Date and place of birth: 05/06/1995, Kent
Home town: Minster
Family: Parents Sally and Scott, sisters Katie and Kirsty
TT Class: 8
Current world ranking: 9
TT Style: attacking
International debut: 2011, Hungary
Ross first played table tennis while on holiday at Center Parcs and clearly showed an immediate talent for the game as a watching member of staff, noting the Arsenal shirt he was wearing, christened him the Thierry Henry of table tennis. “I loved it straight away,” recalls Ross. “I’m very competitive so I wanted to win and that made me enjoy it even more. Mum and dad bought me a table for Christmas and I went on from there.”
Ross’s natural skill brought him success in abled bodied table tennis and as a junior he was ranked in the top ten in the country, winning two National doubles titles. However, as he got older it became clear that some physical problem was affecting his development although exhaustive medical tests failed to discover the cause. Finally, in 2011 he was diagnosed with multiple epiphyseal dysplasia, which affects the growing ends of the bones, after his cousin was diagnosed with the same condition by a geneticist.
“The diagnosis was a turning point for me,” admits Ross, “as I was on the verge of deciding whether or not to carry on playing. I wasn’t getting selected for the able bodied team because they knew I had something wrong with me but I wasn’t getting selected for Para table tennis as they couldn’t find what was wrong with me. I didn’t think I was getting anywhere. Then when I was diagnosed I went to Hungary and was classified and started training with the GB Para squad.”
Ross’s progress was rapid and his first international season culminated in a silver medal in the European Championships in 2011. At the age of 17 he was the youngest member of the GB table tennis team in London 2012 but belied his inexperience by finishing fourth in the singles, having led the Chinese world number one 2-0 in his semi-final, and then playing superbly to clinch the team bronze with Will Bayley and Aaron McKibbin.
“London was everything I could have wished for,” says Ross. “I expected to enjoy it but be quite nervous but I had no nerves and I was just enjoying representing my country. Everyone was getting behind us and it was an amazing feeling. I so wanted a medal and to get so close in the singles was horrible but to come back stronger with the boys in the team and get a bronze was amazing.
“Before London I didn’t know what to expect,” he says, “but the experience of 2012 has shown me what kind of level I need to be at if I want to do well in Rio and how to prepare for a major championship and that is a big advantage going in to the next Games.”
Following the London Games Ross, who was ranked two in the world at the end of 2012, was side-lined for two years with a shoulder injury but took the setback with a typically positive approach, showing a maturity beyond his years.
“I spoke to a lot of people,” he explained, “and they all said that when you get an injury it makes you more determined when you do get back because it makes you want it more. When you’ve got a lot of free time you can work on things that you wouldn’t normally work on so hopefully I can get those parts of my game better than anyone else and that will be to my advantage when I start competing again. Because the injury is in my shoulder I have still been able to train and work on my fitness by running, cycling and working out in the gym so I’ve been improving my speed around the table.”
In 2014 Ross was finally able to return to competition and came back with a bang by taking gold in the men’s class 8 singles at the Cote d’Azur International in October.
“It is really good to be back,” he said. “It’s been hard not competing for so long but getting back into it brings back all the feelings of previous competitions and memories of London 2012. Coming to a tournament and experiencing all the pressure again has been great for me and I can take that with confidence to the next tournament I play and hopefully carry on doing well.”
Take 5 with Ross:
Most admired sportsman – Bradley Wiggins
Three famous people, you would most like to have a drink with – Usain Bolt, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gorazd Vecko
Favourite film – Crazy Stupid Love
Ideal holiday – two weeks all-inclusive to the Maldives
Three words that describe you best – fighter, kind, determined
and finally – Ross was a keen swimmer but chose table tennis over swimming as a career
Cote d’Azur International, France – gold, men’s singles (class 8)
2014: Cote d’Azur International, France – gold, men’s singles (class 8)
2012: Paralympic Games, London – bronze, men’s teams (class 6-8)
Slovenian Open – gold, men’s singles (class 8)
2011: European Championships, Split, Croatia – silver, men’s singles (class 8)