Victorian Institute of Sport scholarship holder Milly Tapper has been announced on The Australian Olympic team for Tokyo today.
Rio Olympians Melissa ‘Milly’ Tapper and Heming Hu have been announced on the Australian Olympic team for Tokyo today, completing the six-strong Table tennis cohort for Tokyo.
The pair will compete in the mixed doubles and teams events Tokyo’s Metropolitan Gymnasium, a legacy venue from the 1964 Games.
Tapper made history at Rio, as the first Australian athlete to compete in both an Olympics and Paralympics in the same year.
Chef de Mission of the Australian Olympic Team Ian Chesterman welcomed the athletes to the Team, which brings the number of selected athletes in the Australian Olympic Team to 145 of an expected 450-480.
“Congratulations to Milly and Heming on making their second Olympic Team,” Mr Chesterman said.
“Today is a great milestone to celebrate for Heming, Milly, the coaches, supporters and family and friends who have been with them throughout their Olympic journey.
“Milly took a special place in Australian sporting history in Rio and I’m thrilled to see her on the Team for Tokyo.”
31-year-old Tapper says she is heading into Tokyo in the best form of her life.
“I’m struggling to put into words, it’s been such a long process, and I can’t believe I will now be a two-time Olympian,” Tapper said. “That’s a feat I never thought possible.”
“I’m feeling like I’m playing the best I ever have which is exciting. I’m very lucky with the people I have around me, from the Victorian Institute of Sport to Table Tennis Australia and my coaches - even through lockdown, they’re the first to make sure we have everything that’s needed, that our minds and bodies are in the right place.
“Training through 2020 has also unlocked more creativity for me - I’ve got a new bag of tricks I think will actually be an advantage in Tokyo against athletes we haven’t played in so long.”
Despite creating history in Rio and again in Tokyo, Tapper isn’t looking past her next Olympic match.
“It’s really hard to consider the impact of being the first Australian to make an Olympics and Paralympics in the same year while I’m still competing. I turn up and want to play, whether it’s an Olympic or Paralympic match. When I’ve got grandkids I can look back and tell them this is something special I achieved, but for now I just can’t wait to compete on the international stage again.”
27-year-old Hu is keen to use his Rio experience to propel his performance in Tokyo.
“It’s so satisfying to make this team for Tokyo,” Hu said. “It’s been such a massive build up with so much training and so little competition, I’m just so pumped to get back on the world stage and play in some big matches.”
“Rio was the best experience of my life and so overwhelming as my first Games. Now I know what to expect I’m in a different space and so grateful to be able to get back to the Olympic arena.”
Throughout Melbourne’s 2020 lockdown, Hu improvised a range of training at home, including facing off against his parents in training drills.
We had all the time in the world, me and mum hit a lot of balls. I first picked up a paddle at six, my brother, parents and I would play home comps – it wasn’t easy, the goal was always to try and beat mum. It was fun getting back into that last year.
“I’m also really grateful to be going as mixed doubles partners with Milly. We’ve played a lot together, won national championships together and will be really special to compete in Tokyo.”
The Table Tennis competition will run from 24 July through 6 August. Find out more about Table Tennis at the Olympics in the infographic below.
Table Tennis Australia CEO Scott Houston welcomed today’s announcement.
“It's exciting to see Melissa and Heming return to the team and represent Australia at their second Olympic Games,” Houston said. “Both Heming and Melissa have been long-term national team members and I am really pleased for them as they achieve another significant career milestone.
"I can't wait to see Melissa and Heming in action in Tokyo alongside their teammates as part of the Australian Olympic Team."