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

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