mates at a separate hotel.
Mother Yvonne added: “It was surreal Joshua staying at a separate hotel – we travel to tournaments across the country and we are always together as a family, but I knew he was in safe hands and being well looked after!”
The Saturday saw England win their remaining three games to take the gold.
Sunday saw the attention drawn to the individual event, with the seedings based upon the individual performances in the team event, but all of the England players were placed in the same half of the draw to ensure it was not possible to have an all-England final.
Joshua progressed through the groups to move into the quarter-final, where he overcame team-mate Louis Moyes and was unlucky to narrowly lose out to Amirul, in the semi-finals, in a terrific match where both players put on an excellent display of attacking table tennis.
The closing medal ceremony was a memorable occasion.
Dad Keith recalled: “All of the teams were lined up in order of the medals they were going to receive and after each team received their medal they all, in turn, clapped the next team in from the bottom of the hall with England being the last to be presented.”
Joshua beamed: “It was a fantastic experience being clapped into the hall, photographs and videos being taken and holding the England flag with my team-mates – it’s something that I will remember all of my life!”
Yvonne commented: “Joshua has taken it all in his stride and is extremely grounded. He continues to be focused in practice sessions with Charlotte at imagine table tennis club and Ormesby table tennis club.
“Charlotte has been really supportive to Joshua and has a great chance herself too.”
There was little time for reflection or rest though. with Joshua competing at the Butterfly Schools National Table Tennis Championships the following weekend.
Joshua, seeded third in the event, won the silver medal in the Under-11s category, beating second seed and England team-mate Jamie Liu in the semi-finals, winning11-9, 11-5, 10-12, 11-9.
He again found his final opponent, top seed Amirul Hussain, too good in a close final.
Joshua was joined by three other players from imagine, with all of the players doing well.
Sister Charlotte progressed through her group but was unlucky to be drawn against the No.1 seed.
Peter Smallcombe – coached by Dave Godbold – won three of his five group matches and narrowly missed out on a last-16 place.
Rob Renton played well on the day in a tough group but just failed to progress into the next stage of his age category.
All the players then travelled to Blackpool on the Sunday for the Two-star event and returned with a healthy haul of medals and titles.
Joshua won the Cadet Boys’ title, Charlotte landed the U13s title and lost in the semi-finals of the Cadet Girls’ event.
Peter Smallcombe won the Plate in the U15s’ boys event and progressed to the semi-final of the U13s’ boys, when he was beaten by the eventual winner.