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The powerhouse table tennis team for the Paris Paralympic Games, announced by Paralympics Australia at a ceremony in Mandurah, is the culmination of a decade’s steady build by dedicated athletes, coaches and support staff.  

The 12-player team is Australia’s largest since 1968 and the second largest ever to represent the nation in the Paralympic Games foundation sport.  

It includes the legendary Danni Di Toro, who will compete at her eighth Games, Milly Tapper, who heads to Paris on Monday for her third Olympics and fourth Paralympics, as well as reigning gold medallists Qian Yang and Lina Lei.  

The squad also includes debutants Chris Addis, Hayley Sands, Jessy Chen and Jimmy Huo. The team is captained by Lina and Sam von Einem, whose silver medal at Rio 2016 was Australia’s first in table tennis since Terry Biggs won gold in 1984.  

“This is an incredible team,” said Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin, who introduced the squad at the ceremony, attended also by Table Tennis Australia CEO Nicole Adamson, Paralympics Australia board director Matthew Nicholls and other guests.  

“In London we only had two athletes and now we have 12 athletes. It’s an incredible trajectory and we’re so proud of everything they’ve achieved. They’re a tight-knit group with a fantastic support staff and fantastic coaches.  

“Table tennis is a relatively small sport, but we are a genuine powerhouse worldwide. In Tokyo we came second to China and I know they’ll be out to prove a point again this time around. There is so much potential, so many possibilities for this team. 

“From Danni Di Toro to some of the debutants, like Hayley Sands, Chris Addis, Jessy Chen, who’ve worked for years and years to get to this point, to finally see them earn the right to wear the green and gold at the Paralympic Games is just amazing. It’s a beautiful mix of experience and newbies.” 

Tapper said being part of the team for Paris 2024 felt even more special than previous Games because of the people involved.  

“They are some of the most incredible humans I’ve ever met,” she said.  

“I’m very lucky. It’s my fourth time getting to represent Australia at the Paralympic Games. Since my first Games, London 2012, I’ve seen how every Games is different. But I think Paris will do a fantastic job.  

“I’d say to the new members of the team to try to enjoy every moment that they compete, embrace all the nerves and excitement that comes along with the Games and, beyond that, the athletes they’re going to meet and the experiences they have are going to last a lifetime.” 

One of the people responsible for the growth of Australian Para-table tennis, coach Alois Rosario, said developing the program since starting in 2011 had been rewarding.  

“Building from a very small staff at the start to where we are now, having 12 players qualified for Paris is phenomenal,” Rosario said.  

“They’re an incredible group of human beings, first up. But I think the biggest thing, for me, is that it really is a village that’s built this team, from their personal coaches who they started with to the people working with them now. 

“Also, parents, carers and the staff from Table Tennis Australia. It’s also about the Games team at Paralympics Australia. I just can’t tell you the amount of love that we’ve received from the Games team, because they genuinely care about every single player on the team, every member of staff. It just helps players, the staff, to go that one step further.” 

Rosario said he had set medal goals, but the most important thing was about the team culture.  

“We’ve set out our values and behaviours that we’ll aim towards and those are the things that then lead hopefully to each person on the team achieving what they want to out of the Games experience.” 

By: David Sygall, Paralympics Australia

Published: 8 July 2024