Paralympic champion Will Bayley provided the wow factor at an Easter holiday initiative to inspire young people to get into sport.
More than 300 young people picked up a table tennis bat during the programme in Wiltshire, part of the Government-funded Holiday Activity Fund, which targets youngsters who receive free school meals and provides them with activities and lunch during the school holidays.
Table Tennis England teamed up with Wiltshire County Council, the British Olympic Foundation and British Judo to deliver an Olympic-themed programme.
The table tennis element was delivered by local coaches Rob Wainwright, Emma Harradine, Terry Mills and Marie-Claire Davies and supported by the Table Tennis England Area Manager team.
Will added his expertise and stardust to an event in Devizes which involved 60 children, who took part in a TT Kidz activity day to give them an inspiring introduction to the sport.
He said: “It’s so cool to be here. There’s so many kids from the local area getting the chance to try sports and get a meal. It’s a fun day and a privilege to be a part of it.
“It’s teaching them the basic bat skills and having fun and you can see from the smiles on their faces that they love it.
“That’s how I first got into table tennis, that’s why I love it so much because those first few interactions that I had were so positive.”
Will, who won gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympics as well as silvers in both London and Tokyo, took his medals with him and spoke about his experiences to the youngsters.
He added: “It’s really nice to see them put on my medals and wear them. If you see my medals, they’re so well worn, they’re damaged, but I’d much rather that then they’re kept in a box and no one ever sees them.
“That’s the whole point of winning them, to share them with people and it makes me so much more happy to see people wearing them than it probably does myself putting them on.”
Andrew Wilesmith, Head of Table Tennis Development at Table Tennis England, said: “With Paris 16 months away we were delighted to be able to work with the British Olympic Foundation to support this activity in Wiltshire.
“The HAF programme is great because it offers activity and food and a safe place to young people in some of our more deprived parts of the country. Table tennis is a great sport for engaging everyone regardless of where they are from and we are delighted we could get more than 300 young people playing the sport, most of whom had never picked up a bat.
“It was great to have local coaches from local clubs leading these sessions and the next step will be to look at how we can support local clubs to engage in the HAF programme across England and create a great opportunity for more young people to play and join their club.
“Our Area team will be exploring what this looks like and look to support local clubs to take advantage of this.”