Christopher Ryan

Date of birth: 11/07/1991

Hometown: Welwyn Garden City

Lives: Welwyn Garden City

TT Class: 2

Current world ranking: 37

International debut: Costa Brava Spanish Open 2023

Chris had ambitions of becoming a pro-golfer when a car accident on the way home from an inter-collegiate tournament left him with a spinal injury that changed his life at the age of 17. Having been introduced to wheelchair rugby during rehab in Stoke Mandeville he quickly progressed to play for the GB team.

“My local team London Wheelchair Rugby Club were training at the Guttman Centre which is a two-minute push from the hospital,” he recalls, “and at the time they had the best part of threequarters of the GB team on their roster. I saw them training and I wanted to be a part of it and get to their level as quickly as I could. That gave me a sport to strive for again. I was already used to training seven days a week for golf, so I didn’t have an issue with the grind that is involved with elite sport.”

Chris experienced his first Paralympic Games in Rio 2016 and went on to captain the GB team to Paralympic gold in Tokyo, before deciding that he needed a new challenge and finding it in table tennis.

“I’d already played a bit in a wheelchair through the sports physio who got me into rugby,” he said, “but I’d never done it seriously and my brother pushed me into trying it. I wasn’t against the idea of starting a new sport but when I make a decision it’s going to involve a lot of work because I’m either in or out. I wasn’t scared of making that jump but if you’re going to go for a whole new sport, you’re going to have to start at the bottom again and work your way up, so I guess I was a little bit hesitant at first just because I knew the size of the task ahead.”

Having contacted British Para Table Tennis, Ryan was invited by Pathway manager Shaun Marples to a Pathway/Futures two-day camp in Sheffield in June 2022.

“I had a table in my house that I had to dust the cobwebs off,” said Ryan, “so I practised for two days before I came up and I really enjoyed it. There was a good atmosphere in the hall and the players and coaches were very welcoming. It seemed like a good environment and what excited me a lot was the quantity of high-level coaches that can train people in chairs.”

He started training regularly with the GB squad and made his international debut in the Costa Rica Spanish Open in March 2023. He achieved his first win and his first medal (bronze in the men’s class 2 singles) in the Greek Open six weeks later and followed that by taking bronze in the men’s class 1-2 singles in the US Open in July. Having been selected for the European Championships in Sheffield Chris underlined his promise despite losing both group matches in four close sets against more experienced opponents.

“I wasn’t going to win the tournament this week, but I could have got through the group – against players ranked 10 and 17 in the world – so that is a positive,” he said. “Just a bit of experience, knowhow and a bit more table time and I can beat those guys.”

Many athletes would find it hard to start again in a new sport after reaching the pinnacle in another, but Chris feels that his previous experience gives him an advantage.

“I think it is hard from a technical stand point,” he acknowledged, “but mentally for me it is easier because although I’m going to learn every day about being a better athlete I’ve done a lot of that already so when I’m training my main concern is table tennis and that is the bit I need to sort out – my technical ability in table tennis. I have experience in the other things – I’ve already dealt with playing in front of people, playing with noise, playing with pressure, how to manage my nutrition etc. I know how to be an elite athlete, but I don’t know how to play table tennis.”

2024 Results

Lignano Masters Para Open, Italy – group stages, men’s singles (class 2); QF, men’s doubles (class 4)

Astana Para Open, Kazakhstan – bronze, men’s singles (class 2); group stages, men’s doubles (class 8)

Brazil Open – silver, men’s singles (class 2); gold, men’s doubles (class 4); bronze, mixed doubles (class 4-7)

US Open – QF, men’s singles (class 1-2); bronze, men’s doubles (class 4)

2023 Results

French Open – group stages, men’s singles (class 2); bronze, men’s doubles (class 4)

Finland Open – group stages, men’s singles (class 2); group stages, men’s doubles (class 4); group stages, mixed doubles (class 4)

European Championships, Sheffield, UK – group stages, men’s singles (class 2)

US Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 2); group stages, men’s doubles (class 8)

Greek Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 2); bronze, men’s doubles (class 8)

Costa Brava Spanish Open – group stages, men’s singles (class 2); group stages, men’s doubles (class 4)