Find out which other stories made it into the Top 50 Paralympic Moments of 2012.
David Wetherill did not medal or even make it past the table tennis qualifying round at the London 2012 Paralympics, but the British athlete without a doubt became one of the most famous faces of the Games.
All it took was one shot for him to become a worldwide hit.
During his men’s singles class 6 preliminary round match against Germany’s Thomasz Kusiak, Wetherill hit a diving winner cross-court that electrified the crowds and went viral on the internet.
Just as it appeared that Kusiak had the point sewn up when he prodded a shot into the corner, Wetherill, who appeared off balance with his crutch in his left hand, dove to his right to return the ball with heavy topspin. Wetherill rolled over on the ground, crutch still in hand, looking up to see what happened.
“At the time, I just knew I had to get to that ball,” Wetherill said. “I was slightly behind in the match, and I just wasn’t going to let that ball go. I knew that if I could get to it, I could get it back on the table. So I just flung myself. It was the instinctive thing to do.
“The first time I realised that I had won the point for sure was when I got up and looked at the scoreboard. The crowd was so loud I couldn’t hear that it hit the table.”
Wetherill ended up losing the match, 3-1, erasing any chances of moving on to the quarter-finals.
Afterwards, he tweeted: “At least I might get a few YouTube hits. Superman diving forehand winner? I practice that I’ll have you know. #ProudParalympian.”
Wetherill didn’t need to worry. He got more than a few YouTube hits.
To date, the shot has more than 6.3 million YouTube views and has been broadcast on major media outlets such as Channel 4, ESPN, Deadspin and Mashable, as well as written about in newspapers and magazines around the world.
“I didn’t win a medal, but I probably got more coverage out of that shot than if I were to win a medal,” Wetherill said.
“I was just happy to win the point at the time. It was after the match I realised nobody cared about the match, it was just that one shot that everyone was raving about.”
Wetherill himself admitted to watching the clip nearly a couple hundred times, in addition to the numerous parody clips that have been produced of the shot.
“I could never imagined at the time how many people would have actually seen it,” he said.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say it pretty much sums up the spirit of the Paralympics – the dedication and the drive just to get to that ball. It just sums it all up in a couple of seconds, visually.”
The shot has been applauded by nearly everyone in both the para and able-bodied table tennis community, and it’s in the running for Table Tennis Daily’s Shot of the Year.
“The table tennis community has gone raving about because they can actually appreciate the spin and the technical ability of the shot, let alone what it looks like,” Wetherill said.
“There’s more of those shots out there. I’ve done a few more like that in training since then.”
But for the 22-year-old, a two-time Paralympian, that shot was just one moment in his busy London 2012 campaign.
“It was the best experience of my life by an absolute mile, especially being a British athlete in London,” Wetherill said.
“Everyone was cheering for you because you were British, and everyone wanted you to win. There was quite a lot of pressure, but the experience was something I’ll never ever experience ever again, even if I go to Rio and further Games. It was unbelievable. There’s so many synonyms you could use, I could throw them all at you. It was unreal.”
Wetherill hopes his amazing shot helps attract more coverage and sponsors for both himself and other table tennis players, and he said it has really driven him to push the sport further into the spotlight over the next four years.
“The respect I’ve gotten from that shot has really showed me what we can achieve and what we can do for Paralympic sport,” Wetherill said.
“That shot is obviously just one small little thing about me as a table tennis player. It’s a symbol and that’s what I’m known for now, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”