Originally written by CODY WINNELL
HAMILTON table tennis standout Melissa Tapper returned from Noumea on Sunday night where she competed in the World Junior Circuit.
Tapper, who is 14 years old, matched up against older opponents from numerous countries in the event where she represented Australia in under-18s.
She more than held her own and it can be seen as a great lead-up to her next event, which will take place during October in Portugal for the World Junior Cadets under-15s competition.
Tapper competed in Noumea with two other team-mates in her side, a girl from Queensland and one from New South Wales.
It was a busy schedule just prior to leaving Australia, meeting up with her team-mates and getting to know them in time for competition.
“I went to Melbourne Airport and then went up to Brisbane to meet up with the other girls, from there we flew to Noumea.”
Competition was fierce from the get-go but Tapper’s Australian team moved through the first game with flying colours.
However, the Aussies then came up against table tennis world power Hong Kong which knocked them out, ending their chance at winning the competition.
But they still finished fifth and Tapper was far from disappointed.
“We finished fifth out of 10 in the teams which was a great effort,” she said.
Tapper’s personal results spoke volumes for her ability at such a young age as she made it to quarter-finals in both her singles and doubles events and she wasn’t given an easy draw.
“I first came up against the number one ranked player at the tournament (in the singles) and I won one out of the two games there, but I was knocked out by a French girl in the quarters.
“The first girl I played against actually ended up winning the competition, it was great to watch.”
Tapper said she now had a stronger understanding of just how much she needs to train to peak for Portugal in October.
“I saw what playing at international level is all about, I know how much more time I’m going to have to put in now.”
But the long hours that are coming up don’t bother her for a second and she says that her school, Monivae College, has been great about giving her time off to compete.
“Monivae’s been very supportive. They gave me some money to help pay for expenses while overseas and they’ve kept me on track with study.”
While still resting to catch up with being in Australia again, Tapper receieved news that she had won the South West Sports Assembly’s junior female of the year award on Monday night.
“I heard it on the radio,” she said. “I knew I had been nominated for the award and I knew there was a dinner on in Mortlake but I couldn’t make it because I’d only just come home.
“It was pretty good to win,” a modest Tapper said.
When asked how much room she has left in her trophy cabinet she replied “I think Dad’s going to build another one”.