THAT table tennis is a discipline that favours speed of thought and movement over strength and power is something that has served Rebecca Plaistow well over the past decade.

A journey that has taken the Scottish number one from an after-school club in Kilbirnie to this week’s world championships in Budapest has been peppered with a number of victories over boys and men older or bigger, and often both.

As the only female at her club in South Ayrshire, the 19 year old has had little option but to train and practise with players of the opposite sex. It makes each win that little bit sweeter.

“It’s quite male-dominated where I’m from and at the moment I’m the only girl at my club out of about 20 players,” she revealed. “I can’t get another girl to come along to hit as not a lot of females play in Ayrshire.

“There was one a while ago but she quit so for the most part it’s just been me. But that’s never put me off. I quite enjoy playing against the guys, even if they’re usually older or bigger than me. And I don’t think they like it when I beat them! That’s always fun.

“It’s quite a level playing field when it comes to men and women playing. There’s a difference in styles of play in that the girls are a lot quicker at the table, where the men stand further back. So I’d say the female game is faster than the men’s.”

Plaistow, who also plays in the British Women’s League with Drumchapel, is part of a five-strong Scotland squad competing at the world championships that start today. Her maiden appearance at this level, the Glasgow Caledonian University student must top her three-woman qualifying group to take her place in the main draw.

She has elected to remain in Budapest for the week regardless of how she gets on, hoping to take advantage of the rare chance to watch and learn from her table tennis role models, such as world no. 1 Ding Ning of China.

“I’ve been to the European Championships before and that was a big jump so to compete in the worlds for the first time will be another level again,” added Plaistow. “It’s going to be very difficult but I’ll just need to play my best and see where it takes me. It’s about getting the experience as much as anything.

“I just want to enjoy being a part of such a big event. No matter how I get on I’m going to stay for the whole week and hopefully I can learn from watching the best players in the world. At the Europeans I saw one of the teams doing different exercises to prepare for matches and some players used techniques I hadn’t seen before.

“I’m hoping that I can pick up a few tips this week as well that can help me improve my game. The current world champions are both from China as it would be amazing to watch them play.

“But I think it’s important you’re not stuck in the hall all day as it can get draining mentally. So I’ll take the chance to get out and about and see some of Budapest, too.”

It won’t all be table tennis and tourism, however. With exams just around the corner, the Dietetics and Nutrition second-year student has packed some books with her, too.

“It’s difficult to juggle uni work and playing as both take up a lot of time. I’ve got reports due and exams coming up next month so I’ve taken some work over with me. But hopefully I won’t be stuck in my hotel room for too long.”

There was some enforced time out, too, recently after Plaistow was involved in a car accident. “I was the passenger in a head-on collision and I suffered tissue damage in my leg and some back pain. Luckily it wasn’t too serious.”

Having missed out on a place at last year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Plaistow, the three-time Scottish champion, now has her sights set on qualifying for Birmingham in 2022.

“That’s in my thoughts already and hopefully I can get there. But I’ve got Budapest to focus on for now.”