TABLE TENNIS: Grantham players help Midlands retain Games title

Nathan Butler (right) alongside fellow Cliffedale Chandlers member Matt Leete and England Midlands team-mates Alex Ramsden and Will Hornsey.
Nathan Butler (right) alongside fellow Cliffedale Chandlers member Matt Leete and England Midlands team-mates Alex Ramsden and Will Hornsey.
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Cliffedale Chandlers duo Nathan Butler and Matt Leete returned from the Sainsbury’s School Games with a gold medal.

In their first appearance at the event, the two King’s School students helped England Midlands to retain the team title in Manchester.

Things got off to a bad start when Alex Ramsden, the only survivor of last year’s winning Midlands squad, lost his opening match to Scotland’s Chris Wheeler.

But the team, also featuring Will Hornsey, recovered to win the tie 4-3 and followed up with similarly close victories over England South East and Wales to reach the semi-finals.

Matt won the deciding ties against both Scotland – beating Calum Morrison 3-1 (11-5, 11-8, 10-12, 11-8) – and South East when he saw off Shaquille Webb-Dixon 3-0 (11-9, 11-9, 11-6).

Midlands then beat England North East 4-2 in the last four, with Nathan wining the decisive match against Abhijay Mishra in four sets, and they went on to defeat Northern Ireland 4-1 in the final to lift the title.

Fifteen-year-old Nathan said: “Obviously I’m really happy – thanks to the other boys for their support along the way. I think it was our fight and determination on the big points that made a difference.”

Matt, also 15, added: “I’ve been first reserve for the last two years and didn’t quite get in, so I’m happy that the first time I played, we’ve won. We didn’t give up in any match and always had great support from the team.”

Matt also reached the quarter-finals of the individual event, losing to Zak Wilson of Northern Ireland 3-0 (11-8, 11-4, 15-13).

Meanwhile, young table tennis umpire Ben Johnson represented the sport when he gave the officials’ oath at the opening ceremony.

Ben, from Grantham, was on stage at the Manchester Arena in front of thousands of competitors, officials and spectators, alongside fellow table tennis umpires Alex Mercer – also from Grantham - Karen Tonge MBE and Sheila Walshe.

He read the oath, in which he promised on behalf of all officials at the multi-sport event to uphold the rules and act impartially.

The 14-year-old, who qualified as an umpire six months ago, said: “It was bright under the spotlight. I stumbled a little bit when I caught eye contact with someone in the front row, but I kept on going.

“I was nervous but I’m glad I did it. I really want to umpire at this event again, I loved it.”