Megan Shackleton has spent the past year making huge waves as part of the British Table Tennis Association for the Disabled (BTTAD) squad and is being tipped to make it to the Rio Summer Paralympics 2016.
Megan, 14, is a class four wheelchair table tennis competitor. She regularly trains at the English Institute of Sport Sheffield (EIS Sheffield) as part of the BTTAD Pathway Programme.
The programme has been in place since April 2013 to support the development of talented disabled table tennis players across Great Britain with the goal of developing them into future stars.
Megan, inspired by the Paralympic Games, began playing table tennis when she was 12. She was invited to train twice a week at THE EIS in 2013, providing her with a chance to work closely with GB Para table tennis team coaches.
In 2013 Megan competed in national and international events. In the Sainsbury’s School Games 2013 in Sheffield, Megan and three other Yorkshire-based stars formed the “England North East” team that finished only one point behind second place Wales to claim an impressive bronze medal.
The year also saw Megan take part in her first international competition the Belgium Open, in which she came agonisingly close to winning a bronze, losing deuce in the deciding set.
At just 14, Megan finds herself sitting at number 29 in the ITTF world Para Table Tennis rankings for class 4 wheelchair athletes.
Megan one day hopes to emulate the success of one of her Paralympic idols, Will Bayley, who won silver and bronze at London 2012 and also trains at EIS.
“Will is one of my idols and I hope I can be a big star like him one day,” says Megan, from Todmorden.
“I’ve always wanted to represent Great Britain, I’ve worked hard and I want to be at Rio more than anything.”
Next up for Megan, however, is the Italian Open in March before her attention will turn to the Para Table Tennis World Championships in Beijing later this year.
Shaun Marples, BTTAD Performance Pathway Coach at EIS, said: “The programme was formed to provide an opportunity for people like Megan to show their amazing ability, and to nourish that ability and help push them further and further.
“She is a fantastic girl, hard-working and so dedicated. If she does make it all the way to Rio, and we have no doubt that she will be there, then it really would be everything she deserves.
“Although she is still in the very early days of her career, through the hard work, support and facilities at EIS Sheffield, she has the ability to continue to improve - and what better an incentive than the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio.”
Megan recently took part in a performance camp at EIS where she was given the chance to train with some of the top GB Paralympic table tennis athletes.
n To find out more about how to get involved in sport at EIS Sheffield visit http://www.eis-sheffield.co.uk/.