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Table tennis team proud of efforts

13 August 2016

TABLE TENNIS: The Commonwealth Games bronze medal-winning women’s table tennis team may have been knocked out of Olympic competition for 2016, but they’re proud of their efforts in Rio.

The Australian team of Melissa Tapper, Jian Fang Lay and Sally Zhang were defeated 0-3 (0-3, 0-3, 1-3) by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, whose team included Rio women’s singles bronze medallist Kim Song-I.

The result was somewhat disappointing for the team who, together with fellow Australian players Miao Miao and Zhenhua Dederko, beat India 3-1 to win bronze at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Tapper, 26, said the North Korean side were “easily top 20 in the world” so to play them on the main court was a real highlight.

“They’re just incredibly strong … they’ve also got two defensive players and in Australia we don’t get much exposure to that,” she said.

“I think the whole team put up a good fight. It was great fun (playing doubles with Zhang), we have been practicing for a bit over the past year and we are happy with a 1-3 result.”

Zhang and Lay both played the first doubles of the meet, Lay – Australia’s highest ranked women’s player – being toppled by Mi Gyong Ri 8-11, 6-11, 9-11 and Zhang going down 4-11, 6-11, 3-11 to Myong Sun Ri.

Tapper, who opened Australia’s table tennis campaign last Saturday, 6 August, with a tough match against Brazilian Caroline Kumahara (losing 2-4) did not get the opportunity to play her team singles match.

“It’s just fantastic to be in the presence of these world best players,” she said.

“It was a great experience getting to be out there on the main court.”

Now Tapper turns her attention to the Paralympic Games, beginning on September 7, where she will be looking to better her fourth place achieved at London in 2012.

The Hamilton-born athlete was born with brachial plexus Erb’s Palsy affecting nerves and movement in her right arm. She’ll line up in for the Paralympic team and singles events.

Tapper was Australia’s first athlete to compete at both an Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“On Sunday (August 14) I’m going home to Melbourne for a short period to make sure I’m feeling sharp … it will be nice to be around family and friends,” she said.

“But it’s been fantastic playing in the official venue and understanding what the crowd is like, so I’m going to be feeling good when I come back to Rio.

“I’ve learnt (from her Olympic experience) that no matter who you are playing, once you step out onto the court it’s a 50-50 opportunity for everyone.

“You just have to go out there and give it every chance you have, which is a great lesson for me.”

And as for Tokyo Games 2020, the jury remains out.

“I would love to play again but it’s four years of a lot of hard work … Once the Paralympic Games are finished I will take a bit of a break and think about everything.”

The Australian men’s team face Hong Kong on Saturday, 13 August, at 3pm local (AEST 4am Sunday).

Candice Keller

olympics.com.au

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