Melissa Tapper has entered the Australian sporting folk law by becoming the first Australian athlete to qualify for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Tapper, a class 10 Paralympian who was born with nerve damage in her right arm, secured her Olympic berth by defeating Grace Yee from Fiji at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Oceania Olympic Games Qualification Tournament on Friday (25 March) in Bendigo, Australia.
Holding back the tears of joy, the 26-year-old, who has already qualified for the Paralympics in Rio stated: "I was ridiculously nervous before my matches [Friday]. I am so excited and stoked with this result, it is come from a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication and a lot of support. I can't believe I am a part of Australian sporting history. Rio is going to be an experience of a lifetime. I want to do the best I can in the Olympics and win gold in the Paralympics."
Tapper made her Paralympic debut at London 2012, where she fell to Poland’s Natalia Partyka 3-0 in the women’s class 10 semi-finals; Partyka went on to win the gold medal.
Tapper followed up with bronze at the 2014 World Championships in Beijing, China. Her major titles to date have been golds at the 2015 Oceania Para Regional Championships and 2013 Oceania Championships in the women’s singles class 6-10.