Tapper eyeing elusive table tennis medal

Melissa Tapper is counting on her Olympics experience to help deliver a medal in the Paralympics.
Melissa Tapper is counting on her Olympics experience to help deliver a medal in the Paralympics.

Competing in both 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 that 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 on Sunday 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.

"I was able to go from the hotel to my venue to train with one of my coaches that stayed on from the Olympics and I was able to make most of it work."

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.

"I'm looking forward to getting my best performances at these Games."

Australian Associated Press