by Simon Daish
World no.3 in men’s singles class 8, a position he has occupied since September 2018, Ross Wilson has already achieved much in his career with medal finishes and trophy successes at some of the sport’s most prestigious international tournaments. How did his journey begin? It turns out in title-winning fashion!
Ross’s love for table tennis was realised aged seven while on holiday and, before long, he knew his future belonged in the sport:
“I first started playing table tennis when I was seven years old on a holiday at ‘Centre Parcs’. I had a Thierry Henry Arsenal shirt on and I won the competition, so the man working there named me the Thierry Henry of table tennis. I realised I wanted to take it to the next level quite early on in my career and moved to London when I was 13 to practise and study at an academy.” Ross Wilson
Amazingly the very same seven-year-old boy, who impressed on holiday, has now developed into one of the biggest names on the Para scene, representing his country at the highest level including the Paralympic Games.
Somewhat unsurprisingly Ross’s memories of making his Paralympic Games debut on home soil are overwhelmingly positive, earning men’s team class 6-8 bronze aged just 17 at the time. Ross repeated his team bronze medal feat four years later with Team GB at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro – unfortunately, persistent injury problems hindered his pursuit for singles glory in Brazil:
“Competing in the London 2012 Paralympic Games was an incredible experience, as the home support was amazing and it was my first major championships. I learnt that I could deal with pressure on the biggest stage and I realised that I could also use that pressure to my advantage. Rio 2016 was very tough for me. I had struggled with injuries throughout the build up to the Games and I never felt like I could give 100 per cent physically, which hampered my chances in the competition. I learnt that as long as I kept fighting all the way until the end I could get a reward, as we got a bronze medal in the team event.” Ross Wilson
Disappointment at Rio 2016, but two years on Ross would enjoy a truly unforgettable year in which he collected two of sport’s highest honours.
Competing in the men’s singles class 6-10 event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, Ross proved unstoppable and emerged worthy champion. Clearly not fully content with his exploits Down Under, Ross went on to secure one of the most coveted trophies table tennis has to offer, beating China’s Zhao Shuai to men’s singles class 8 gold (12-10, 7-11, 10-12, 14-12, 12-10) at the 2018 ITTF World Para Championships in Lasko-Celje.
Accomplishing a feat few in the sport ever experience, for Ross his title success on the World Championships and Commonwealth Games stages will live long in the memory. The privilege of becoming World champion for the first time Ross admits will be difficult to surpass:
“My success at the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games was an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I’ve always dreamt of being a World Champion and to achieve my goal was a feeling like no other. I always set myself very high targets and have very high expectations of myself and these competitions were no different. I look to approach every game and every opponent one at a time, as I feel in control when I work this way. When I became World Champion my emotions were all over the place and I didn’t really know what to do with myself. It was an extremely close match and to come out of it victorious was incredible. I’ve had a number of career highlights, but I always seem to look back at this one as the one that stands out.” Ross Wilson
Excited for the challenge of a career third Paralympic Games, Ross believes his prior appearances at the event will aid him in his hunt for gold and is ready to pull out all the stops to achieve the ultimate dream:
“Approaching the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will be extremely exciting. I’m aiming to win gold, as I do in every competition I compete in, but I will take one game at a time and give my very best to win. I can play the competition with confidence as I’ve had experience of playing in the Paralympics before. I expect my opponents to be well prepared and coming to the competition with the same ambitions as me, so I’ll look to be the best prepared that I can possibly be to give myself the greatest chance.” Ross Wilson
A quick glance and the British Para scene immediately catches the eye with its impressive talent pool, especially on the men’s side. Will Bayley has made several headline appearances in recent years both on and off the table, while Rob Davies also experienced his time in the spotlight following his men’s singles class 1 gold medal success at Rio 2016. Aaron McKibbin played an important role in Team GB’s men’s team class 6-8 bronze alongside Will and Ross – no matter where you look there are no weak links in the chain!
Quality throughout, perhaps the team’s greatest asset is its sense of togetherness, a trait which Ross likens to family:
“The team is very strong and we work together to help each other. The team works like a family and each member of the team works their hardest. If we continue to work as a team and help each other, then I believe we will continue to improve and that will show with results on the biggest stage. Will Bayley and Rob Davies did incredibly well in Rio and the rest of the team looks to follow up their success in Tokyo.” Ross Wilson
Great British Paralympic table tennis is in a very healthy position and the future looks bright, with young talent emerging on the scene. Addressing these stars of the future, Ross has a simple but important piece of advice:
“The advice I would give to young British players would be to enjoy playing and work as hard as possible to ensure that they are ready when a chance comes along. There are a lot of fantastic young players in Britain and I am excited to see them develop into future stars.” Ross Wilson
The ITTF would like to pass on its thanks to Ross Wilson and British Para Table Tennis for arranging the interview.