Sunday 29 January 2012

Olympic Host Nation's Rising European Star

A year ago if the name Liam Pitchford was uttered on the international table tennis scene the recognition would nowhere near match what it does today. Moving to Ochsenhausen to compete in the Bundesliga, Liam had gone from strength to strength and has become one of Europe's most talked about young players. With outstanding results at the 2011 European Championships and the opportunity to play at the 2012 Energis Masters event, Liam is looking onwards and upwards as the Olympics grow closer. Thanks for the interview Liam!

Full Name: Liam Pitchford
Date Of Birth: 12/07/1993
Nation represented: England
Highest World Ranking: 171

Equipment Used?
Blade: Innerforce ALC
FH Rubber: Tenergy 05
BH Rubber: Tenergy 64

Your Career
How did you play table tennis for, when and how did you start?
I have been playing for about 8-9 years now, I first started when I was at junior school and it was a rainy afternoon so me and 2 friends decided to go inside and see what table tennis was all about.

What has been the highlight of your table tennis career so far?

Winning 2 medals at the 2010 commonwealth games was a major step for me and also beating former world no.1 Vladimir Samsonov last year.

How has your first season at TTF Leibherr Ochsenhausen been? We're you expecting to achieve the results you did in 2011?
Its been very good so far but also difficult to adjust to life in a different country, the practice is very good but I must admit I wasn’t expecting to get the results I got so early after moving here.

Beating Prokopcov, Samsonov and Smirnov are huge results for you, must have been very pleasing, is there anyone specific you would like to try and beat this year if the opportunity came up?
Yes I was very pleased with my results at the European championships. Theres not really anyone specific I would like to beat, just anyone that is put infront of me! Oh and obviously it would be nice to beat a Chinese!

What is your big goal for 2012?
My main goal is to qualify for the Olympic games, I will hopefully play the qualification event and try and qualify through there and if not the host nation gets some automatic places so hopefully I have a good chance to play!

You recently played Timo Boll and Werner Schlager at the Energis Masters Games, what was that experience like and how do you feel you played those matches?
It was a great experience to play two legends of the game, I felt I performed quite well they just had more consistency and quality when it was tight.

Image from the Telegraph UK

What is your week like in terms of training, Bundesliga matches and ECL matches?
It depends if and when we have matches really, normally we are practicing 2 times per day Monday to Friday with maybe taking 1 session free then 1 time Saturday and normally a bundesliga match on Sunday!

How has living in Germany been? You seem to have really become part of a great team and of course live with Jonathan Groth and are close with your teammates Tiago Apolonia, Kirill Skachkov and Andrej Gacina.
Its been difficult to adjust to but also a great learning experience and I am really enjoying it now so hopefully more results will start to come!

The big question, FIFA seems to be the ultimate challenge among your team. So of the 4 of you who is actually the best player statistically? And I noticed you pair up also which is the winning pair so far?

Haha I think im the best player to be honest ;) well last time me and Kirill won 5-1 so I would have to say us but its actually quite even which makes it more fun!

Off the Topic Questions

Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?
Lance Armstrong

Favourite food?

Dream Car
Aston martin V12 Vanquish

Ideal holiday destination?
Somewhere warm :)

First thing you would do if you won $1million?

Good question! I would probably buy my dad his dream car and buy mine also.

Your Team Mates

Who trained the hardest in the training hall?
Everyone trains hard but I would say Ovidiu Ionescu (Romania)

Who’s was the funniest team player?
Tiago Apolonia

Who had the best nickname?

Jonathan Groth – Johnny Drama

Last time I asked you a question about your teammates but you hadn't really got to know them yet so here goes:
If you could use one word to describe each of your teammates and training partners what would it be?

Andrej Gacina: Fighter

Tiago Apolonia: Funny

Kirill Skachkov: Laid-back

Jonathan Groth: Talkative (never stops asking questions) :P

Hunor Szocs: Talkative (never shuts up) haha

And Lastly
Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for other table tennis players looking to succeed?
Never give up! Even if youre going through a bad patch nooone is stopping you from succeeding and doing the best you can!

Sunday 22 January 2012

Romania's Table Tennis Hero - Adrian Crisan

For some of you Adrian Crisan may not have been a big name until you saw him in the Semifinals in last weeks Hungarian Open. But for those of us who have been on the scene a while, Adrian was in the top 20 in the world for over a year back in 2006 and recorded wins against players like Timo Boll and Michael Maze. Since 1997 Adrian has played the German league and spent 10 years representing Ochsenhausen in the Bundesliga. He recently moved to play for Werder Bremen. On WR he has qualified for the Olympics so best of luck to him. Thanks Adrian!

Full Name: Adrian Crisan
Date of Birth: 7.5.1980
Nation Represented: Romania
Highest World Ranking: 10

Adrian at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Equipment Used:
Blade: Chuang Chih-Yuan Wood
FH Rubber: Tenergy 05 
BH Rubber: Bryce Speed fx

Your Career:

What is your biggest and proudest moment in table tennis to date?

When we won the German Championships with Ochsenhausen and the 3 cups also, were very very special to me and when I win the Brazil Open.

On World Ranking you have qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games, what do you hope to achieve there?

I want to win one medal in the Olympics, this before Budapest :)

Why do you think the Chinese are so dominant in the sport? Who do you think will be the next country to rise and start beating them?

I think Japan become stronger and stronger, Germany and Korea too. I think Chinese are good because they have a lot of players and top coaches and they have big advantages with the material, this is my personal opinion.

What do you think the sport of table tennis is lacking around the world? What could be done to improve it from an international player’s perspective?

I don't know what we have to do really. We have a small sport, cannot compare ever with football or tennis. I will like that we have better prize money, and maybe have like tennis with 4 grand slams or something with big money. A World Tour with much more money would be nice :)

You recently started playing Bundesliga for Werder Bremen after 10 years at TTF Leibherr Ochsenhausen, has this been a big change for you? How do you feel about the German League system for your game?

It was a big change for me moving to Bremen, moving from small Ochsenhausen 9000 people to Bremen 500000, and from deep south to the far north, it is change, people are diferent, climate is very different, but nice people everywhere, in south and in north I was lucky. Very good time I spend in Ochsenhausen, never will forget, and now I feel happy in Bremen, it's really a nice club and I will like to win one title here too. I feel Bundesliga a very strong league, very dificult to play, happy to play so many years here and hope for some more, for my game was very important, playing top players every week bring much to my game and a lot of experience.

What do you think is most important in creating a successful international player?

The most important thing is to have patience after you train hard. I think I like this.

If you are winning 10-0 do you give a point or try and win 11-0?

I will give one point.

How was your confidence level going into your match with Joo Se Hyuk in the Semifinal of the Hungary Open? Did you think you had a good chance to perform well and how did you feel you performed in the match?

I go into to semifinal with confidence , I was thinking I had a chance. I had a chance during the match also , but unfortunatly I start to bad and make unforced errors too many in beginning.

You managed to defeat Chen Weixing by 4-2, was this a good warmup for playing Joo for you? How different is the gamestyle when you play Chen and Joo?

Against Chen I was playing good and feel good all the day, also earlier against Gionis . Compare Joo and Chen , I think Joo defend more with forehand side and Chen attack more. Both unbelieveble top players.

Adrian's Semifinal match vs. Joo Se Hyuk
Hungarian Open 2012

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Ping Pong Passion meets Ping Pong Fashion: Spin, Style and Sarah Her-Lee

It was a great pleasure for me to interview a good friend of mine who's making her imprint on the world of table tennis with unlimited passion for the sport and for fashion. I've known Sarah for many years and she's always aimed high and then got out there and done what it takes to do her best which is something I've always admired. She currently plays for Borussia Munster in the German League. Thanks for the interview Sarah! 

Full Name: Sarah Her-Lee
Age: 26
Nation represented: New Zealand
Highest World Ranking: 818

Sarah Her-Lee 's latest fashion photos

Equipment Used?
Blade: TIBHAR Stratus Powerwood
FH Rubber: TIBHAR Aurus soft 2.1
BH Rubber: TIBHAR Aurus soft 2.1

Your Career

How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?

I have been playing for about 12 years now, I started in New Zealand when I was 14. My dad took me down to our local table tennis stadium to play and I was asked to join the junior weekly squad. I also played a lot since then with dad at home in the garage! (he bought a table soon after).

What has been the highlight of your table tennis career so far?

Winning the North Island Championships (2nd biggest tournament in New Zealand) – Gold in singles, doubles and mixed doubles - two years in a row (2010, 2011)

What are your table tennis goals for 2012?

To make the New Zealand team for:

1. The Oceania Olympic Qualifying Team in Sydney, Australia (March)

2. The World Team Championships in Dortmund, Germany (March/April)

3. The Oceania Championships in Fiji (May/June)

4. The Olympic Games in London, England (August)

To win more matches for my team at club level, to improve the singles/doubles winning statistics. Work together with my team so we can go up to division 3 next season.

To defend my titles - singles, doubles and mixed doubles at the New Zealand North Island Championships (May).

To win the New Zealand Open in Singles - this one, I think most New Zealand playes would agree, is the most prestigious title a NZ player can have - a national title

There are a few more goals but these are the main ones =)

Sarah Her-Lee New Zealand Representative

Who is your favourite international player and why?

I like Soo Yeon Lee, she was the New Zealand Champion in 2004 and she is the first to bring fashion into table tennis and present table tennis in a fashionable way to the public.

What do you think is the place of fashion in women's table tennis?

There isn’t really any women’s fashion in table tennis. Mostly, the women wear what the men wear, just in a smaller size.
I think it would be nice if there were more fashion styles in women’s table tennis. So, in addition to shirts and shorts, there can also be skirts, tank tops, t-shirts and dresses. I don’t think everyone should wear the same things because we are all different and have our own styles. But at the moment most players wear the same thing – shorts, black skirts and shirts.
We can look to tennis women for ideas and inspiration, because they are the most successful and highly paid female athletes in the world.
Forbes released the Top 10 Highest paid female athletes last year, and there were 7 tennis players in the top 10. Their 2011 income ranged from 6 million to 25 million and they all make an effort in their appearance and outfits. However, fashion hasn’t always been as apparent in tennis in the past. Back in 1997 the women still wore shirts and skirts, but now they mostly wear dresses or matching top and skirt.
In comparison, table tennis players still wears what tennis players used to wear more than a decade ago. I think we can try different outfits and look towards tennis players because they must be doing something right!
(The Australian Open is on right now, you can see all the nice outfits the players wear!)
Are you a supporter of skirts and sports dresses for women or shorts?
I think we have room for all of the above. Some people look best in shorts, some in dresses and some in skirts. I am not opposed to shorts, I just think it would be nice to have other styles available.
Also I really like the Romanian Women's team, their calendar shoots are very styley and sexy.

What do you think of the state of women's table tennis around the world?

I think it is good (except for the fashion), and I love watching all the international matches, especially players from China, Singapore, Japan and Romania.

What inspired you to start your blog? How long has it been running now?

I had the account since May 2009. In the beginning I started my blog mainly to keep my sponsors up to date - Tibhar, Prestige Lawyers, Olympic Pools and Fitness, Waikato University Sir Edmund Hillary Programme and Star Cosmetics. I also thought it would be a good idea to show New Zealand players what it is like to play in Europe. I also hoped to inspire New Zealand junior players, to show them what is out there and what is possible.Also when I was young I used to hear about the NZ Senior players playing professionally in Europe and Japan, but it was hard for me to imagine what that was like and I didn't come across magazines or newsletters detailing their experiences. Back then I didn’t think that my blog would be read by so many people around the world.
I also like writing, photography and documenting things, I made table tennis scrap books for years 1999- 2004. That was before I used facebook and online blogging was not so common. So I had a lot of photos that was printed out as well as tournament pamphlets and programmes, I would cut pictures out and write about different experiences.
The two scrap books are back in New Zealand. Maybe when I go back I can try add the 1999-2004 contents to my blog too!

Sarah won the triple crown at the North Island Championships in New Zealand

You made a lot of sacrifices to move to Germany to train to reach your goals, how do you feel you have progressed and do you think it has been an experience worth the sacrifice?

Since I came to Germany I have learned so many new things about table tennis. It is totally different to playing in New Zealand. It is also completely different to training trips to Asia (I have been to Taiwan for training 3 times – each time for about 2 months during my university summer break). It is awesome to play in Europe, it is more competition based, whereas in Asia it is more training based – even players from Taiwan, Korea and China play in the German leagues.
I think I am still progressing, I look forward to playing New Zealand/Australian players in the near future as I think that is one of the ways I can measure my progress.
The experience is always worth the sacrifice if you are following your dreams and goals. But you also have to have good plans – financially and career-wise, otherwise the sacrifices may be more than you can afford.

What has been the highlight of your time overseas so far?

There are so many =) Playing for my club – I am very lucky to be a part of a club which has a coach and 3 women’s teams and who are very nice players and look out for me. To be able to compete at international tournaments such as the Swedish and Finland Open, the Norway Cup, to be able to play against Ding Ning the current world champion and world number 1.
To attend the German magazine “GALA” end of season party that involved the table tennis night club – SpiN New York, that was so much fun.
Had the chance to visit London and Paris during the mid season break.
The World Championships this year is in Dortmund – very close to where I am in Germany, and that is going to be an amazing Championships!

Do you think training in high level countries, the likes of Germany and China, Korea etc is necessary in building the skillbase and knowledge to become a professional player?

Yes definitely.

I know you love posing for photos, which is your favourite one so far? :P

Haha yes I really like photography and it is a way to capture a special moment forever!
I like the one of myself and Michelle Beaumont at the Finland Open teams event, we had an upset win over a Walsh pair in the doubles and we gave each other a high five! It was only weeks later that I found out there was a photo by Stu Bromley which captured that moment!!

I also like the one from the Gala party, where I am photographed in a red dress, with the founders of SPiN - Franck Raharinosy and Jonathan Bricklin playing table tennis next to me – I am a huge fan of SPiN and their work and I was so excited to meet them and to be at the event.

Off the Topic Questions
Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?

In table tennis there are many players that I like – Chen Jing, Wang Nan, Li Ju, Zhang Yi Ning, Guo Yan, Liu Shiwen, Ding Ning, Wang Yue Gu, Feng Tienwei, Ai Fukuhara, Viktoria Pavlovich, Yu meng Yu, Georgina Pota, Daniela Dodean, Natalia Partyka, Zhenqi Barthel.
From other sports: Nastia Liukin (gymnastics), Maria Sharapova (Tennis).

Favourite food?

Taiwanese food – especially the breakfast shops :P Japanese, Thai, European food – Pasta and Pommes mit mayo :P

What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis?

Relaxing, catching up with friends, shopping, cooking, cleaning, studying, reading, blogging, photography, writing, travelling.

Dream Car?

I’m not really into cars… more into bags and shoes and a nice house with good bathrooms 

Ideal holiday destination?

Somewhere I haven’t been. (and preferably go in spring/summer time)

First thing you would do if you won $1million?

Move into a national training centre, hire a full time coach, hire full time training partners, hire a full time gym trainer, enter international tournaments.

And Lastly

Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for other table tennis players looking to succeed?

"Live with the pain of discipline, not the pain of regret." - Hans Florine

Have the courage to follow your dreams – keeping in mind that it takes good planning, good advice, hard work, determination and sacrifices. But in the end, as long as you have tried and did everything you could, there will be no “what ifs”, “could haves” and “should haves”. There will be no regrets.

Sarah gets the opportunity to play Ding Ning at the Swedish Open

Saturday 14 January 2012

Blast from the Past: NZ Hall of Fame Inductee Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is a New Zealand Hall of Fame table tennis player, 3 time Olympian and attended 5 World Championships representing NZ and many other international events. He was a 2 time Oceania Champion and 2 time NZ Mens Singles Champion. He was kind enough to do this interview with me. Thanks Peter.

Full Name: Peter Stuart Jackson
Date Of Birth: 22/10/64
Nation represented: New Zealand
Highest World Ranking: 113
Peter (1987)
Photo from TTNZ
Equipment Used?
Blade: Butterfly Power Drive
FH Rubber: Tenergy 64 max now but used Sriver for a long time as well as Sriver FX and Bryce
BH Rubber: Tenergy 05 max, also Sriver Sriver FX and Bryce

Your Career

How long did you play table tennis for, when and how did you start?
I started playing table tenis whenI was about 7 years old. We had a table tennis table in our garage which was always up and my mother and older brothers all played along with my father who was NZ champion several times.

What was the highlight of your table tennis career?
There were several highlights. Winning the 1993 NZ Men’s singles title defeating Barry Griffiths in the final after losing to him in the final 5 times. Winning the NZ Men’s singles title in 1990 after losing in the final 5 times. Winning the Oceania Men’s singles title in 1990 and 1996. Competing in the Oympic Games was also a highlight and winning the Oceania Olympic qualifying tournaments in 1991, 1996 and 1999 were big highlights.

How do you feel the game has changed playing now from when you played yourself?
The game has changed a lot with the new rules for scoring and the larger ball, the banning of speed glue and the implementation of more strict rules regarding service. Rallies are slightly longer now which makes the game more physical.

More specifically what is it do you think that allowed a higher standard of players in New Zealand in your era as a Senior Representative than those in our teams now?
I think there are many other sports and activities that interest the youth of today more than table tennis. Table tennis needs to try new things to make the game more interesting to the youth of today.

Who was your biggest rival out on the table in your career?
Barry Griffiths. We were mostly in the same age group as juniors and were almost always competing against each other in tournament finals in Auckland and in NZ competitions.

Tell us a bit about where you trained and where you played during the peak of your career and how it differed from NZ.
In 1988 I travelled to Europe and after palying professionally in England for 1 ½ seasons I moved to Belgium. This was where I was fortunate enough to be able to train with the Belgian national team. I was also able to compete in many International tournaments in Europe from 1989 to 1995. The top player from Belgium at the time was Jean-Michel Saive who was ranked number one in the world in 1995. The intensity and quality of the training was much better that what I could experience in NZ.

You are a bit of a family man now, do you still get the opportunity to play much?

I still play for a club in the national league in France but not at the same level as before. I still enjoy playing and trying to find ways to beat the younger players.

1988 Asian Champs Report from Butterfly
Peter Bottom-Left
Image from TTNZ

Most young players like myself have never seen you play a match, tell us a little bit about your game style and how you liked to play.
I am left-handed and play a topspin style game from both backhand and forehand. I would often try to execute counter topspin close to the table from the forehand side.

What do you believe table tennis needs to raise its profile in New Zealand?

I think that table tennis needs to try new ways to attract youngkids to the sport. Innovations like 20/20 cricket are what I think is needed. Increasing the base is the only way that NZ table tennis can succeed.

Off the Topic Questions

Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?
Waldner is exceptional in table tennis. Otherwise Roger Federer.

Favourite food?
Pasta and pizza and Thai food

Tennis or Table Tennis?I have never been much interested in tennis.

Dream Car
I am not that into cars but would like a Porsche

Ideal holiday destination?
I loved Mallorca when I went there

First thing you would do if you won $1million?
Pay off the loan on our house

Peter (2nd from left) with Auckland team 1995 NZ Open
Image from TTNZ

Your Team Mates

Played in many NZ teams with Barry Griffiths along with Hagen Bower and Shane Laugesen in later years for NZ and Auckland.

Who was the most reputable player you beat in your career?

I beat several highly ranked players in my career including Lupulesku, Kucharski, Shibutani, Matsushita, Solopov, Fetzner,Philippe Saive, Podpinka, Douglas
Several of these players were ranked around 30 in the world when I defeated them.

Who trained the hardest in the training hall?
Jean-Michel Saive

Who’s was the funniest team player?
Barry Griffiths

Who had the best nickname?
Can’t think of anyone in particular.

And Lastly

Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for other table tennis players looking to succeed?

You will need to train hard and try to find the style of game that works for you. Be prepared to innovate and also to learn from other players.

I guess all of your old friends and team mates and all those who have been inspired by your results and history for table tennis in New Zealand would like me to ask this one: Can we expect to see you gracing the tables in New Zealand any time again in the near future?

I don’t think it is likely I will be playing again in NZ but you never know. I am now settled in France with my wife and 2 children and don’t see moving to NZ as a likely option in the near future.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Pre-match Preparations: For Lucks Sake!

Thought I would throw in a borderline title just for fun ;) Last time I asked a handful of international table tennis players whether at 10-0 they mercifully gave a point or dominated 11-0. This time I found myself sifting through some different players to find out if they had anything they did before their matches to help them focus or to bring them good luck.

'I like to listen to music' Tiago Apolonia, Portugese National Champion. Team Europe.

'I put my racket on the table and then make a run in a circle and put my shirt button on' Mattias Oversjo, Ranked 11 in Swedish Men on ITTF Rankings.

'I always tell myself I can do it before I play! I say it to myself loud!' Will Bayley, European Class 10 Champion.

'My mum bought me a necklace for my 21st birthday and I kiss it before my matches' Kelly Sibley, English National Women's Team.

'Listen to good music and before that reading a book' Britt Eerland, 25th World Junior Girls Ranking.

'I just finish warming up half an hour before the game. Then I turn my ipod on, I have a playlist prepared, then I just listen to music and think about the match. Sometimes I take a few words with my coach before the match' Hunor Szocs, Romanian National Mens Team.

'I do nothing before my match, I just try to concentrate and think about my game. And as some players I don't change my t-shirt in which I won in my previous match ;)' Margarita Pesotska, Bronze Medalist 2011 European Championships.

'Not really. I'm just always the same warm up and thinking about my next match' Christophe Legout, French National Champion.

'I just concentrate and think positively' Vladimir Samsonov, Former WR 1.

Chinese Dominance Take 3: The Tribute

I made a video in tribute to the amazing history of results the Chinese have. 2011 saw them claim both the World Individual Championship Crowns in Zhang Jike and Ding Ning, the World Team Cup both mens and womens, the ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals mens and womens singles titles won by Ma Long and Liu Shiwen, the World Individual Cup won by Zhang Jike and Ding Ning and numerous Pro Tour events, the majority of them in fact. Here is my video tribute.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Australian Para Champion Looks to Claim Gold in London

Having seen Melissa perform so successfully in 2011, I leaped on the opportunity to arrange an interview with her. As last year I had become a little more involved with para table tennis here in New Zealand I quickly learnt how inspiring the attitudes of these players are, and Melissa is certainly no exception. She has proved that goals and hard work are the makings of real success. Thanks Melissa and good luck for 2012!

Full Name: Melissa Tapper
Age: 21
Date Of Birth: 01/03/90
Nation represented: Australia
Highest World Ranking: 1

Australian Paralympian Melissa Tapper

Equipment Used?

Blade: Andro Kinetic Supreme OFF Carbon
FH Rubber: Andro Hexer
BH Rubber: Andro Hexer +

Your Career

How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?

13 years of playing table tennis with 7 years being competitively. I began when I was 8 years old in primary school where I chose table tennis as my sport on a Friday afternoon at the local club where I was then asked to play in the local junior pennant and since then haven’t looked back.

First of all congratulations on your 2011 season so far. You've won the Hungary, Italy and Great Britain class 10 Championships and also made the semi final in China, all massive achievements and positive movements towards the big goal. What has been the highlight of your table tennis career so far?

After such a massive year and results I thought I could only dream about its hard to choose one main highlight, but my most enjoyable tournament would have to be my most recent tournament in Hong Kong where we competed in the Asia & Oceania Regional championships where I won a silver in the class 10 singles, but the most exciting part was getting to the final where I had two really great, tough fought matches against girls from China in the quarter and semi to make it to the final. The nerves, excitement, concentration and uncertainty made every win so much more memorable. Also being the last tournament to gain ranking selection into the 2012 Paralympics tripled all these emotions.

What is your next big goal for table tennis, what chances do you have and what have you been doing to work towards making it?

Now my next big goal is aiming for qualifying for the able bodied Olympics. This is an extremely tough goal but that’s what I like about it, if it were easy, everybody would be doing it right? So this means the next 6 weeks will be full time training and lots of match practice, and along with that im sure will bring the emotional rollercoaster but at the end of the day, im playing with a lot of love for the sport and nothing to lose.

Are you a supporter of skirts and sports dresses for women or shorts?

I’m a lover of skirts and sports dresses!! I don’t mind shorts but they have to be different for me to wear them. I admit that after wear a baggy t-shirt and shorts for x amount of years, that the day I tried on a skirt I felt like a female and so comfortable! I’m also a lover of fashion as many females are and it’s a nice little incentive for girls to feel good when playing.

Milly Tapper for Australia

What do you think of the state of women's table tennis around the world and what does it lack?

I think women’s table tennis is on the right track, I think it comes down to hard training and work ethics, so if anything were to be anything lacking it would be these qualities. I really admire the European women that have broken into the top 50 and as long as this culture can continue things will stay on track and continue to improve. I also really like the glamorous approach that the Romanian womens team took recently where they were dressed up in a professional photo shoot promoting table tennis in a innovative way.

Class 10 is the least restricting of the parafed classifications, how do you find it compares to the able-bodied athlete tournaments which you also have great success in in Oceania?

Generally class 10 comprises of arm problems, so therefore an issue with the arm can impede balance and weight transfer etc, however in general is close to being on par with able-bodied athletes. And the experience I have gained competing in the AWD tournaments this year can only help my performances in able bodied competition because it all comes down to playing different people of all abilities.

What do you think para table tennis needs to grow?

I think para table tennis within Australia is growing at a steady rate, and with all the work from behind the scenes that’s going into identifying and developing players the sport is in good hands.

Who is your favourite international player and why?

Elizabetha Samara from Romania. Shes a lefty with a big forehand and backand as well as athletic…my perfect player.

Off the Topic Questions

Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?
Andrew Gaze, a legendary Australian basketballer and all round great guy.

Favourite food?
Chocolate for sure!

What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis?
When im not playing im either playing with my dog, friends, family or out shopping!

Dream Car?
Audi 4 wheel drive

Ideal holiday destination?

First thing you would do if you won $1million?
Buy my Audi 4 wheel drive :)

Your Team Mates

Who’s the funniest player in the training hall?
Zaki Zenaidee

Who trains the hardest in the training hall?

Who has the best nickname?
Lewy the fly (James Lew)

And Lastly

Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for other table tennis players looking to succeed?
My favourite saying is ‘only the strong survive’

This video gives some coverage of Melissa in Australia's Paralympic Buildup

And then ;)

The Fun/Stupid Question:

You open a new restaurant with a table tennis theme, what's your signature dish? (Be Creative)
The kicker cocktail drink – a nice tasty drink with a bit of a kick ha