Daniela Di Toro has the most Paralympic experience in the 11-member Australian para-table tennis squad

Daniela Di Toro has the most Paralympic experience in the 11-member Australian para-table tennis squad Photo: ITTF Oceania

50 days out from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics the Australian Paralympic Team announced the 11-player squad chasing para-table tennis gold.

With 50 days to go until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, Australia’s 11-member para-table tennis team was announced on Monday.

The team is bolstered by the addition of Ma Lin, Lei Lina and Qian Yang, former Chinese representatives that hold 10 Paralympic gold and six silver medals between them. The trio is now considered Australia’s best chance to secure its first gold medal in the sport in nearly 40 years.

Ma Lin is a four-time Paralympic Gold Medallist, who moved to Australia following the Rio Paralympics. He played his first match for Australia in 2019 at the Australian Open during the 2019 ITTF World Tour.

Similarly, Lei Lina moved to Australia following the Rio Games, a five-time Paralympic Gold Medallist Lei was truly a force to be reckoned with between 2006 and 2014 winning every Paralympic and World Para Championship gold medal that was up for grabs. Tokyo 2020 will be the first time Lei represents Australia internationally.

The youngest of the trio, 25-year-old Yang Qian is a two-time Paralympian winning her solitary gold medal in the C-10 Teams event at London 2012.

One of the three squad captains Joel Coughlan is convinced the trio has helped every member of the squad improve ahead of the Paralympics.

“They’ve been a great addition and it’s really upped the level within the squad,” Coughlan said.

“It’s allowed us more diversity with our training partners, they’ve got different styles of attack, so it’s been helpful for all of us.

“There are a few gold medals among them, so we’ve been able to talk to them about how to handle the pressure in key moments, that sort of stuff, it’s been really good for us.

“I think our chances are quite high. We’ve got some quality players in there, some very experienced players in there. There are lots of great players around the world but I believe we’ve got strong chances in both teams and individuals.”

A notable name in the team is the second squad captain Melissa ‘Milly’ Tapper, who became the first Australian to compete at both the Olympics and Paralympics at Rio 2016, and has now been selected again to represent Australia at both games this year.

Former wheelchair tennis world number one and Australian Paralympic Team Co-Captain, Danni Di Toro will play at her seventh Paralympics, Tokyo 2020 will be the second time she joins the Paralympic table-tennis team.

Joel Coughlan spoke positively on his fellow squad captains and Di Torro, welcoming the knowledge gained from Tapper and Di Torro’s previous Paralympic experience.

“You couldn’t ask for a better team,” Coughlan said.

“We’ve got Milly, who plays in both the Olympics and Paralympics. We’ve got Danni, who has a huge amount of experience. She’s incredible to talk to and learn from.

“You’ve got myself and Nathan, the other two Captains who haven’t been to a Paralympics before but we’ve been part of the team for a long time.

“I’ve been in the Australian squad since 2009 and it’s been great to see the whole squad develop and grow. The professionalism of the whole group now is very impressive.”

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Kate McLoughlin, Chef de Mission of the Australian Team welcomed the announcement and commended the competition to make it into the 11-player squad.

“There was a huge amount of competition for places in this squad, so each player selected should be very proud,” McLoughlin said.

“However, I know they’ll feel their job is just starting. There is a strong desire among the players and staff to convert all that hard work into success at Paralympic level.

“I welcome our 11 Para-table tennis players to the Australian Paralympic Team and look forward to supporting them through the campaign.”

Chief Executive of Paralympics Australia Lynne Anderson highlighted the progress of the squad during the past year with the pandemic looming over them.

“Preparing this squad for Tokyo has been a brilliant example of teamwork between Table Tennis Australia, Head Coach Alois Rosario, Program Manager Sue Stevenson and our Paralympic Innovation Lead Ross Pinder, who set up systems to allow the players to keep working remotely,” Anderson said.

“Put that together with an exciting and talented group of players who have relentlessly forged towards their goals and you have a Para-table tennis squad that will command our attention at the Games.

“I can’t wait to watch them compete.”

Australian Para-Table Tennis Team

Trevor HirthMen’s Individual C6Debut
Jake BallestrinoMen’s Individual C7Debut
Nathan PellissierMen’s Individual C8Debut
Ma LinMen’s Individual C94th (2008, 2012, 2016)
Joel CoughlanMen’s Individual C10Debut
Samuel von EinemMen’s Individual C112nd (2016)
Daniela Di ToroWomen’s Individual C47th (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008,
2012, 2016) 2nd in para-table tennis
Rebecca JulianWomen’s Individual C63rd (2008, 2012)
Lei LinaWomen’s Individual C95th (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016)
Melissa TapperWomen’s Individual C103rd (2012, 2016)
Yang QianWomen’s Individual C103rd (2012, 2016)

Para-table tennis will commence on August 25th and go through to September 3rd with five team finals.

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