Milford's Simon Heaps seals Euro table tennis title
LYMINGTON’S self-funded para table tennis star Simon Heaps has continued his rich vein of form with victory at the STAG European Veterans (over-40s) Championships in Rimini.
England and GB’s Heaps, 66, won the men’s singles in over-40 paraclass 1-5 (wheelchair), defeating Italy’s Davide Scazzieri 3-1 after sets of 11-7, 10-12, 11-6, 11-7.
Heaps represented England as a 14-year-old but, after losing his legs to diabetes, he transitioned to the para ranks, making his Great Britain debut at 64.
After starting his para-international career without medalling in his first four events, Heaps won doubles bronze in Jordan before picking up his first individual silver medal at the Copa Christina Hoffman Para Championships in Cancun, Mexico. He followed that days later with a gold medal in the mixed doubles.
Heaps said: “Winning gold in such a prestigious event and being crowned European champion was fantastic. The confidence I gained from Jordan and Mexico medals was certainly a contributing factor in my win.
“I recently went up in the world rankings to 43 and became Great Britain’s number two ranked player!”
This year para medals were awarded for the first time, and the bronze went to Italian Francesco Baggio, who lost 3-1 (11-9, 6-11, 4-11, 5-11) in the semi-final against Heaps, and Andrea Galli, who was defeated 3-0 (9-11, 5-11, 2-11) by Scazzieri.
Heaps is in Buenos Aires, Argentina, preparing for the Para Open after which he will head to the Thailand Open in Pattaya.
Heaps said his para table tennis journey has been entirely self-funded, adding: “I have raised and spent £50,000 since I lost my first leg in May 2019. My second leg was lost in January of this year.
“When I return home from Thailand, my fundraising account will be empty, and I will not be able to continue my GB career unless I can find further financial assistance.”
Any local businesses interested in sponsoring Heaps’ table tennis dream and being involved with a Para European Champion should contact firstname.lastname@example.org – alternatively, visit his fundraising page at gofund.me/fe36ad37