Melissa Tapper has become the first Australian to qualify to compete at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games after sealing one of three qualification berths for Rio 2016 on offer at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Oceania Championships at the Ulumbarra Theatre in Bendigo.
Tapper, who has Erb's palsy which has caused paralysis in her right arm, was beaten 11-3, 11-8, 9-11, 11-4,12-10 yesterday by her team-mate Jian Fang Lay in the final of Oceania's continental event.
The result was enough for Jian Fang Lay to seal the first Olympic quota place on offer at the event, allowing her to advance to her fifth Games, having made her maiden appearance at Sydney 2000.
Tapper had a second chance to book her place at the Olympics in a qualification round for Rio 2016 when she met Fiji’s Grace Rosi Yee and the Australian made a strong start by winning the opening two games 11-2, 11-3.
The 26-year-old, who made Australian Commonwealth Games history after becoming the first to qualify for the able-bodied squad at Glasgow 2014, claimed the final two games 11-4, 11-7 to seal her Olympic place.
"I am so excited and stoked with this result, it is come from a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication and a lot of support," said Tapper.
“I can't believe I am a part of Australian sporting history, Rio is going to be an experience of a lifetime.
“I want to do the best I can in the Olympics and win gold in the Paralympics."
Tapper will now follow in the footsteps of Poland's Natalia Partyka, who competed at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics, as well as four Paralympic Games.
Other athletes to have competed at both Games include South African swimmer Natalie du Toit, American athlete Marla Runyan and Austrian equestrian competitor Pepo Puch.
The most famous, however, is now disgraced South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius.
With Tapper having sealed earned Australia's second spot in the singles event, the country will be able to compete in the team competition at the Games, with Sally Zhang due to complete their line-up.
Grace Yee was eventually denied a Rio 2016 spot by her 14-year-old sister Sally, who claimed the final qualification spot by triumphing 11-7, 11-7, 14-12, 12-10.
David Powell clinched the first men’s Rio 2016 berth by beating his fellow Australian Chris Yan 6-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-7, 3-11, 9-11, 11-9.
Yan bounced back to beat New Zealand’s Tengteng Liu 11-7, 11-4, 11-8, 11-7 to secure the second quota place, ensuring Australia would compete in the Olympic team competition.
The third and final individual spot was won by Liu, who sealed an 11-8, 11-6, 11-5, 11-3 win over Vanuatu’s Yoshua Shing.