Dan Mead hasn’t let lockdown slow his Paralympic ambitions

Dan Mead has already enjoyed an incredible amount of table tennis tournament success – which is quite extraordinary, as he only picked up a bat for the first time two and a half years ago, and almost half of his competition playing time has been curtailed because of Covid-19 restrictions.Yet before lockdown took coaching online, the 12-year old from Pontprennau in Cardiff had won three tournaments in a row – the Swansea Dragon, the Rhondda Dragon and the Welsh National Under 11 Championship.

Dan’s introduction to table tennis came when he visited a multi-sports disabled taster day at Cardiff Met in September 2018.

There he met Tom Matthews – Table Tennis Wales’ coveted World Para Championships medal winning star, who is ranked number eight in the world.

Inspired, Dan joined his local Cardiff City Community Table Tennis Club and continued to play – his natural talent for the game quickly showing through.

And Dan was so good that he was all set to represent Wales at a table tennis tournament on the Isle of Man in March 2020, before Covid-19 restrictions intervened.

Dan has also joined the British Para Table Tennis’ Pathway Squad – which, together with Table Tennis Wales, means that he has been benefitting from online coaching sessions up to four times a week.

However, Dan is keen to get back to face to face coaching, training with friends and colleagues and competing in tournaments again.

“I just love playing table tennis and I want to get better and better because I’m really passionate about it,” says Dan.

“I really want to keep on progressing up through the ranks and one day play at international tournaments overseas and at the Paralympic and the Commonwealth Games.”

Dan is no stranger to the spotlight, having starred in the Child Genius programme on Channel 4.

He did so well (he led after round one, the fiendishly difficult spelling test) that Dan was invited back to take part in the Child Genius Celebrity Special, which was broadcast on Christmas Eve 2019 – where he took on Jimmy Carr, Jo Brand, Richard Bacon and Vick Hope.

Dan has recently taken up a role on the Children’s Commissioner for Wales Advisory Panel.

There he is one of 24 children who raises the concerns of children, enabling relevant issues to be raise with the Welsh government and discussed and debated in the Senedd.

“I wanted to join the Children’s Commissioner for Wales Advisory Panel, because lockdown is causing big issues for children,” says Dan.

“There are a lot of mental health problems, there are children living in abusive households and there are a lot of very underprivileged children. It’s important to raise these important issues and to get our point of view across to government.”

Dan is an exceptional young man. His humanity and unselfish efforts to help others are commendable, and his outstanding work aimed at improving other children’s lives is humbling.

He’s a very good table tennis player too – and it won’t be long before he finally gets to wear that Welsh shirt for the first time!

And we wouldn’t be surprised to see him emulate Tom Matthews one day as well.