We have to start with your famous F/H at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, how did you feel after making such a miraculous shot?
To be honest I didn’t even know it had hit the table at the time! I was just battling with myself in London, trying my hardest even though it probably wasn’t the best time in my career with preparation and injuries etc. I was just giving it my all and I guess everything just came together nicely for that one shot to happen. Afterwards it was great to get recognised more for my actual table tennis level rather than for just being a Paralympian, I don’t think enough people realised before.
Your passion for Table Tennis and competition is obvious, who inspired you when you were younger and why?
The first Olympics I remember in table tennis was Athens 2004, mainly Waldner getting to the semis, no-look forehand, and Ryu Seung-min footwork, upsetting the odds…that inspired me. But I would have to say mainly my family and friends. Your upbringing and all your experiences shape you and they are the ones who have always been there for me, through hard times and good. I think a lot of it comes from within too…to always get better, faster, stronger than you were previously.
You are a truly inspirational athlete…can you give 2 pieces of advice that might help any other promising disabled Table Tennis players or athletes?
Thanks! I think it’s good to have small intermediary goals. One more step over and over again becomes a thousand more steps. I’ve found when you push your body like this you can stay in the moment and not become overwhelmed with the overall pain or magnitude of the task at hand, whatever that may be. The mind drives everything and you can even go beyond your thoughts and push yourself to do things that even you thought were impossible. Secondly, review things based on method, not outcome. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But you can always try your best, push yourself and try to do the right thing at the right time, no matter what situation you may be in.
What motivates you the most in your profession in Table Tennis?
To become the best athlete I can possibly be whilst having fun in the process.
You are incredibly fit and strong, what are your favourite fitness/strength and conditioning exercises?
Thanks! I’ve always loved pushing my body, part of that comes from being disabled but the other part is from table tennis. My favourite exercises for table tennis are different squat variations (hack squat allows me to distribute the strain evenly whilst taking most of the load through my right leg) and strong core workouts. Russian twists and med ball slams are good table tennis simulations. For me it’s also important to train functionally for my back and shoulders. Balance things out because every movement on my crutches and in table tennis goes in a forward motion. Table tennis players are renowned for having bad backs. I also like to use kettlebells as they are very versatile and much prefer working out in high intensity. I’m known for going for gallops on my crutches and I’ve got quite proficient at cycling one-legged. With my disability, the fitness aspect is maybe more important than for the average table tennis player.
If you could choose one player to watch, who would it be?
Outside of the English guys (couldn’t possibly choose between them) it would have to be Darko Jorgic. I’ve knocked with a few of the top guys but especially Darko since he was young and it’s been amazing to see his level now. Top man and what a backhand.
Image from Davids Instagram
You seem to be very strong mentally, what advice can you give on mental strength?
Thanks! Mental strength for me is all about understanding your thoughts. There are so many different facets to the mind that it can sometimes be difficult and you have to find what works best for you in certain situations. Recognise sometimes that negativity is normal. If you can make sense of everything then you are able to rationalise, stay resilient and keep everything in control. You can even influence things positively. For me, perspective is everything. It helps keep me grounded and it also helps me deal with any situation or feeling, good or bad. Also, perception. You can see positives and have good experiences even in times of pain and difficulty. For example, a big barrier for me in my disability is the physical pain that comes with it. It’s a bit abstract but it’s the perception of that pain which can become the barrier, and that’s the same for anything. I’ve found a way of contextualising everything so that I’m comfortable with what it actually is.
What are your favourite 2 Table Tennis drills?
To be honest, I prefer to do much more irregular service drills, trying to change things up all the time as it helps my sharpness and anticipation. I like multiball. Also, changing the position of the block, not getting stuck to patterns. For me it makes sense that the best way to get better at winning matches these days is simply by practicing matches. It’s not rocket science. But against different styles and under pressure situations too, this is the most important. That said, my favourite pre-match exercises would be regular 3-point forehand and bh-middle-bh-fh. Lots of balls on the table, gets my legs going but also my timing point because usually I’m too slow and so I can get used to playing balls out of position!
What is your favourite inspirational quote?
It’s not our struggles but our response which defines us.
Finally, in these tough times, what on and off the Table exercises are you doing to stay in shape?
At the moment I’m finding it difficult. I’m currently just ticking over doing home bodyweight workouts and going for the odd quick and purposeful gallop on my crutches! Always looking for new inspiration and ideas. Might gallop up a mountain or two if it’s safe and I get the chance. I love table tennis but right now our national centre is closed and the most important thing is that everyone can stay healthy and in good spirits.