FORMER Hamilton table tennis player Melissa Tapper is on the verge of realising a long-held dream to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games.
Tapper and her national teammates will today fly to China, where a week-long training camp in the province of Shandong will cap off their preparations.
They then head to Glasgow, Scotland for the 20th Games. The event kick-offs with the opening ceremony on July 23, with table tennis action starting the next day.
Tapper, who will compete in the teams event and mixed doubles with fellow Victorian Heming Hu, is among the most remarkable athletes to win Games selection.
The former Monivae College student was born with Erb’s Palsy and has little strength in her right arm, despite multiple operations to graft nerves into her shoulder.
She represented Australia at the 2012 London Paralympics and is set to become the first Australian to compete at both the Paralympics and Commonwealth Games.
Tapper, 24, said she was pleased with her build-up to the Games.
She leaves Australia just days after winning bronze at the national championships, losing to Australian number one Jian Fang Lay 4-2 in a semi-final.
Two other medals — gold in the women’s doubles with Michelle Beaumont and silver in the mixed doubles with Hu — were also part of her medal haul in Perth.
“It’s been an interesting ride because straight after the (Commonwealth Games) quallies in February I decided to take some time off,” she said.
“I’d gone so hard right up to the quallies, I needed to give myself a bit of a rest. I enjoyed taking March quite lightly. I was only doing two or three sessions a week.
“The rest of the time I got to catch up with friends, being back in Hamilton, hanging out with mum and dad which was really important, I think I really needed that.
“Since then it’s been a bit of getting fitness back, working on a few issues I’ve had on the court.”
Tapper said achieving the rare Paralympics-Commonwealth Games double had yet to sink in, and wouldn’t for a while yet.
She competed in the C10 class at the Paralympics, placing fourth, but has played against able-bodied opponents most of her career.
“I haven’t really been able to take it in from that sense. I don’t think I will be able to see it that way for quite some time,” she said.
“For me it’s another dream that I wanted to do and the fact I was able to achieve it, I’m absolutely stoked I get to go over there and do something I love.
“Down the track I’ll get to reflect on it and be a lot more amazed with it. Now it’s just something I’ve worked really hard for and got.”
Tapper said Singapore would be the nation to beat in Glasgow due to its table tennis squad featuring several Chinese ex-pats.
Her parents Charles and Dianne will be in the crowd at Glasgow, with older siblings Nicole and Ashley and the Hamilton community following her progress from afar.