Every summer holiday abroad would be dominated by one game. The competitiveness between my brother and I at the table tennis table was massive, and quite often the loser would end up launching the bat squarely in the direction of the winner’s head. Having the bragging rights was that important.
It’s a fantastic sport but one that often gets overlooked in this country, which is a shame because here in Perthshire we have some very good players. In the men’s game, Gavin Wrumgay is on the fringes of the top 100 players in the world and he’s been Scotland’s top player for many years. On the women’s side, former Blairgowrie High School pupil Gillian Edwards picked up her first cap for Scotland over twenty years ago and has been one of the top three senior women in Scotland for over 15 years.
The popularity has grown in recent years since Scotland’s participation in the sport at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. For Scottish number two Edwards, it was one of the highlights of a long career which has seen her play in European and World Championships in different locations throughout the world.
“To play in front of our home crowd in Glasgow was just incredible,” she told me, “to have a packed stadium with the majority being Scottish really gave us a lift. It’s definitely been one of the highlights of my career because as a nation, we struggle to qualify for these events and many players will never get the chance to represent their country at a Games.” To play in front of our home crowd in Glasgow was just incredible - it’s definitely been one of the highlights of my career.
Although the Scottish team didn’t manage to progress to the latter stages and get to the podium, just being at the Commonwealth Games is an achievement in itself. When it comes to table tennis, the funding simply isn’t there for Scotland to be competing with some of the other countries in Europe and indeed throughout the world.
Qualifying for European and World Championships is becoming more difficult too, with places becoming more limited and many other countries sitting above Scotland in the rankings. For now, Scottish players' main hopes of success come in national and British Championships, something that Gillian managed to achieve in November 2017.
“I was over the moon to win bronze, I really didn’t expect it. I knew if I played well I could compete but I would never have predicted going down there and doing so well, especially as I haven’t been playing as much as I have in previous years.
“It was a nice way to end the year and there’s a bit of a break now as there aren’t many competitions for a while. I’d love to be going to the Commonwealth Games again but unfortunately we didn’t qualify this time. It’s getting tougher and tougher as the format is changing but hopefully the Scottish team will get to compete again in the future.”
Having been at the top of the sport in Scotland for two decades, Gillian is still playing regularly although admits she does see herself slowing down a little in the years to come and she has also been getting more involved in coaching the younger players.
It’s been an impressive career to date for Gillian, and she’s come a long way from her humble beginnings in the sport. Her dad, a former PE teacher at Perth Grammar School of many years, had Gillian playing a number of different sports including tennis, basketball and badminton but once she picked up the table tennis bat, she realised she had a natural talent. In a matter of months she was already the number one player for her age in the country and had qualified to play in European competitions. She admits that her parents have played a big part in her career.
“Right from the very beginning they’ve supported me – whether it was taking me to training, to competitions or just encouraging me. I could never have achieved what I have done without them.
“With my dad being a PE teacher, I was always going to be a sporty child and I played pretty much every sport you could think of at school growing up. It was just by chance really that I tried table tennis and happened to be pretty good and before I knew it I was winning national competitions at my age group and it just kind of grew and grew from there!”
Gillian is one of the Live Active Talented Athletes in Perthshire, and has been part of the programme for many years. As a regular user of the facilities, she is grateful for the trusts support and thinks that it has really benefitted her game over the course of her senior career. The Talented Athlete scheme is superb and I know so many of the talented athletes in Perthshire benefit greatly from it.
“Live Active has been brilliant and having access to all of the facilities is great for me. I use the strength and conditioning gym at Bell’s regularly and it’s really improved my game. You wouldn’t think that in table tennis it would make much of a difference but it definitely does. You can hit the ball harder and get around the table better.
“The Talented Athlete scheme is superb and I know so many of the talented athletes in Perthshire benefit greatly from it. The venues are so accommodating for me and if I ever need a place to practice then it’s always there for me and that’s been vital for keeping me at the top level and ensuring my longevity in the sport.”
Live Active Leisure has launched a new campaign encouraging the residents of Perth and Kinross to ‘Travel the World with LAL’.
May 27th Wednesday 2020
Chrystal Matthan is the 24 year old netball player from Perth who was recently selected for the Scottish Thistles Long Squad!
February 27th Thursday 2020
Foundation trustee Charlie Gallagher recently handed over a £2000 cheque to Academy head of youth development Alistair Stevenson.
January 31st Friday 2020