Exclusive: Hunter-Spivey using London memories to fuel journey to Tokyo 2020
There was a moment shortly before the London 2012 athletes’ parade where Jack Hunter-Spivey was lying on the floor of the tube wondering if he was going to make it to the start on time.
Hours later he had witnessed an historic celebration of ParalympicsGB and TeamGB success that was to inspire him on the road to Rio 2016 qualification and now be challenging for major honours.
The then aspiring table-tennis Paralympian – who uses a wheelchair – had gotten off the tube only to be faced with two flights of stairs and no way to ascend.
As the tube attendants helped him back onto the train to head to the next stop the doors began to close, his wheels spun around and he tumbled to the ground.
Luckily for Hunter-Spivey it was a minor setback and he arrived in time to witness the momentous London 2012 parade.
“London was disappointing in many ways because I didn’t qualify and that had been the dream for me but I was on the Paralympic Inspiration Programme and that meant I got to go to the village, watch the table tennis, and be a part of the parade,” said Hunter-Spivey.
“That meant there was a real fire in my belly in those four years building up to Rio because I didn’t want to be the guy in the crowd I wanted to be the person at the table.
“Looking back, I almost didn’t make it because I got stuck on the underground. But I managed to get to the parade on time and my overriding memory was just being with the athletes, we weren’t separated or anything like that. So that gave me a sense of what it would be like to play in the Paralympics and for me that image just looking out is one I’ll never forget.”
The 22-year-old fulfilled his dream of becoming a Paralympian at last year’s Rio 2016 Paralympic Games – a journey that had been a decade in the making and not without its difficulties.
“When I started the lessons were £2.50 but we literally didn’t have the money to go so we contacted Bernados and they had some funding that could support me through the first sessions,” he added.
“I went along and there was a guy in a wheelchair called Tony Edge. Back then I could stand a little bit and I was too stubborn to use my wheelchair because I wanted to be like the other kids.
“And then this guy who’s a Class 1 beat me 22-0 and I had no chance against him and he helped me adjust to my disability and adjust to the sport.
“To go on from there and qualify for Rio is just amazing to think about and when I’d made it I have this vivid memory of being in my hotel room and ringing my Mum and saying, ‘Mum I’ve made it.’
While Hunter-Spivey’s dream was to make it to a Paralympic Games he admits his goals have shifted and he is looking to make a splash at this week’s European Championships as he casts one eye to Tokyo 2020 and a place on the Paralympic podium.
“I know I can beat the best in the world at the moment and I know I can medal in major competitions and at the Paralympic Games.
“I’ve only played one tournament since Rio but I feel really good ahead of the Euros. I’ve lost nearly four stone since Rio and am playing the best table tennis of my life.
“I’ve beaten three of the top four players that will be there and lost to the other 3-2 so I think I’m one of the players no one will want to meet and it could be my time.”