The first six Table Tennis Australian Team Members have been selected who will test their skills against the Commonwealth’s best players in Birmingham, which includes four current Victorian Institute of Sport scholarship holders.
A cult hero and her heir apparent feature in a talented squad of table tennis players who will represent Australia at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Six of the eight-strong able-bodied Table Tennis team have been named, with the final two positions, one male and one female, to be determined at the Australian Qualification Tournament for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Adelaide next month.
Jian Fang Lay, a remarkable 49-year-old mother of two who has won seven Commonwealth Games medals since her debut for Australia in Manchester 20 years ago, is among the six selections made to date.
Lay, who has been a standard bearer for Australian sport for more than two decades, brings great experience to a youthful team and will be striving for an historic gold after successful appearances at Manchester in 2002, Melbourne in 2006 and Glasgow in 2014. She has also competed in six Olympic Games.
Lay, who has four silver and three bronze medals on her Commonwealth Games CV, is excited by the opportunity to compete again at Birmingham and hoping to claim Australia’s first gold medal in table tennis.
“It is exciting to attend my sixth Commonwealth Games, I always love representing Australia on the world stage,” Lay said.
“It is a great group who will be competing with me and I know we will all be working hard between now and the Games to do our best in Birmingham.”
Yangzi Liu, 19, who was raised in China before moving to Australia with her family in 2019, represents the future of table tennis for our nation.
She enjoyed some outstanding results internationally late last year.
Liu claimed a senior title in Germany and Under-19 titles in Italy, the Slovak Republic and Hungary during her European Tour and was delighted to produce strong performances in her return to international competition.
Joining Liu on the European Tour late last year for junior tournaments were fellow Australian Commonwealth Games debutants Nicholas Lum and Finn Luu.
Sixteen-year-old Lum, from Melbourne, is an exciting prospect who recorded some terrific results on that tour, claiming international Under-17 titles in Italy and the Czech Republic.
If not winning, his mantra is to learn from every defeat and take the positives from those experiences.
Fellow Melburnian Finn Luu is a year older than Lum.
He had an excellent junior career and has shown great promise in senior ranks, including a sixth placing at the Australian trials for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Australian Commonwealth Games Chef de Mission Petria Thomas OAM said the table tennis squad was another representative team blessed with a fine blend of experience and youth.
“Congratulations to the first six Table Tennis selections for the Australian Team for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games,” Thomas said.
“This is a special day for the Team Members, especially for five of the six Team Members who are going to be making their Commonwealth Games debuts in Birmingham, and for Jian Fang Lay who has been selected for her sixth Commonwealth Games.
“This is a tremendous achievement by Jian, who becomes just the sixth Australian athlete from any sport to achieve this feat.
“Making six Commonwealth Games requires hard work, determination and a love for your sport, all qualities that Jian possesses. I know she will be inspiring not only her Table Tennis teammates but all of the Australian Team in Birmingham with the passion she shows for representing the green and gold.
“There are more Table Tennis players to be added following next month’s qualification tournament, plus our Para-Table Tennis Team Members to be selected in the weeks ahead, and I know they will all take motivation and excitement from today’s selection of the first six from the Table Tennis team.”
Table Tennis Australia CEO Scott Houston welcomed today’s selection of six of the Table Tennis Australia athletes for the Commonwealth Games and acknowledged that they will motivate those competing in next month’s final selection tournament.
“Today is a great day for the first six Table Tennis Australia athletes who have been selected to represent Australia at the upcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games,” Houston said.
“We have nominated an exciting group of talented athletes who are ready to test their skills against the best players from across the Commonwealth.
“A special mention to a champion of our sport in Jian Fang Lay, who is heading to her sixth Commonwealth Games. Jian becomes just the sixth Australian athlete from any sport to achieve this incredible milestone. Her selection is a testament to her longevity and her skill. Jian is a living legend of Australian sport.
“On behalf of Table Tennis Australia, we celebrate the first six athletes selected today, and we are so proud of each of them. We look forward to adding more selections to represent the green and gold following our qualification tournament next month, plus we also look forward to adding a full contingent of Para-athletes to form one united table tennis team.”
The able-bodied Table Tennis Team Members will compete in singles, doubles, mixed doubles and men’s and women’s teams events.
Up to eight Para-Table Tennis Team Members will be selected to represent Australia at the Games in Birmingham in the weeks ahead to become a 16-strong Australian Table Tennis squad.
The Para-Table Tennis Team Members will compete in Men’s Singles Classes 3-5 and Men’s Singles Classes 8-10 and Women’s Singles Classes 3-5 and Women’s Singles Classes 6-10.
Table Tennis was initially an optional event on the Commonwealth Games schedule and was first introduced at the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games. It’s proven so popular that it now has ‘Core Sport’ status, meaning it will remain on the schedule at all future Games.
Australia has won 12 total medals in Table Tennis, with our first gold coming the way of Melissa Tapper four years ago at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games when she won gold in the Women’s Singles Class 6-10 Para-Table Tennis event.
Melissa 'Milly' Tapper remains Australia’s only gold medallist to date, with Jian Fang Lay the most decorated Table Tennis Team Member winning seven medals, four silver and three bronze.
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will be held from Thursday 28 July to Monday 8 August with the Table Tennis competition to be conducted from Friday 29 July all the way through to Monday 8 August with the competition to be held at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC).