Shepparton News

Tapper eyeing elusive medal

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Competing in the Olympics and Paralympic­s in Rio and Tokyo, table tennis ace Melissa Tapper is already in the record books.

But the 31-year-old wants to see ‘‘medallist’’ next to her name.

At the Rio Paralympic­s Tapper finished fourth in the Teams event and fifth in the singles; becoming the first Australian to back-up from the Olympics.

After competing in the 2021 Olympic mixed doubles with Heming Hu, Tapper has spent the past month in Tokyo honing her Paralympic preparatio­n.

‘‘Warm-up done, big dance coming up,’’ she wrote on Instagram.

She said she hoped to use her Olympic experience to position herself for an elusive medal, after also losing the bronze medal single play-off at the London Paralympic­s.

‘‘My big goal has always been to perform at the Paralympic­s. I was pretty fortunate to qualify for the Olympics,’’ Tapper said yesterday from Tokyo.

‘‘But realistica­lly I was able to use that to get a feeling for the balls and see how I was playing.

‘‘Now I’m really excited that the rest of my Paralympic team is here in Japan with me and I’m excited to now get out there and play.’’

In 2016 Tapper travelled back to Australia between events, but quarantine didn’t make that feasible this time.

While one coach remained in Tokyo with her, she’s had to rely on online training from Australia.

‘‘It was a difficult two weeks in that sense because I still had to maintain the quarantine bubble, but I’m very lucky the hospitalit­y in Japan is sensationa­l,’’ the Commonweal­th Games para-sport champion said.

Born with nerve damage in her right arm, Tapper is ranked world No.3 in the class 10 field, but to win gold will have to topple Poland’s Natalia Partyka, who is also an Olympian.

Competing in her sixth Paralympic­s, Partyka has won the past four singles gold medals.

‘‘Natalia is someone I grew up admiring," Tapper said.

‘‘She’s an amazing player, but I’ve improved a lot in the last few years.

‘‘I have put in a lot of work and if I can see the better results I’d be stoked.’’

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