Table tennis players from London Academy School took top honours at the ninth annual Jack Petchey London Schools’ Table Tennis Team Finals in partnership with Table Tennis England on Saturday in the SportsDock at the University of East London.

The competition bought together 164 players making up 40 teams from 24 schools across London. A different school won gold in each of the eight categories in four age groups Boys and Girls under-11, 13, 16 and 19.

London Academy cruised through to lift the Boys under-16 trophy winning, 6-0 in the final against Sutton’s Wallington County Grammar School. The team was Robert Ionascu, Sajad Ali, Daniel Oluwamayowa and Octavian Aparashivei.

Table tennis is part of the school’s curriculum as well as break times and after school clubs. The squads train between 18-20 hours a week. Coach Bhavin Savjani has been with the school for 12 years.

He said: “This competition is a high standard and well run plus it’s good to see new schools coming through. We are so grateful to Jack Petchey because without funding table tennis would have collapsed in London schools due to cuts. Donating new tables to replace old ones makes a big difference too as this means youngsters can play longer which is keeping them off the streets.”

Winners and runners up of this competition 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 to a Jack Petchey London Schools final. Pitchford, 26, from 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.

Pitchford, who has won the national men’s singles title five times, 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 Pitchford and the England team go to Portugal to decide which nations qualify to compete in the team events at the Tokyo Olympics.

Sara Sutcliffe, CEO of Table Tennis England said: “Congratulations to everyone, you are all winners. This is our ninth-year 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, CEO, 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.”