Morpeth pupils serve up table tennis gold in London finals

Morpeth School's Jennifer Chesurin, Sumayya Saadiquah, Melissa Qian and Amelie Rawding Miah with Eng

Morpeth School's Jennifer Chesurin, Sumayya Saadiquah, Melissa Qian and Amelie Rawding Miah with England number one Liam Pitchford after winning the under-16 girls title at the Jack Petchey Foundation London Schools' table tennis team finals (pic Stephen Pover) - Credit: Stephen Pover Photography

Morpeth School pupils served up gold medals at the Jack Petchey London Schools’ table tennis team finals at University of East London on Saturday.

The competition brought together 164 players in 40 teams from 24 schools across the capital, competing in the under-11, under-13, under-16 and under-19 age groups.

And Morpeth won the under-16 girls' title after an incredibly tight final against Sutton's Wallington County Grammar School.

The match ended all square at 4-4, but Morpeth's team of Jennifer Chesuring, Sumayya Saadiquah, Melissa Qian and Amelie Rawding Miah won 14-12 on countback.

The girls have been training and playing together for three years, with table tennis part of the school's curriculum and also held during break time and after school.

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They train between 18-22 hours per week and the programme provides 54 hours of table time weekly.

Coach Helder Neves has been at the school for six years and said: "The standard of this competition increases each year and this has been the best yet. We have a philosophy of playing and we work as a family. Girls are ambitions and want to win just as much as the boys. We are proud to be working with future champions."

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Winners and runners-up go forward to play in the English Schools' Table Tennis Association Regional finals in February.

The day was made even more memorable by a visit from England number one Liam Pitchford, his first visit to a Jack Petchey London Schools final.

Pitchford, 26, of Chesterfield has won eight Commonwealth Games medals and was part of the England team that won bronze medals in the 2016 World Team Championship and 2018 Team World Cup.

He has won the national men's singles title five times and said: "It's great to see young players wanting to win. The atmosphere is fantastic and you never know a future England number one has been inspired by this competition."

Next week Liam and the England team go to Portugal to decide which nations qualify to compete in the team events at the Tokyo Olympics.

Sara Sutcliffe, chief executive of Table Tennis England, added: "Congratulations to everyone, you are all winners. This is our ninth year of collaboration with Jack Petchey Foundation and we want to thank them for enabling us to provide 2,286 tables to 741 schools, 77,000 young people have played our sport and 689 youngsters played in the qualifying rounds to reach this final. It is a wonderful partnership."

Trudy Kilcullen, chief executive of the Jack Petchey Foundation, said: "Jack will be 95 this year and if he could he would be here playing! He strongly believes in giving young people opportunities to realise their potential. You are the cream and table tennis is a great sport. We are very proud of you all and well done."

The Jack Petchey Table Tennis programme includes competition opportunities through team and individual championships, with progression to the grand finals.

Individual regional competitions get underway this month with the final on Saturday April 4 at UEL.

This year, the Jack Petchey Foundation is celebrating 21 years of inspiring young people to achieve in London and Essex.

Throughout that time, over £124 million has been given to fund magnificent projects in schools and youth clubs, as well as a varied range of programmes aimed at different talented individuals.

Sir Jack Petchey CBE, the 94-year-old founder of the Jack Petchey Foundation, is passionate about giving young people freedom and opportunity.

He said: "As a young man I absolutely loved playing table tennis. It kept me fit and active and looking back I can see how it also developed my self-discipline and confidence.

"It's great to know so many take part in the sport every week. That's why this programme is so close to my heart."

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