A TABLE-TENNIS player who was a regular in the Cirencester Table Tennis League in the early days of his career, is currently heading for Serbia on his latest travels, writes Jane Leigh.

Billy Shilton, 16, who’s a member of the GB Para Table Tennis Team, flies out to Serbia today (Thursday, June 18) for a team training camp as he continues his pursuit of international honours.

His focus now is on reaching the top 16 in the world by the end of the year: that would win him a place at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro next year. And having just moved up from 26th to 19th place, the trip to Brazil is looking a distinct possibility.

The teenager from Stonehouse started playing table-tennis at Cirencester at the age of 12. He worked his way through the divisions, finishing the 2013-14 winter season at the top of Div One, before focusing his training in Gloucester, Bristol and Sheffield.

His hard work has paid off: after his first appearance for the GB squad in May 2014, Shilton’s competed in Slovenia, Romania, Spain, France, Hungary, Italy and Brazil, and has just returned with a silver medal from the Bayreuth Open in Germany. Partnering world champion Will Bayley, Shilton reached the mens’ class 7 final but lost to Ukraine. His match of the tournament was the crucial semi-final against the Chinese pair, when he beat the world number six in the deciding singles.

Combining GCSE exams with international travel has made this a tough year for the 16-year-old, but it’s also established him as a regular member of the national squad. He’s now looking to move to Sheffield to study a sports-related course at College, and combine that with training at the Institute of Sport, home to star athletes such as Jess Ennis and Nicola Adams.