Nathan Pellissier has made a stunning return to para table tennis.
The Williamstown young gun overcame two years of frustration after injury to take out a national title in his first major competition back.
Pellissier emerged victorious in the standing class 8 men’s singles at the Australian Para Table Tennis Nationals in Mornington, beating long-time rival Barak Mizrachi, a Paralympian at last year’s Rio games, in the gold medal match.
“I hadn’t beaten him since 2013, so he’s been my tough opponent and rival for a long time,” Pellissier said. “It was always going to be challenging because we know each other’s game so well and play a good match every time.
“He put up a good fight, but I believed that I’ve worked hard over the past two years to get back here, and I was very comfortable.
“I was telling my coach after I won, I haven’t had that feeling of wanting to win something so bad for so long.”
Pellissier, 20, has long suffered hip issues due to cerebral palsy. But it was an injury on the unaffected side of his body that has hampered him over the past two years. Pellissier’s mum, Miranda, explained the struggles her son has faced.
“He played at the world championships in 2014 in China, and that was his last tournament until this weekend,” she said. “He’s had two years out with injury and had to have a full hip reconstruction on his good side, not his cerebral palsy side.
“They actually cut his bones in three places and put him all back together – and that was unsuccessful the first time in January 2015 … then March 2016, he needed bone grafting, which was another backwards step.
“It was pretty tough for him to not be playing sport, but he did the hard work on his body, went to the gym for his strength and conditioning, and then got back to the table and has been training every day since.”
Not once did Pellissier lose sight of his dream.
The Maribyrnong Sports Academy graduate has a long checklist of events to tick off between now and his ultimate goal of competing at the 2020 Paralympics.
First up for Pellissier was earning Australian selection for the World Para Teams event in Bratislava in May, for which he was confirmed after clinching the national title.
He will then target the world championships and the Commonwealth Games in a jam-packed 2018 schedule.
A veteran at a young age, Pellissier, a business student at RMIT University, was recently inducted into the Table Tennis Victoria Para Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport.
It was a proud milestone for Pellissier after devoting so much time and effort to his sport.
“I was a bit surprised, but it was very humbling to see what people think of you,” Pellissier said. “I’m very grateful for what Tables Tennis Victoria has done for me.
“I have been playing for a while, but didn’t think anything like that would happen at the age of 20.”
Pellissier is the monthly nominee of the Don Deeble Rising Star award.
The award recognises young athletes from the western suburbs who have achieved outstanding results at state and/or national levels.
It is hosted by the Sunshine Western Region Sports Club and
Pellissier will receive $1000, donated by the Yarraville Club Cricket Club, and other prizes, which will assist him in achieving his sports goals.