IT has taken eight years for Rebecca Plaistow’s teenage dream to become a reality.

The South Ayrshire table tennis player was a burgeoning youth prospect during Glasgow 2014, too young to participate but old enough and talented enough to know that representing Scotland at a future Commonwealth Games wasn’t beyond her.

It wasn’t to be on Gold Coast when she narrowly missed out on selection, the subsequent four years fuelled by a determination not to fall short again by the time these Birmingham Games rolled around.

The 22-year-old has made good on that promise to herself and will line up as one of four table tennis players in the Team Scotland squad.

Plaistow has elected not to put additional pressure on herself in terms of what she might achieve, instead hoping to soak up the experience of her first multi-discipline event and look to progress as far as she can in the tournament.

“I’m really excited to have made the team,” she says. “I remember going to watch the Games when they were in Glasgow. I was just 14 at the time so too young to be a part of it but even then I was watching the other guys and just wishing I was playing too! So this has been a goal of mine probably since then.

“I had won a few national junior titles by that point so although I was too young I could see the pathway was there for me to make it.

“Gold Coast was a bit disappointing as it was only the men’s team that went so I’m so happy to have made it to this one. It’s been a long time coming.

“I don’t really have any expectations on what I might achieve. I just want to go there, play well and enjoy the whole experience of being a part of Team Scotland.

“There was a camp a few weeks ago where I got to meet people from different sports and there was the opening ceremony too, mixing with lots of other sports and other countries. So it’s just nice to be outside of the table tennis bubble for a bit.”

The demands of a working life for non-professional athletes can often be challenging. Plaistow graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University last summer and since the turn of the year has been living in Newcastle where she now works as a dietician for 
the NHS.

While happy to be on the career ladder it has meant several lifestyle adjustments as she becomes accustomed to living on her own as well as practising table tennis in new surroundings and with new team-mates. Quietly-spoken and as modest as they come, it was only when she started to disappear all around the world for tournaments that her new work colleagues discovered that the Scot in their midst had something of a secret talent.

“I moved to Newcastle at the start of January for work and it’s been good so far,” she adds. “I got my degree from Caley in Human Nutrition and Dietetics last year and I’m now working as a dietician in one of the hospitals.

“It’s a good social life here! And there’s a table tennis club next to where I work so I’ve been training there most of the time. It’s attached to the university so in the last few months when the exams were on the hall was shut so it was harder to find somewhere to practise.

“There’s a lot to juggle with having a full-time job and living on my own in a new city. There’s a lot of extra responsibility on me now but I’m just about coping.

“I think my work colleagues were a bit shocked when they heard I was going to the Commonwealth Games! For the first few months none of them really knew about my table tennis and then I started going on a few trips for tournaments and it came out at that point. They were all really excited for me.”
Plaistow was happy to return to familiar territory to conclude her preparations for the Games, catching up with old faces for some last-minute finetuning.

“I took some unpaid leave from work to get back to Scotland a bit earlier to fit in an extra week’s training,” she reveals. “Li Chao, the former national coach, was back to help coach the team so I managed to get a few sessions in with him at Drumchapel.

“I’ve stayed in touch with everyone back home, especially my coach Roy Claxton who I keep up to speed with everything. He’s always been in my corner and makes sure I’m fully prepared ahead of tournaments. He also gives me pep talks to make sure my confidence is up and sometimes that can be the most important thing.”