If you grew up in and around Cardiff and Bridgend from 1988 onwards, the chances are that you would have encountered Regina Grech (then Donovan and nicknamed Stevie, owing to her middle name Stefanie) at some point on the table tennis scene.
Regina helped a lot of youngsters to develop through co-coaching with then National Coach Alan Griffiths and later helping out with the National squad when Ryan Jenkins took over as the National Coach. Regina would have helped to inspire you to start playing the game especially when she started coaching in many schools in Cardiff from 2008 onwards, developing the youth game in South Wales.
Having started playing table tennis herself in her native Germany and being county ranked between 1-3 for several years running and South Germany’s Number 6, Regina moved to Wales in 1988 aged 27.
Her skill and talent saw Regina win the Welsh Championship in 1989. She created history by being the first mother to do so and the first foreign player to achieve this.
After turning 40 she represented Wales in many Veterans European and World Championships, climbing to Number 8 in Europe in the over 50s category in 2013 in Bremen.
However, her legacy will be not so much her own playing career, but rather the extraordinary contribution Regina has made to table tennis in Wales as a volunteer and coach and through her passion and dedication in developing the game at school and club level.
Two hugely successful and long running projects in particular stand out - the Llangan Table Tennis Academy and the Wildmill Community Table Tennis Club, which have inspired scores of children to enjoy the game.
Her enthusiasm and dedication to teaching youngsters has been colossal. For example, at one stage Regina was holding breakfast, lunchtime and after school clubs at seven different secondary schools across Cardiff. This enabled her to enthuse several players in competing in teams in Welsh Championships.
In 2014 Philip Avery, then General Manager of Table Tennis Wales, asked Regina if she’d consider helping him to run his existing after school club at Llangan in the Vale of Glamorgan.
He couldn’t have asked a better person, for Regina has grown the fledgling Vale of Glamorgan Primary school project from a one and a half hour club on a Monday into the formidable and ultra-successful Llangan Table Tennis Academy. It has inspired so many youngsters to play the game that at one particular Welsh Primary School Competition, the Llangan Table Tennis Academy had the largest number of players of any school entered.
Another huge success story was the Wildmill Community Table Tennis Club, which Regina ran for 15 years. Based in Coity near Bridgend, it might have only been a small club in a small community centre with just four tables, but scores of people, young and old, have enjoyed playing there.
It regularly provided three teams for the Welsh Team Championships and was made up of numerous young players from the Llangan Academy successfully feeding into this club. Many players, young and old, developed their game and abilities here, all under the guidance, encouragement and qualified coaching skills of a former Wales Number 1 player.
Until Covid-19 restrictions intervened, Regina remained a very competitive player competing in the Veterans 6 Nations Cup, Welsh Senior League Division 1 and the Swansea Premier Division. Unfortunately a recent hip replacement operation has brought her competitive playing and coaching days to an end.
However, we can be sure that we will see her at future competitions and Welsh Championships casting an eye over her protégés.