28 November 2018
Paralympic champion Robinson recognised with Honorary Fellowship
Former Paralympic table tennis champion Neil Robinson MBE has been recognised with an Honorary Fellowship by Bridgend College in recognition of his service to Great Britain, Wales and the community of Bridgend.
Robinson clinched seven Paralympic medals including men’s class three team gold in Barcelona in 1992, and represented Great Britain at seven Paralympics before retiring after Beijing in 2008.
The Laleston-born former world champion has since gone on to guide Great Britain’s para table tennis side – helping Paul Davies achieve an incredible bronze at London 2012 before coaching Rob Davies to becoming Paralympic champion four years later.
Robinson, who was bestowed with an MBE in 2012 for his services to sport, suffered life-changing injuries in a car accident when he was 18 that left him wheelchair bound, but it was his discovery of table tennis in hospital that inspired his path to becoming world number one.
“My links with the college are both before and after my accident and have had a positive effect on my life,” he said. “I feel very honoured to have been presented with this fellowship and it was a very proud moment when I received the award.
“I was sports crazy and played football to a reasonable level and had sporting ambitions as well as plans for a career, and all of a sudden it seemed like my plans were over.
“I’m a positive person, very competitive, and when I was lying flat on my back in bed for 12 weeks and in hospital for seven months I had a lot of time to think.
“Thankfully I try to look on the positive side of life and while I was doing rehab with the physios one day I saw some guys in wheelchairs playing table tennis in the gym."
“So, at the end of the session I went to have a look and had a go and realised that not only could I could keep the ball on the table but that I had a bit of a talent for it.
“When I was discharged from hospital I found myself a local club and basically anyone who was prepared to stand at the end of a table to help me develop.
“By default, I found myself involved with the GB squad because I phoned Stoke Mandeville one day to enquire about the wheelchair table tennis setup nationally. At the time they were preparing for the Paralympic Games in 1980 in Arnhem in the Netherlands.
“I basically gate-crashed one of their preparation camps but they invited me in and I played a bit. They invited me back so I started going to the GB camps after the Paralympics in 1980.
“I first played for GB in 1981 in Italy and competed in my first European Championships in Switzerland later that year.”
Neil Robinson MBE
Since retiring from the sport in 2008, Robinson has played an integral role in coaching the next generation of British para table tennis stars.
ParalympicsGB secured three medals at London 2012, before matching the tally in Rio in 2016 as Rob Davies and Will Bayley both scooped gold medals in South America.
Being able to witness first-hand the success of his players, Robinson has taken personal pride from seeing his side top the podium at competitions as he prepares Great Britain for Tokyo 2020.
“Some of the proudest moments I’ve had since I started coaching were London 2012 when Paul Davies won bronze and Rob Davies winning gold in Rio 2016,” he said.
“Also, Rob, Tom Matthews and Paul, who I work with daily, taking gold, silver and bronze at the European Championships in 2017 and recently Tom winning bronze at his first World Championships.
“The feeling I get from coaching is actually sometimes a greater sense of achievement than that of being a player.
“The frustration is you can’t hit the ball but in addition to the months of preparation and when coaching at events I hopefully have a positive impact on the guys, put them in the right frame of mind, give them the right tactics and motivate them to play well.
“I am now totally focused on preparing the players for Tokyo 2020.”
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