St. Neots based Table-tennis champion Daniel Bullen is working his way towards the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and recently took a gold medal in a National School Games event*
Daniel, 18, who has cerebral palsy, has combined talent with huge amounts of dedication to make his mark.
After gaining a BTEC Level 2 Diploma in Sport, he has now progressed to Level 3 within Bedford College. Such is the admiration for Daniel’s efforts that he has been included in a college film shown at the college Achievements Ceremony on December 2nd 2016 **
The teenager took up table tennis eight years ago and his confidence has increased immensely as his successes have mounted up.
He said, “I’m over the moon. I’ve worked my socks off to get better. I had gained some great experience at the GB Para training camp in Slovenia recently. Also, I had my own coach in my corner this year. I got into table tennis eight years ago at a disability sports club in Norfolk, where we used to live.”
“One of the coaches there (Mark Spinks) had the same disability as me and he’d just come back from the CP World Games. I saw he was good at it and I wanted to be as well. Before I played table tennis I couldn’t catch a ball – I had no co-ordination whatsoever. It took me a year to hit the ball over the net.”
When coach Mark had taken him as far as he could, Daniel met former Paralympic coach Mark Mitchell, who offered a wealth of experience working with wheelchair players, at the 2009 School Games.
Daniel began travelling from Norfolk to St Neots two or three times a week in order to train with Mitchell before the family moved to Cambridgeshire a couple of years ago to make life easier.
“Since I met Mark ,my game has gone from strength to strength and I’m still going,” said Bullen.
His progress has given him a busy schedule, and there are very few days when he is not playing matches or training.
Daniel locks the front wheels on his wheelchair so that he only has to worry about forward and backward movements, with his long arms being used to good effect for shots out wide.
And there is always plenty to think about when it comes to getting the better of his opponents, particularly when travelling to the continent.
“Abroad it surprises me how well I do because you never know what’s going to turn up on the other side of the table,” said Daniel,
“In this country I know where I am and know everybody.
Daniel, who competes against able-bodied players when he represents St Neots in numerous leagues.
Daniel, whose family have largely had to self-fund his progress, was also named the sports performer of the year at last year’s Living Sport Sports Awards
“I had no confidence before I played table tennis,” said Bullen, who has continued support from the Norfolk Sports and Culture Foundation, funded by Norfolk County Council and the Norse Group.
“It’s changed my life.”
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*Held at the Regional Tennis Centre Manchester: After winning silver for the past two years, Daniel Bullpen was delighted to get his hands on a Gold. The St Neots athlete, representing England Midlands, beat Megan Shackleton (E-NE) 3-0 (11-9, 11-4, 12-10) to take the title.
**Bedford College Achievements Ceremony is held at the Bedford Corn Exchange before an audience of 100s of local employers and families.