Most individuals in Scotland can only dream of being ranked number one in their chosen sport for even a week.

Gavin Rumgay, however, will tomorrow mark his one thousandth week as Scottish number one.

The Perth man has been the top-ranked table tennis player in this country for almost twenty years, an astonishing statistic that he admits he can barely believe himself.

“It’s mad, it really is,” says the 39-year-old, who’ll mark the milestone, which will be confirmed tomorrow, with a few beers.

Rumgay was identified as a talented athlete from a young age – as a child, he excelled in badminton and tennis, with one of his most notable achievements as a junior athlete being victories on the tennis court over both Andy and Jamie Murray – but it was as a table tennis player in which he was to find his niche.

His first senior Scottish singles title came in the 2002/2003 season and from there, he never looked back.

At that point, as a teenager, records were the furthest thing from his mind. 

Slowly but surely, however, as the weeks at number one and the national titles began to rack up, Rumgay became more aware of the possibility of writing himself into the record books.

At the same time as Rumgay was beginning to find his feet in the senior game, the standard was being set by another great of Scottish table tennis, Euan Walker, who went on to win 12 Scottish singles titles.

But in those early days, even getting close to Walker’s record, never mind surpassing it, seemed like a pipe dream and it was many years before Rumgay began to take notice of the stats he was notching up.

“The first time I went to a tournament was to watch the Scottish Championships in Perth when I was 11 and it was just amazing. There were 30-odd table tennis tables and I’d never seen anything like it before,” he says. 

“When I was younger and beginning to win my first national titles, the Scottish Championships didn’t mean that much to me because I was always thinking about things like the next UK Grand Prix I was going to win. 

“That was, until I reached national title number 8 and equaled Richard Yule’s record, who played in the 1970s and was one of Scotland’s best-ever players. “That’s when I started thinking that Euan Walker’s record of 12 was something I really wanted to beat.”

As it’s transpired, Rumgay has utterly eclipsed all previous records for Scottish titles.

He won his seventeenth national singles title earlier this year to extend his own record, which was significant in aiding him to reach the momentous 1000 weeks ranked Scottish number one. 

His achievements stretch far wider than merely winning within Scotland, however.

The Herald: Gavin Rumgay

Over the years, Rumgay has competed at five Commonwealth Games which, he admits, is a real highlight but there are several more achievements which also stand out amongst what is an impressive résumé by anyone’s standards.

“Winning the British Championships in 2015 was a big one for me,” he says.

“And being the first Scottish player to medal on the World Tour – I won bronze in Lagos in 2018. The World Professional Tour started in 1991 and I became the first Scot to be on the podium, something only two English players have ever done, which shows how tough it is to achieve.”

In such a lengthy career, however, a few lows were inevitably going to be interspersed with the highs.

Rumgay has suffered surprisingly few disasterous results in his years at the top but it’s the one significant omission on his CV – an Olympic appearance – that really grinds him.

“One of the real lows for me is the political stuff and England dominating in terms of Team GB,” he says. 

“From 2008 onwards, I was in the top-4 players in Britain and yet I’ve never played at an Olympics. That’s hard to take. No Scottish player has ever played in the Olympics – I believe it’s because the voting system is rigged in favour of the English players. I’ve missed out a few times but the worst was probably in 2016 when I was 200 places ahead of the English player they took.

“That was hard to take.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Rumgay has few plans to hang up his bat just yet.

Despite life being far more demanding than when he was a young athlete – he has his own coaching business passing on his expertise in badminton, tennis and table tennis, as well as a five-year-old daughter – Rumgay retains the drive and determination required to continue playing at the level at which he’s become so accustomed.

And while much of his motivation is internal, he admits he loves proving people wrong too, including those who, following his semi-final loss at the Scottish Championships last year, wrote him off as being over the hill.

“The motivation is still there but I am playing far, far less than I was when I was younger,” he says.

“It is hard combining everything and what’s tough is that table tennis is a sport in which physically, you need to be at your best. It doesn’t matter how skillful I still am, I need to keep on top of the fitness side of things so there’s a lot to be done to keep myself ticking over. But I believe I’m still right up there physically.

“And also, there is a lot of me that wants to prove the people who say I’m finished wrong.

“I’ve never actually been close to retiring because there’s been so few bad losses.

“I know that a bad injury could finish me off but if that doesn’t happen, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t continue.”

And so, tomorrow not only marks 1000 weeks as Scottish number one for Rumgay, it marks 1000 weeks and counting.