BROMSGROVE Para table tennis player Craig Allen is preparing for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham by learning from two former champions.
Allen, aged 27, was one of five athletes picked to take part in a Zoom mentoring session with former Paralympic gold medallist Danny Crates and four-time Olympian Donna Fraser.
The session was set up by Entain and SportsAid – who are financially supporting Allen’s journey – with Allen set to appear at next Summer’s games in Birmingham.
And Allen was given the chance to grill both Crates and Fraser about their respective careers’ to gain an insight into how top-level athletes prepare for a major tournament.
Allen said: “It was really interesting to see how they work together – Danny did Paralympic sport whereas Donna did Olympic sport.
“Even though there are differences between Paralympic and Olympic sport, they could work together to do things, and there are things that crossover and things that apply to both of them.
“It adds a bit more perspective because they definitely know what they’re talking about. Danny may be a bit more relatable to me, but Donna will completely understand the Paralympic side of things.
“There’s a crossover between the two and actually, able-bodied sport and disability sport can work together. Mentors have been very important because you can learn from their experiences and they can learn from you.
“It helps that they will have been in similar situations before and they will understand.”
The Bromsgrove athlete is funded through Entain and SportsAid’s partnership – helping him access funding for training, travel and equipment.
And he was joined on the Zoom session by fellow aspiring athletes Ethan Rose, Heather Hughes, Matthew Mackay and Kirsty Taylor – all of whom are also supported by Entain and SportsAid.
Allen has enjoyed previous success abroad when he won gold in the men’s class 9 singles at the Romania International Junior Open in 2017.
Next year’s Commonwealth Games is set to be Allen’s first appearance at the event.
Crates, who achieved 800m Paralympic glory at Athens 2004, said: “Your whole careers are in front of you and your eyes are wide open to the potential of your futures.
“You don’t know what’s coming yet or what’s out there for you – you just know what you want, and I just love that.”
Former sprinter Fraser, who won a pair of World Championship bronze medals, added: “It’s always a pleasure to share our journey and learnings with the next generation of talent.
“Hopefully all the athletes who joined the call found that fruitful.
“I’m really all for supporting the next generation, encouraging them not to make the same mistakes that I made and supporting them on their journey.”
You can watch and listen to Crates’ and Fraser’s advice to the next generation in the YouTube video below.
Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid.
Visit entaingroup.com to find out more.