Norfolk table tennis hopeful’s dream of taking part in Rio Paralympics
- Credit: IAN BURT
When the plane takes off to take Team GB to Rio de Janeiro for the Paralympics in three years' time, a Norfolk schoolboy hopes he'll be on board it.
Four years after he first picked up a table tennis bat Daniel Bullen, from Dersingham, has been chosen to join the GB Development Squad, from which the final team will be chosen.
'My biggest dream is to go the Paralympics,' he said. 'Never mind which one.'
Paralypic table tennis players can compete until their 40s - so Daniel has time on his side.
In the meantime, the sport has transformed the life of the 15-year-old Smithdon High School pupil, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
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'When he first started, he had no co-ordination, he couldn't even hit the ball,' said Daniel's mother Jo. 'It took him a year before he could do it.
'Since then it's helped him so much with his school work, his balance, his confidence.'
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Daniel still goes to the Kandoo Club, a sports group for disabled and special needs children in King's Lynn, where he was first introduced to table tennis.
When he leaves Smithdon, he said he hopes to become a sports coach like his older sister Amy, 19 - whose own career choice was decided when she went along to the Kandoo Club with Daniel and became a helper.
'I want to be a coach because I want to help people, I want to put something back for people with disabilities,' he said. 'I've got so much back from my coaches and what people have done for me.'
'He likes helping disabled children because he's got so much out of sport,' said Mrs Bullen, as Daniel warmed up by sending ping pong balls streaking across the table at Lynnsport.
'Daniel's got such long arms he plays better with his brakes on,' she explained, as he swiveled to deliver a haymaker of a forearm smash.
Apart from a new wheelchair nine months ago, which cost £2,600, Mrs Bullen and her husband Ian spend upwards of £150 a week on diesel taking Daniel to training sessions.
Twice a week, he trains with a Paralypmic coach, in St Neot's. He also trains at March and Mildenhall, with a monthly weekend camp at Sheffield now he has been selected for the development squad.
All in all, the Bullens reckon table tennis is costing them £8,500 a year.
'We're looking for some kind of sponsorship or funding to help Daniel to continue to improve and hopefully be suuccessful in his table tennis career, said Mrs Bullen. 'I'm sure he will get to the Paralympics - whether it's 2016 or 2020.'
On Thursday, April 18, a special shopping day is being held at Briarfields, at Titchwell, to raise funds towards Daniel's training. It runs from 10.30am - 4.30pm.
Mrs Bullen can be contacted via email@example.com.