“I have had the opportunity to be part of some incredible moments,” said Tapper, “however at the top of the list is winning gold at Commonwealth Games on home soil with an incredible crowd."
For table tennis player Melissa Tapper, winning on home soil holds a special place in her heart – perhaps a bigger space than when she made history as the first Australian to compete at both the 2016 Paralympics and Olympics .
She said competing at both Games was “an honour and a privilege.” But personally, winning the women’s class 6-8 title at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast was a different feeling and why she looks forward to competing at home again in May for the 2019 Para Oceania Championships in Darwin.
“I have had the opportunity to be part of some incredible moments,” said Tapper, “however at the top of the list is winning gold at Commonwealth Games on home soil with an incredible crowd. But most important was having my entire family, along with my two nephews and niece, my boss, family friends and several staff including the CEO of the Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) in the stands.
“The Games were really a celebration of how much I love my sport. I feel like that moment is going to be incredibly hard to surpass.”
Balancing work and life
The key to the Commonwealth Games champion’s success lies at the VIS near her hometown Hamilton.
Since her scholarship there in 2012, Tapper has been able to achieve the ideal work/life balance, having access to the sporting facilities there as well as being on the payroll as a receptionist, making the institute vital to her success.
“There is no number that can be put on (how important the institute is),” she said. “The VIS is my family and have been such a vital part in providing me with a high-performance environment and team to be the best possible athlete I can be.
“They provide me with every inch of confidence, from when results are achieved, and they are there when the result doesn't go my way. The have steered me into a direction that will enable me to be an athlete as well as develop skills in and out of sport that in the future when my competitive career is over, I will transition into life with an even bigger smile.”
Last year was full of highs for Tapper. The 29-year-old won Commonwealth gold, World Championship bronze and received the VIS personal excellence award.
“[The personal excellence award] has been an important and big focus in my life the past two years,” Tapper said. “And with the help of the VIS I was able go back and study as well as manage my athletic career, finish studying and win gold at the Commonwealth Games. The award was a nice bonus on top of a great two years of achieving a great sport life balance.”
“[At the World Championships] the goal was a gold and to enjoy the table tennis I was playing,” she continued. “The colour of my medal at the end was bronze, however the amount of fun and enjoyment I had playing, it felt like a gold.
Adding more moments
The goal will once again be gold this year when Tapper travels to Darwin, searching for a third successive Oceania title in the women’s class 6-10 competition.
“I'm looking forward to May,” said Tapper. “A gold medal there is definitely what I am after, and then I think I will be looking to compete in one other international event later in the year.
“The depth in Oceania is growing which is fantastic so I may not have such a smooth run as previous years but I will continue to do my best.”