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Gold Coast stars added to Tokyo table tennis team

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The Australian Tokyo Olympic table tennis team is now set with the additions of two more Commonwealth Games alums.

Gold Coast 2018 gold medallist Melissa ‘Milly’ Tapper and two-time Commonwealth Games representative Heming Hu have been announced on the Australian Olympic team for Tokyo today, completing the six-strong Table tennis cohort for Tokyo.

The pair will compete in the mixed doubles and teams events Tokyo’s Metropolitan Gymnasium, a legacy venue from the 1964 Olympics.

Tapper made history at the Rio 2016 Games, as the first Australian athlete to compete in both an Olympics and Paralympics in the same year, a feat she repeated at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The duo join the existing four table tennis team members who were announced in August 2020.

All six selections are Commonwealth Games alumni, with the recent selections joined on the team by fellow Gold Coast 2018 team members David PowellMichelle Bromley and Chris Yan with Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games medallist Stephanie Sang continuing her sensational return to the elite level after eight years away from the sport.

TABLE TENNIS TEAM SET TO SERVE FOR TOKYO

Three of the four members of the Australian table tennis team named for the Tokyo Olympic Games were members of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games team, with the fourth member, former Commonwealth Games athlete Stephanie Sang continuing her sensational return to the elite level after eight years away from the sport.

Despite creating history in Rio and on the Gold Coast, before creating history again in Tokyo, Tapper isn’t looking past her next Olympic match.

“It’s really hard to consider the impact of being the first Australian to make an Olympics and Paralympics in the same year while I’m still competing. I turn up and want to play, whether it’s an Olympic or Paralympic match. When I’ve got grandkids I can look back and tell them this is something special I achieved, but for now I just can’t wait to compete on the international stage again.”

27-year-old Hu is keen to use his Rio experience to propel his performance in Tokyo.

“It’s so satisfying to make this team for Tokyo,” Hu said. “It’s been such a massive build up with so much training and so little competition, I’m just so pumped to get back on the world stage and play in some big matches.”

“Rio was the best experience of my life and so overwhelming as my first Games. Now I know what to expect I’m in a different space and so grateful to be able to get back to the Olympic arena.”

Throughout Melbourne’s 2020 lockdown, Hu improvised a range of training at home, including facing off against his parents in training drills.

“We had all the time in the world, me and mum hit a lot of balls. I first picked up a paddle at six, my brother, parents and I would play home comps – it wasn’t easy, the goal was always to try and beat mum. It was fun getting back into that last year.

“I’m also really grateful to be going as mixed doubles partners with Milly. We’ve played a lot together, won national championships together and will be really special to compete in Tokyo.”

Chef de Mission of the Australian Olympic Team Ian Chesterman welcomed the athletes to the Olympic Team.

“Congratulations to Milly and Heming on making their second Olympic Team,” Mr Chesterman said.

“Today is a great milestone to celebrate for Heming, Milly, the coaches, supporters and family and friends who have been with them throughout their Olympic journey.

“Milly took a special place in Australian sporting history in Rio and I’m thrilled to see her on the Team for Tokyo.”

31-year-old Tapper says she is heading into Tokyo in the best form of her life.

“I’m struggling to put into words, it’s been such a long process, and I can’t believe I will now be a two-time Olympian,” Tapper said. “That’s a feat I never thought possible.”

“I’m feeling like I’m playing the best I ever have which is exciting. I’m very lucky with the people I have around me, from the Victorian Institute of Sport to Table Tennis Australia and my coaches – even through lockdown, they’re the first to make sure we have everything that’s needed, that our minds and bodies are in the right place.

“Training through 2020 has also unlocked more creativity for me – I’ve got a new bag of tricks I think will actually be an advantage in Tokyo against athletes we haven’t played in so long.”

Table Tennis Australia CEO Scott Houston welcomed today’s announcement.

“It’s exciting to see Melissa and Heming return to the team and represent Australia at their second Olympic Games,” Houston said. “Both Heming and Melissa have been long-term national team members and I am really pleased for them as they achieve another significant career milestone.

“I can’t wait to see Melissa and Heming in action in Tokyo alongside their teammates as part of the Australian Olympic Team.”

The Table Tennis competition will run from 24 July through 6 August.

Australian Olympic Table Tennis Team

Name Age State Olympic Games Experience Commonwealth Games Experience
Michelle Bromley 32 NSW Debut 2018 – Women’s Team – 4th, Women’s Doubles – 5th
Heming Hu 27 VIC 2nd (2016) 2014 – Men's Team – Quarter-finals, Men's Doubles – Third round, Mixed Doubles – Third round; 2018 – Men's Team – Quarter-finals, Men's Singles – Round of 16, Men's Doubles – Quarter-finals, Mixed Doubles – Round of 16
Jian Fang Lay 6th (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 & 2016) 2002 - Silver (2), Bronze; 2006 - Silver, Bronze; 2010; 2014 - Silver, Bronze; 2018
Melissa Tapper 31 VIC 2nd (2016) 2014 – Women's Team – Bronze, Mixed Doubles – Third round; 2018 – Women's Para-Sport Singles – Gold, Women's Team – 4th, Women's Doubles – Quarter-finals, Mixed Doubles – Round of 16
David Powell 29 VIC 2nd (2016) 2014 – Men’s Team – Quarter-final, Men’s Singles – Second round, Men’s Doubles – Third round, Mixed Doubles – Fourth round; 2018 – Men’s Team – Quarter-final, Men’s Singles – Round of 32, Men’s Doubles – Round of 32, Mixed Doubles – Round of 32
Chris Yan 31 NSW 2nd (2016) 2014 – Men’s Team – Quarter-final, Men’s Doubles – Third round, Mixed Doubles – Third round; 2018 – Men’s Team – Quarter-final, Men’s Singles – Round of 32, Men’s Doubles – Quarter-final, Mixed Doubles – Round of 16

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