Rio Paralympics: Meet Our History Making Table Tennis Star

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Sep 08, 2016

Victoria’s Melissa Tapper is the first Australian athlete to complete the Olympics- Paralympics double.

We caught up with the inspiring star, who was born with extensive nerve damage in her right arm, just after she’d returned to Rio.

Rio Paralympics: Meet Our History Making Table Tennis Star2

Melissa, 26, finished fourth at the London Paralympics, and hopes are high that she can make it on to the podium four years later.

Congrats Milly on your amazing efforts at the Olympics. What was that experience like for you?

Thanks, was a great experience. I had a tough draw however I tried to make the most of it and played the best I could. It was great having family in the stands. I didn’t get a chance to do sight seeing, but plan to this time round.

What did you do in your 2.5 weeks at home? Did you work on any elements of your game?

My time back home was spent recovering, getting over the high that’s the Olympics and getting my mind into gear to go again. Being in my own bed, around family and friends definitely helped with this process. The last week was spent at the Gold Coast for a training camp, working on hard footwork and match play. Ensuring that I am eating well, with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables has also been a big part of my training program in between the Games.

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Tells us a bit about Erb’s Palsy and its impact on you growing up. How has it shaped you into the person you are today?

It’s a condition where the nerves between my neck and shoulder were torn leaving me with limited use of my right arm. Growing up I just had to find an alternative way to do things that required two hands. Having dealt with this growing up it has made me determined to be able to do anything I want to do, therefore working hard to achieve things, overcome little obstacles to get the desired results, and that’s been great in sport and in life.

You’re the only team member from the Olympics returning to Rio. How is that experience for you? Are the others asking you a lot of questions? 

It was a funny feeling arriving and going through the same process and knowing where everything is – I do feel really relaxed though. I’ve had plenty of questions from team mates and it has been nice to be able to help.

What are your expectations at the Paralympics in terms of medals? We’re guessing there are more outside expectations on you now?

I am fighting hard for a podium finish, I want to step out on the court and give it my all. Whether I win or lose, it doesn’t matter as long as I can leave the court with my head held high knowing that I gave it everything.

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What’s your message to others who may use physical limitations, or indeed any other hurdles, as an excuse in life? 

Everybody has their own hurdles in life, not just physical. By staying positive and working on finding solutions rather than dwelling on the problems, we will always come out the other end better off. Just work hard and aim to improve yourself every day.

Lastly, what does it mean to be a Woolworths brand ambassador, both at the Rio Olympics, and Paralympics?

Being a part of the Woolworths family has been amazing – especially as healthy, fresh food has played a big part in my preparation for the Games. Having such a strong and proud Australian company and their customers behind me has meant that myself and my fellow Aussie Paralympians and Olympians are able to get out there and compete to the best of our ability.


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