Melissa Tapper foresees gold medal win
Walking into the start of GC2018, Australia’s Olympian and Paralympian table tennis star Melissa Tapper practically named the podium winners for her TT6-10 singles event.
The 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist had no idea she would be the one standing in the centre winning Australia's first ever gold since the sport was included in the Games in 2002.
Speaking to media on her arrival at the Commonwealth Games Village, well over a week ago, Tapper declared 'My Rio (2016 Olympics) teammate Andrea McDonnell will be a tough competitor' and 'there’s a girl from Nigeria who we haven’t seen play before, and she’s had some great international results'.
Fast Forward to day 10 and Tapper secured the gold medal, in less than 20 minutes, defeating ‘the girl from Nigeria’, Faith Obazuaye 3-1.
Prior to that, Tapper also bested the ‘tough competitor’ McDonnell in the semifinal match who then went on and defeated England's Felicity Pickard 11-2, 11-6, 11-3 in 17 minutes.
"It's never fun or easy having to play against a teammate. She played really well," Tapper said.
“I'm really happy that I was able to get the gold medal, especially on a home soil."
Tapper made history in 2016, becoming the first Australian to have competed at both a Paralympic and Olympic Games.
The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games was no different with the 28-year-old packing out her GC2018 schedule, playing in the singles, teams, doubles, mixed doubles and the TT6-10 singles.
Although she gave it her all, competing eight out of the 11 days, the Paralympian walked away with the one medal out of five potentials.
And she couldn’t be happier.
"It's a nice relief. I know how hard I've worked, and I've had a lot of chances. In sport, sometimes things don't go your way,” Tapper said.
"If I had more events in Para then I would have most likely made a choice of which way to go, but we knew that there was only Para singles and the most I would play would be five matches.
"In saying that, having the opportunity of playing the able-bodied events, I got so much of a test run out on the courts, and that definitely helped.
“The first time I went out there I was incredibly nervous, but this was probably about the 10th time I was out there.
“It's just a buzz now, and I enjoyed being out there."
Born with a brachial plexus injury, due to complications during her birth, Tapper only has 30 per cent use of her right arm.
The Victorian however has not let this challenge affect her, enjoying a multiple of sports as a junior.
Table Tennis however took precedence after giving it a go in order to try something new.
“At lunchtime you could choose a sport, I’d played all the others, so I gave table tennis a go,” Tapper told GC2018.com.
“At that point though I was still playing netball, basketball, doing athletics. It wasn’t until maybe 11 or 12 that I decided it was going to be my main sport.
“I went and won the under 12 girls’ singles and I just remember walking out of the stadium with this trophy, that I still have, and just this feeling of beating State representatives and I was so happy and so proud.
“My mum and dad were so happy and proud. It was from there that I was like – maybe I’ll put a bit more time into this and see where it goes.”
Tapper’s supporters filled the stands at Oxenford Studios, with most of her family and friends having the first chance to see the Paralympian in action for the first time in 14 years.
They didn’t disappoint, with the Australian’s supporters not only aiding her win but spurring her on to continue greatness.
That thrill that you get out there in front of a home crowd, geez that would make me keep playing for another 50 years.
"It's almost a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity getting this environment and that sort of thrill and adrenaline - it definitely spurs me on to try and keep achieving a little bit more.
"Whether you win or lose, they're just happy seeing you out there trying your best. That for me was the most amazing thing. We've never had that before."
The TT6-10 event is for athletes with varying limb impairments who can stand during play.