Rena Accepts “Para Athlete of 2016” Award

Rena took time out of her busy training schedule to accept her well-deserved Para Athlete of the year award from Rob Cowan at the National sports campus, sports HQ. Rob presented the award stating “Everybody in TTI is very proud of Rena’s achievements thus far, it is probably the dream of every  table tennis player to reach the Olympics, and it fantastic to see that Rena has done it; we will be supporting her all the way in Rio”.

Rena, originally from Donegal but now living in Galway, is currently busy preparing for the Paralympics in Rio which starts on September 7th with the Opening ceremony.  Rena’s first match is on the 8th meaning that she and coach Ronan Rooney will miss out on what is usually a tremendous spectacle at any Olympics or Paralympics.  At the moment she is at a pre-Rio International camp in Lasko, Slovenia and will then leave for a holding camp in Uberlandia, Brazil, on Aug 25th, leaving from there for the final part of this amazing journey in Rio on Sep 3rd. 

In Rio Rena will be in a group of 3 with 2 qualifying into the knockout stages.  The draw will be done in early September in Rio but it is certain that Rena will have either the world number 1 or 2 in her group, making it a very tough task from the start.  She qualified on December 31 last year by virtue of her world ranking of 7, a career high for her following a very successful 2015 that included a silver medal in the European Championships in October in Denmark.

This will be Rena’s second Paralympics, having been playing seriously for upwards of 15 years.  She has participated at multiple European Championships and World Championships but it was not until she started playing full time that she really came of age.  She had previously played part-time, working as a Sports Development Officer with the IWA.  In the lead-up to the London Games she took leave of absence from her job and her results proved to her the benefit of focusing totally on her table tennis.  Having more time afforded her the opportunity to avail of the various services offered by the Institute of Sport (such as physio, nutrition, strength and conditioning, performance management and psychology.)  So since the beginning of the Rio qualification period (January 2014) she has been effectively full time.  

For the past year she has been coached by 6-times Paralympian Ronan Rooney and she feels that this has also helped her performances.

Rena stated “I am indebted to so many people in getting this far…there are too many individuals to mention but I am really grateful to Sport Ireland, Paralympics Ireland, Table Tennis Ireland and IWA Sport.  I am also indebted to Andrew Dennison Sports and Tibhar for providing my competition and training gear”. 

Finally Rob Cowan said “ Table Tennis Ireland would like to wish Rena and Ronan the very best of Luck in Rio and I hope that Rena’s achievements will inspire the future generation of girls and women in TTI to success on the world stage“.