Table tennis athlete Kelly Sibley is a firm believer in fate. In fact, she credits it to helping her meet the love of her life.
The out lesbian athlete is getting ready to compete in her third Commonwealth Games, held on the Gold Coast in Australia next month. She also competed in the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Kelly’s representing Team England – sponsored by gas and electric company, npower.
In an exclusive interview with Gay Star News, she reveals how she met her partner Laura under ‘really bizarre’ circumstances. It happened straight after the London 2012 Olympics.
Kelly explained: ‘Laura was working on opening a table tennis bar called Bounce in London. She was one of the main people to open it and was kind of the events manager for the project.
‘Basically, they got myself and one of the other table tennis players to go to do the launch for the PR. So I went in and that’s when I met her.
‘It’s so weird. She has nothing to do with table tennis or anything so for her to be in that environment – promoting a table tennis bar – it’s just really bizarre.
‘Even now, we just think how weird if we both hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t have met. It was fate. I’m a massive believer in fate, whether it’s sport, love or whatever,’ she said.
‘Stop fangirling over Mary Poppins!’
Kelly came out as a lesbian to her close friends and family about five years ago.
After she met Laura, the pair talked for 12 to 18 months before Laura moved back from London. Kelly joked: ‘So we knew a lot about each other before we’d even gone on a first date.’
Almost two years later, Laura proposed on the top of the Shard building in London, but it wasn’t without a hitch.
As they were heading up to the top of the building in the lift, Kelly was looking at the cityscape. She noticed the famous St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Cathedral features in the Disney classic Mary Poppins and Kelly is a super fan of the musical, to say the least.
She was so enamored by the building, she had no idea Laura was down on one knee behind her.
Kelly recalled: ‘Laura yelled “Here I am, on one knee, trying to propose and you’re fangirling over Mary Poppins!”‘
‘I said yes, of course,’ Kelly said.
The pair married on Good Friday in April last year.
They got married at a venue in the Cotswolds called Hyde Barn.
‘It was just an amazing day,’ Kelly said. Although there was almost a mishap while walking down the aisle.
Kelly explains: ‘I went down the aisle first and then I stood there and I heard Laura’s music come on. I didn’t want to turn around but then I did and my first thought was: “Oh my gosh, we’ve got the same dress!”
‘Obviously I also thought she was very beautiful, but our dresses were so similar. Then when she came up to the altar, I realized the front was the same but the back was different.
‘It just goes to show that we’re really suited for each other because we’ve got the same taste,’ she joked.
20 years in the making
Kelly Sibley’s first Commonwealth Games was when she was 17 years old, but she’s been training competitively since she was 10.
When she was 13, she moved away from home to a national academy in Nottingham to train competitively.
She said: ‘I remember ringing my mom every morning for the first two months, saying: “I just wanna come home.” But I managed to get through it and I think that was a massive moment for me.
‘Without that strength, I don’t think I would’ve been here today and what I’ve achieved,’ she said.
On the Commonwealth Games experience, she said: ‘I’ve played in Championships before but to play in a multi-sport event, it was something completely different.’
She continued: ‘Australia’s Commonwealth Games village is like eight floors and it’s all dotted around the village. You’re walking along and they’ve got lakes, game areas, etc.
‘In previous games, they also have beauty salons, where you can get your hair and nails done and it’s just ridiculous really. But stuff like that makes it so special and so worth it.’
A normal training day is about six to seven hours a day, both on the table and off the table in the gym.
She said: ‘Some people don’t realize games can last as long as an hour. We need speed and agility, but also we need the endurance side of it as well.’
‘Time’s are changing’
Kelly believes LGBTI athletes who are out and proud achieve better results.
She said: ‘My advice to closeted athletes wondering whether to come out would be that it’s not as bad as you think it is.
‘I remember I was so worried about what other people would think and if they would judge me that I would kind of rather be unhappy because I was more concerned about what other people would think about me.
‘But like I said, the most important thing is family. Parents just want their child to be happy. So don’t be afraid. There are lots of people who you can talk to for advice.
‘At the end of the day, it’s more important for my family to be okay with it all. Don’t be afraid and it’s not as bad as you think. Times are changing and I feel like it’s a lot more acceptable nowadays,’ she said.
As for kids in the future, Kelly jokes: ‘Let’s just get through this Commonwealth Games.’
The Commonwealth Games begins 4 April and ends 15 April.
npower is a proud official partner of Gay Star News. Their ‘Power of Support‘ campaign celebrates the support athletes receive and how this enhances their performance.
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