Milford table tennis star Simon Heaps makes final of Senior National Championships against British Paralympian Jack Hunter-Spivey
Milford’s para table tennis star Simon Heaps continues to reach heady heights, making the final of the Senior National Championships in Nottingham before losing to British Paralympian Jack Hunter-Spivey.
The 67-year-old self-funded athlete, who made his Great Britain debut at 64, gave the much-younger 27-year-old Paralympic bronze medallist and Commonwealth champion a tough match before ultimately losing the Class 5 final.
Unsurprisingly, the two Class 5 players who came through as group winners went on to contest the final. Heaps beat Andrew Green 3-0 and came through after three close sets against Paralympic medallist Megan Shackleton, while Hunter-Spivey won 3-0 against Chris Ryan and Lee York.
Hunter-Spivey beat Heaps in last year’s Greek Para Open on the only previous occasion the pair met in international competition, and he had the edge over Heaps, using all his experience to clinch the title.
Heaps, a former England junior international and European Cadet champion who lost both legs to diabetes, was generous in defeat.
“The things that Jack can do with a ball the rest of us can only dream about,” he said, “he’s a top man.
“If you take away the 53 years since I was a European champion, it means nothing because being in a wheelchair is a completely different ball game.
“I’m still learning every single time I play – trying to move my chair and not be caught out. Tactically in wheelchair table tennis, it is so important, and there is no one better than Jack.
“I don’t feel my age at all – it actually spurs me on when I’m playing people 40 years younger than me and I enjoy it. After losing both my legs, something like this has just been fantastic for me, and I just love the sport.”