GB Team – Sara Head

Date and place of birth: 12/04/1980, Church Village, Wales
Home town: Pontypridd
Lives: Beddau
Family: mum Sue, dad Mervyn, sister Elisa, nieces Megan and Caitlin, godchildren Courtney and Casey
TT Class: 3
Current world ranking: 11
TT Style: all-round
International debut: 2001, Germany

Major titles: European team champion 2011

Sara’s story

Sara is one of the most experienced GB Para table tennis athletes, having competed in two Commonwealth Games for Wales (Manchester and Melbourne) and the Paralympic Games in London, where she and team-mate Jane Campbell came back from 2-0 down to win the bronze medal in the women’s class 1-3 team event, and Rio.

Sport was not a big part of her life until she opted to get out of a lesson by going to a wheelchair basketball demonstration at her school. A virus had left her wheelchair bound at the age of 15 and wheelchair basketball opened up a new world for her. “Meeting people in the same situation as me was a real eye-opener,” she recalls. “I had kept myself away from everything for two years and it opened my life up again. Some doors closed when I became disabled but the doors that have opened since and keep opening are phenomenal.”

Sara represented GB in wheelchair basketball in European and World Championships and was reserve for the Sydney Paralympic Games in 2000. She was introduced to table tennis in 2001 by a boyfriend and in taking secret lessons to enable her to beat him she discovered she had a talent and a passion for the sport. Fast-tracked by Wales she was taking part in her first competition after only three months and since then she has won seven medals in major championships, including European team gold in 2011 with her great friend Jane Campbell. “I wasn’t sporty as a child,” she says, “but I’m very competitive and I’ll fight to the end. Table tennis is such a fun game and like a fast game of chess.”

London 2012 was a life-changing experience for Sara. “It has made me a stronger person,” she explained. “It was the hardest thing I have done – to come fourth in the singles, so close to a medal, and then to come back and get a medal in the team made me realise I can achieve things in life not just in table tennis.”

In 2013 Sara took gold with Jane Campbell in the women’s team event (class 1-3) at the Bayreuth Open in Germany and then took a bronze medal in the singles and a bronze in the team event with Campbell at the European Championships in Italy. Following an operation during the winter Sara had to fight her way back to fitness in 2014 and took bronze medals in the team event with Jane Campbell in Slovenia and Slovakia. Although she reached the last 16 in the singles at the World Championships she and Jane could not produce their best form in the team event and did not progress from their group.

“Every game we play, every match, every competition is all new experience,” said Sara, “and I think this is an experience we are going to learn from and hopefully it’s going to make us stronger in the future.”

Illness and further surgery during the winter hampered Sara’s preparations for the 2015 season and by her own standards it was a disappointing year culminating in the European Championships in Denmark where she did not progress from the group stages in the singles and lost out on a medal in the team event with Jane on countback.

“We came out fighting,” said Head. “We knew it was going to be on countback or we were going for gold. We fought as hard as we could it just wasn’t our day today.”

Sara was selected for Rio 2016 and reached the quarter-finals in the women’s class 3 singles but she and Jane Campbell were unable to repeat their London heroics in the team event, losing in the quarter-finals to Italy.

Take 5 with Sara:

Most admired sportsman – Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson

Sporting event you would most like a ticket for – Wimbledon

Favourite film – Shrek 2

Superstitions – I wear a pink band on my wrist that I wore when I won my first gold medal

Achievement you are most proud of – my family watching me play in London 2012

and finally – Sara always makes her major decisions on New Year’s Eve

2016 Results:
Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro – QF, women’s singles (class 3); QF, women’s teams (class 1-3)
Slovakia Open – 2nd, women’s teams RR (class 3); group stages, women’s singles (class 3)
Slovenia Open – QF, women’s singles (class 3); 4th, women’s teams (class 3 RR)
Lignano Master Open, Italy – silver, women’s teams (class 2-3); group stages, women’s singles (class 3)

2015 Results:
European Championships, Vejle, Denmark – group stages, women’s singles (class 3); 4th, women’s teams (class 1-3)
Bayreuth Open, Germany – QF, women’s singles (class 3); QF, women’s teams (class 3)
Slovenia Open – bronze, women’s teams (class 3); QF women’s singles (class 3)
Lignano Master Open, Italy – group stages, women’s singles (class 3); group stages, women’s teams (class 3)

2014 Results:
World Championships, Beijing, China – last 16, women’s singles (class 3); group stages, women’s teams (class 1-3)
Slovakia Open – bronze, women’s teams (class 1-3); group stages, women’s singles (class 3)
Slovenia Open – bronze, women’s teams (class 1-3); group stages, women’s singles (class 3)

Career Highlights:
2013: European Championships, Lignano, Italy – bronze, women’s singles (class 3); bronze, women’s teams (1-3)
2012: Paralympic Games, London – bronze, women’s teams (class 1-3)
2011: European Championships, Split, Croatia – gold, women’s teams (class 3)
2010: World Championships, Gwangju, Korea – bronze, women’s teams (class 1-3)
2009: European Championships, Genoa, Italy – bronze, women’s teams (class 3)
2007: European Championships, Kranjska Gora, Slovenia – bronze, women’s teams (class 2-3)

Further results are available at: