Tsaptsinos hopes home Commonwealth Games provides boost for table tennis

·3-min read
 Kelly Sibley and Maria Tsaptsinos of England celebrates after a victory at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. (REUTERS/Jeremy Lee)
Kelly Sibley and Maria Tsaptsinos of England celebrates after a victory at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. (REUTERS/Jeremy Lee)

For Maria Tsaptsinos, there is one slight drawback to a home Commonwealth Games.

The table tennis star competed at Gold Coast in 2018 and brought home bronze in the women’s team event.

As much as the Reading-born star is relishing the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd, she is mindful that she will have to explain the rules to her friends and family - again.

“The number of times I’ve tried to explain the rules to them,” she joked. “I’m not sure they still know them. But they’re really supportive.

“My friends will be there, lots of them haven’t seen me play in real life, so it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with it all.

“Some of them aren’t the sportiest types, but they’re just so excited and that in-turn raises my excitement.”

“Even my dad who’s been watching me for 10 years sometimes asks, ‘why did you miss that serve’ and I say, ‘well it’s because of the spin.’”

Tsaptsinos hopes that the Games in Birmingham will raise the profile of her sport, drawing particular attention to the intricacies which exist at the elite level.

This summer, Team England, supported by National Lottery funding, will comprise over 400 athletes in total, and having secured her place on the squad, she is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in her home country.

A freelance video producer away from the table, Tsaptsinos has called upon her colleagues in the media to help make this summer just as memorable.

“Hopefully we’ll see a rise in people coming and joining the sport, with people’s understanding of the game raised, hopefully the television coverage will help with that," she said.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how I can handle that pressure and if my performance can get up to the level I want it to be."

The triple national champion is no stranger to pressure, having won her first Commonwealth medal weeks after completing a first-class degree from Nottingham University.

The 24-year-old's latest challenge consists of balancing a job alongside playing for her country.

But she has experience in that regard too, taking on eight-hour shifts in a café in Spain while competing at a tournament.

“A lot of my shifts are 5pm until 1am, which sounds horrible, but it means I can get two training sessions and a small physical session in as well,” she explained.

“I need to improve my performance to compete with people who have been training for this for a long time. I know that the Indian national team has been in training camps for about a year-and-a-half.”

But unlike the gold medallists from the women's team event in 2018, Tsaptsinos and England will be roared on by home support, something which is inspiring her to achieve her Commonwealth dream.

When asked which event she is targeting most this summer, she beamed: “A medal in all of them would be great!”

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