DUMBARTON'S Martin Perry is one of seven British Para table tennis players who will be bidding to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympic Games when they compete in the World Qualification Tournament in Lasko, Slovenia this week.

The 27-year-old local resident missed out on automatic qualification for the Paralympic Games on his world ranking in men’s class 6 and this week’s tournament represents the final opportunity to qualify for Tokyo.

This is the first time that a Para table tennis qualification tournament has been held for a Paralympic Games and with only one place available per class it will be ‘winner-takes-all’, creating a unique challenge for the athletes in their first tournament for more than a year due to the pandemic.

Paisley-born Perry is hoping to make his Paralympic debut in Tokyo and is excited to have the opportunity to earn a qualification spot in men’s class 6.

“I’m super excited to be competing again,” he said, “because that is what we all love to do regardless of whether it gets you to a Paralympic Games or not.

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"We haven’t competed for nearly a year and a half so you’re a bit unsure about where your level is at because your best gauge is competition, but we’ve had such great preparation and I feel I’m a much better player than I was 12 months ago.

"Hopefully I can just go out and perform and do the best I can, and I feel that if I play the way I have in the build-up then I’ve got a great shot at doing that.

“When you go into a regular competition although you always want to win you can have a target - look at the strength of the field and say, ‘well I’m aiming for a semi-final and a medal’ or ‘I really fancy my chances and think I can win’.

"That is irrelevant to this tournament - the winner will get to go the Paralympic Games so that simplifies everything.

"I’m really excited to see what this competition is going to hold because it is completely different to any other competition. It’s not a major championship but it means as much, if not more, because it gets you to the Paralympics.”

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Perry set up a crowd-funding page to enable him to compete in additional tournaments during the original qualification period in his bid to qualify for Tokyo and admits he gets ‘goosebumps’ thinking about competing in a Paralympic Games.

“If I do get across the line and I can call myself a Paralympian then that is everything,” he said.

“I’ve been so fortunate with the amount of support I’ve had on and off the table from people I’ve known all my life and from people I’ve never met and may never meet, and it would be such an honour to repay that by getting to the Paralympics.

"I need to go and perform so there is pressure, but it is really exciting.

"I’ll be crying come Saturday, because win or lose it's going to mean so much to me – but hopefully it’s happy tears.”

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