LEAMINGTON table tennis star Kelly Sibley admits to having a few butterflies in her stomach as she prepares to represent Team GB at the first ever European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, next week.
The 29-year-old collected her official Team GB kit last week ahead of the inaugural games which begins tomorrow (Friday) and features table tennis as one of 20 sports.
And although Sibley admits to having a few butterflies, she is relishing being a part of that first GB team to compete in the Games.
“It’s exciting,” said Sibley. “When you pull up in the car and you see the signs for Team GB and the Olympic rings, you get butterflies in your stomach a bit.
“Receiving your kit and trying it on is really exciting and makes it seem real and that it’s not far away.
“To have another multi-sport event is great. It’s good for table tennis to be part of that and get publicity for the sport and to be part of the first games and part of history is really exciting.
“Hopefully it takes off. The next one is in Holland (in four years time) and hopefully it keeps improving and carries on.
“I’ve never been to Azerbaijan before and I don’t know much about it but we’ve seen a couple of videos made by Team GB and it looks nice. It’s a new country to add to my list – I’ve pretty much covered most of Europe.”
Sibley, who plays professionally in France, won her fifth National singles title in March and has the added incentive of the singles winner in Baku receiving an automatic place at the Rio Olympics.
“Obviously, you want to do as well as you can and to win that place at Rio is the dream.
“I just want to carry on how I’ve been performing – I’ve had a good season in France and had five or six wins against opponents ranked 80-150.
“Winning the Nationals as well, I felt I performed well there and I want to carry that form into the games.
“If I can get past the first few rounds and see what happens. I think I can challenge the best players in Europe. If I focus on what I need to do and play my best, anything can happen.”
Sibley can turn on her Commonwealth Games experience in Glasgow last summer to help her through the competition.
She won mixed doubles Bronze alongside Danny Reed and Sibley feels she can draw on that achievement for inspiration.
She added: “The Bronze medal match was obviously the biggest I’ve ever played.
“I’ve experienced it in a good way and also in a bad way, with Jo (Drinkhall) in the Women’s Doubles, so I know what it’s like to finish fourth.
“Hopefully I can use that experience from Glasgow – it gave me massive confidence in myself – and I can draw on that.”