Stars and coaches tip Megan to be future world champion

Megan Shackleton at the Todmorden High School gym, who has been selected for training to compete in the wheelchair table tennis at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
Megan Shackleton at the Todmorden High School gym, who has been selected for training to compete in the wheelchair table tennis at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

A TEENAGE wheelchair table tennis player is being tipped for glory at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Megan Shackleton, 13, is being trained by the English Table Tennis Association (ETTA) and her coaches believe she has got what it takes to go for gold in four years’ time.

Shaun Alvey, ETTA regional disability coach who is working with Megan on a weekly basis, said he has never met somebody so determined to succeed.

“She is really, really good and has worked really hard,” he said.

“With the Paralympics having just being on, some of the players who have seen Megan play have tipped her to be the next Paralympic star and a future world champion.

“I think she’s got it in her to go all the way and I hope she remembers where she has come from when she’s on the podium holding a medal.”

Megan’s talent was first spotted when she attended a disability sport event at the John Charles Sports Centre in Leeds two years ago.

Initially she was keen on swimming but developed an interest in table tennis and decided to concentrate on the racquet based sport.

The Todmorden High School student was picked in the England team for the School Games this summer and has been selected for an England development camp in November.

She has already defeated some star names in the game who have competed at major competitions.

“In four years’ time she could be one of the fortunate ones who gets to go to Rio,” Shaun said.

“It’s going to be a long haul for her, combining training with her studies, but I think she’s got the ability to do it.

“In my office I sit opposite the performance director and 99 times out of 100 the first question he asks me is ‘How’s Megan doing?’”

Megan has a weekly training session at Todmorden High with Shaun and her club coach Gill Chadwick.

One of the pieces of equipment she uses is a “robot”, which fires balls for her to hit in a similar manner to a bowling machine for cricketers.

It replicates the speed and spin of the current top players, with Megan having to return a ball every second.

Shaun and Gill also run after school sessions for students at the school.

“It’s great that school has welcomed us in,” he said.

“We have been able to help the school get equipment to set up table tennis.

“We have more than 20 sudents coming along now.

“The school has benefitted so much by the students getting opportunities to play.”

Paul Duerden, head of creative studies at Todmorden High, said Megan is proving to be an inspiration for students.

“They have seen how good she is,” he said.

“She has been a role model for them.

“She is one of the best players I have seen in the past ten years.

“She also helps out with coaching and teaching.”

And what does Megan make of all the attention she is receiving?

“It’s nice to have people saying good things about me,” she said.

“I was inspired watching the Paralympics and I will work really hard towards my goals.”