‘Dream’ realised with table tennis open win

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Focused. . . Edendale woman Shelley Neal seen here returning a backhand shot while practising at the Gore Town and Country Club recently won the Table Tennis Southland’s open women’s championships. PHOTO: KELLY LINDSAY

Edendale women Shelley Neal has achieved a goal she set herself 15 years ago – winning Table Tennis Southland’s open women’s title.

Neal (47) achieved the feat recently and also won the women’s doubles title.

She beat Maia Cavanagh, who was also her doubles partner, 14-12, 13-11, 13-11 and 11-7 in the best-of-seven set final.

She moved down from Auckland about 15 years ago.

“It was always my dream to win that tournament,” Neal said.

Daily two-hour training sessions had improved her fitness and footwork, which had contributed to her success, she said.

“Because I’ve stepped my fitness up I’m doing better mentally during my games and thinking more about what I am doing and that is helping me keep the edge.

“I don’t think age has got anything to do with it.”

The training had also helped her speed up her movements around the table.

“The aim is to get your body in position before you hit the ball … Then you can play a good high-percentage, well-balanced shot.”

Table tennis was a fast game and shortening the length of the shot being played gave a player more time to prepare for the next, which was something else the training helped with.

“You are always trying to buy time between shots.”

She also cycled 40km every second day.

“I do a lot of indoor cycling to strengthen my legs.”

Her national ranking had risen to 13th, which she was pleased about.

“My aim is to get in the top 10 and stay in the top 10 for the rest of the year.”

At Queen’s Birthday weekend, she and partner Barry Ellis would take part in the South Island teams event and Canterbury Open Championships in Christchurch, she said.