University of Nottingham student, Maria Tsaptsinos, and Head Coach Kelly Sibley have won an historic bronze medal in the table tennis team event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast.
The duo beat off stiff competition from Canada and Australia to win a medal in the Women’s Team event at Oxenford Studios, a venue which is no stranger to drama having played host to a number of Hollywood blockbusters in its usual guise as an international film studio.
The victory adds to an ever growing list of success for the University of Nottingham in the Commonwealth table tennis event. Alumnus and current Assistant Director of Sport Alex Perry and psychology graduate and former English Number 1 Nicola Deaton both topped the podium multiple times during their careers.
For Maria, this is her first Commonwealth games and crowns what has been an incredible year for the second year geography student. In March, she paired up with Sibley at the PG Mutual National Championships where they faced fellow Team England medal winners Tin-Tin Ho and Denise Payet, winning the Championship in straight sets (11-4, 11-6, 11-7).
The event served as a valuable warm up to the Gold Coast Games and it was Tsaptsinos and Sibley rekindling their formidable partnership against Canada in the Quarter Finals to win a clutch third match allowing the team to win 3-1 and progress to the semi-finals.
It was in the semi finals where they unfortunately met their match losing in straight sets against a strong India team who went on to win Gold.
Team England were then drawn against home crowd favourites Australia in the Bronze medal match after the hosts failed to win a single game in their semi-final match up against Singapore.
Ho got England off to a dream start, beating Melissa Tapper in the opening singles match, however Jian Fang Lay eased past Sibley in the next match to level it at 1-1. It was then crucial for Sibley and Commonwealth debutant Tsaptsinos to win the doubles game – and they certainly pulled out all the stops.
Sibley and Tsaptsinos raced to a 1-0 lead, winning the first game 11-2, but not to be outdone Australia clawed a game back in the second to momentarily put the brakes on.
Moments of magic followed, with both English players taking it in turns to hit winning strokes against Miao Miao and Jian Fang Lay. The Nottingham based pairing then kept their focus to see out the remaining 2 games and win 3-1 to swing the tie firmly in Team England’s favour.
The pressure then fell on Tin-Tin Ho to wrap up the match. To add to the tension of the night, the National Singles Champion was taken all the way in a 5 game thriller but was deserving of her 3-2 victory and when Miao Miao failed to beat the net with her final serve, Team England had won a well-deserved Bronze medal.
Tsaptinos, Sibley and Denise Payet couldn’t hide their elation as they leapt over the advertising hoarding to embrace and celebrate with their teammate to mark the fantastic achievement.
For Maria and Kelly, the medal is the highlight of a stellar season; as Head of the University of Nottingham programme Sibley has led the squad to 4 out of 5 golds at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) individual competition and two team golds at BUCS Big Wednesday hosted at their home venue the David Ross Sports Village.