After months of hard work and preparation in lockdown, Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Melissa Tapper is getting ready to don the green and gold once again at the ITTF World Cup in China this November.
The ITTF World Cup in China will be the first event on the international table tennis calendar since COVID-19 put competition to a startling halt, and the event is set to be a celebration as the global table tennis community reunites in a safe and secure manner.
The event will see the best 20 male and female players from all over the world fight for prize money and coveted world ranking points, with a global audience of 1.1 billion expected to tune in.
The Table Tennis Australia (TTA) star will be making her World Cup debut, but after representing Australia at two Commonwealth Games, an Olympics and a Paralympics, Tapper is excited again to be working towards testing herself against the world’s best players.
“It exciting that the ITTF has been able to put everything in place to enable the World Cup event to go ahead,” Tapper said.
“It is nice to be training and preparing towards something and I am looking forward to having the opportunity to compete on the world stage.
“I am wanting to win as many points as I can and know that through all of my hard work and my training, I deserve every single one that I get… I hope that each match I get to play some of my best table tennis.”
Tapper has spent the past few months training at the National Table Tennis centre in Melbourne’s western suburbs with the Australian national squad members
The national squad has been motivating each other to get better during these difficult times.
“We have all developed a strong bond through this period, all of us team members are quite grateful for one another because we do our best to keep each other safe but also our best to keep each other improving,” Tapper said.
Tapper will be joined in China, by Gold Coast 2018 teammate Heming Hu, who will be going to his third World Cup, who was narrowly defeated in last year’s event by Sweden’s Kristian Karlson.
Table Tennis Australia head coach John Murphy is excited for the team members to represent Australia on the international stage at the World Cup.
“It’s always an honour when an athlete qualifies for a World Cup event, and even more so when that competition represents the start of a new chapter in international table tennis,” Murphy said.
“We are incredibly proud that both Heming and Melissa have qualified for an event as significant as the World Cup, but there is a bit of unknown for us, and many other countries ahead of this competition.”
While many of the 19 other male and female athletes have begun competing, with the European League commencing this month, and China staging their own Olympic-style event broadcast live on television, the Australians have not competed since the 2020 Australian Olympic qualifiers in January.
“We’ve not seen the best in the world in one place since December 2019 and the magnitude and weight of the event will therefore put extra pressure on athletes to succeed,” Murphy said.
“Regardless of results, the tournament will be a great indicator of how athletes have handled training in lockdown, and their performance will act as a base line to reassess training techniques ahead of other world ranking events next year, and of course the Olympic Games in Tokyo.”
The ITTF World Cup men’s and women’s events will be split up for health and safety reasons, with the ITTF Women’s World Cup taking place from 8-10 November, while the Men’s World Cup will take place from 13-15 November.