ACU alum Milly Tapper has etched her name into sporting folklore, becoming the first Australian to qualify for a Paralympic and Olympic Games.
History has been made by ACU graduate Melissa “Milly” Tapper, with the 26-year-old table tennis star qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, becoming the first Australian athlete to qualify for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Securing a place at her second Paralympic Games last year, Milly set her sights on forming part of the Australian team to compete in the Olympic Games in Rio and did not disappoint in what would be the defining tournament of her career.
After a top three finish in last month’s Australian Olympic Qualification Tournament, Milly continued her good form to reach the ITTF Oceania Championships final, meaning a win against Fijian qualifier Grace Rosi Yee would secure her place in Australian sporting history.
It was a dominant display from the big-hitting left hander to claim a 4-0 win and one of only three spots allocated to the Oceania region for Rio.
“I am so excited and stoked with this result, it is come from a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication and a lot of support,” Milly told ITTF.com after securing her place for Rio.
“I can't believe I am a part of Australian sporting history. Rio is going to be an experience of a lifetime. I want to do the best I can in the Olympics and win gold in the Paralympics.”
This isn’t Milly’s first history-making effort, becoming the first Paralympian to qualify for an able-bodied Australian team, wearing the green and gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games where she would win a bronze medal as part of the Women’s Team event.
Milly graduated from ACU with a Bachelor of Exercise Science in 2011, and benefitted greatly during her studies from being part of the Elite Athlete and Performer Program (EAPP), which provided her with financial assistance and study flexibility to work around her training and competition requirements.
Diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy resulting from compilations during her birth, Milly suffered significant nerve damage in her right shoulder and arm, which restricted development, movement and strength.
After picking up table tennis in her later years of primary school, Milly quickly became a star on the national circuit, winning six Australian junior titles, before becoming world number one (Class 10 AWD) aged 21 in 2011 and reaching the semi-finals of the 2012 London Paralympic Games.