Good and bad news from Simon Heaps, Wheelchair Table Tennis Player and Bader Grant Recipient, who has had a mixed couple of months.
A few weeks ago, Simon won his first International Para Medal, a Bronze in Jordan before going 2 better in Mexico, winning his first singles medal – a Silver – quickly followed by a Gold in the mixed with his GB partner.
He was delighted to notch up good wins in the singles, including beating the No. 2 seed from Thailand in the semis. The world ranking points he gained should make him GB No. 2 when the July rankings come out. Very sadly for Simon, this has come about 5 weeks too late to get him into the Commonwealth Games, which had been his goal.
Simon is not only an incredibly talented table tennis player who has shown extraordinary courage and commitment to continue playing from a wheelchair following 2 amputations; he is also the oldest player competing at this level and is inspiring over 60s both with and without disabilities.
Read on to hear Simon in his own words:
Good news and bad news. The good news first:
After my first International Medal, my Bronze in Jordan, this was followed up when I competed in the Copa Christina Hoffman Mexican Para Open from 6th to 8th June. After qualifying from my Group I beat the tournament No 2 seed and World Ranked No 25 Thailand player in the semi finals 3-0 to reach the final and get my first individual medal a Silver after losing in the Final to the No 1 seeded American. I then went and won a Gold Medal in the Mixed Doubles with my GB partner Lucie Bouron from Bracknell. To get Bronze, Silver and then my first Gold in the last couple of events has been mind blowing. The confidence from getting my first medal in Jordan certainly helped me and I am now starting to feel more at home in these International Para events. The results gained in Mexico should mean that I will become the GB No 2 ranked player when the July World ranking list is published. I will have improved my position but not exactly sure where I will have moved up to yet until they are published. Unfortunately this has come about 5 weeks too late to gain selection for the Commonwealth Games Team as it was selected on May 1st and the GB lad that I have overtaken in the World Rankings has been selected and massive congratulations and good luck to him. Missing the tournament in Costa Rica in December because of the ongoing problems with my left leg which I eventually lost in January has cost me dearly as he went and won the tournament in my absence. To get where I am today is a great achievement and I am extremely proud but tinged with disappointment at the same time as I got so close to selection.
Going forward I leave for Rimini, Italy on 25th June to compete in the European Veterans ( over 40 ) Championships where 3,000 players will compete to win European titles. For the first time ever there will be Para events and if I play well then I am hopeful of securing a Medal. Fly home on 5th July after a few extra days break in the sun and go straight to Heathrow Hotel , change bags from the car and fly out to Beunos Aires, Argentina at 7am on 6th July to compete in Copa Tango Argentina Para Open for Great Britain. I will be the only GB athlete competing. Back on 12th July and then leave on 14th July to Pattaya, Thailand to play in Thailand Para Open for Great Britain with 2 other GB athletes. An Interrnational break then until September until the Saudi Arabia Open and Greece Opens during that month. So a very hectic and expensive period.
Now the bad news. Since I lost my first leg in May 2019 and the start of this incredible journey I have spent £43,739 and this does not include my Argentina accommodation and entry or my flights, accommodation and entry for Thailand so with ongoing training costs, equipment replacement I will have spent very close to £50,000 by the end of July with Greece and Saudi Arabia costs still to come.
I do all of my own fundraising, and you have all been fantastic and helped me along the way, by means of charitable donations, sponsorship and general donations along with raffles and auctions etc. My fundraising account is nearly gone and with July costs still to be paid it is likely that it will be empty once these costs are paid. I get no financial assistance whatsoever from my NGB, British Para Table Tennis, and although I should be GB No 2 by July 1st I will still not receive any assistance going forward. I understand this and this is why I can play for Great Britain on a self funding basis.
However the reality is that I cannot continue without funding. There are also tournaments in Brazil in October and Costa Rica in December to be funded before the end of the International Para season.
Once again, thank you for supporting me and I really appreciate that you have taken the time to read the above.
Yours in Disability Sport
My motto remains: Dream it, Believe it, Achieve it – Simon Heaps, Wheelchair Table Tennis Player
It was certainly an eye-opener for me to see how expensive it is for athletes to self fund for their sport, and the fact that they work so hard to raise money in order to represent their countries deserves recognition. We are immensely proud of what Simon has achieved and continues to achieve. It would be a tragedy if a lack of funds forced him to stop competing now when he is so close to reaching his goal…
Watch out for a follow up post next week when Simon will be sending a video of him in training demonstrating the skill, strength and dexterity required to play this very challenging sport. I reckon it’ll be another eye-opener!
Links (will open in new tabs):
- To see further posts about Simon Heaps and his extraordinary journey, please click HERE