East Londoner Simon setting sights on serving up a table tennis medal at Paralympics

East London's Paralympic table tennis hopeful Romain Simon

East London's Paralympic table tennis hopeful Romain Simon - Credit: Archant

East London’s Romain Simon wants to see how far he can take his new-found passion for table tennis, as he says playing allows him to forget the stresses of managing his permanent spinal cord injury.

The 30-year-old was travelling back from celebrating a friend’s birthday in Newcastle in 2012 when a car spun out of control and led the vehicle he was travelling in to hit a tree, leaving him paralysed from the waist down.

Despite the setback, success has followed Simon since he took up the sport while in hospital, and having won the inter-spinal games and para-national tournaments, he now has his sights on making the Paralympics and clinching a medal.

“It started when my dad said he could beat me,” said Simon at a SportsAid workshop at Newmarket Racecourse.

“When I first got injured, I played in the hospital as it was part of my rehab. We found a club in Redbridge and I beat him but one of the coaches there saw me and thought I had talent.

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“He and another coach were surprised when they saw me play, because nobody had taught me, I just picked up the bat and started playing.

“They prompted me to enter the para-national tournament to gain some experience. They thought I wouldn’t even win a match but wanted to see me in a more competitive environment.

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“I went there without a ranking and I ended up winning the tournament. It was a bit of a shock to the system.”

Prior to his injury Simon held a passion for football, but he has found a way to transfer that love to table tennis and as a para-athlete is now looking to gain the sport some more exposure.

“I went to the University of Greenwich before my accident and was studying sport science,” he added.

“Initially I had a passion for football, I wanted to find a new sport where I could get that same drive. I needed to find something where just nothing else matters. All the stresses you have just go away and you can just play.

“Sometimes you do not want to think about things, especially with my injury. Now, I want to see how far I can take it. I want to go to the Paralympics and hopefully win a medal.

“I got injured in 2012 so I watched some of the Paralympics in hospital. It was like entering a new world. I know what it is like to be injured but also not be and the difference between the two worlds is so crazy.

“A lot of people are shocked to see me come out in a chair and then play table tennis. They are like, ‘Wow, he can play.’

“People see it and are amazed when they do. It doesn’t matter what you have been through - life continues, it is just about having a positive mindset.”

*SportsAid supports the most promising young British athletes by providing them with a financial award, recognition and personal development opportunities during the critical early stages of their careers. The athlete and parent workshop hosted at Newmarket Racecourse was supported by funds raised by the RBC Ride for the Kids.

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