Rob Davies MBE

Date and place of birth: 14/08/84, Abergavenny
Home town: Brecon
Lives: Brecon
Family: wife Megan, parents Sandra and Charlie, twin brother Rich
TT Class: 1
Current world ranking: 2
TT Style: Attacking
International debut: 2007, Ireland
Major titles: Paralympic champion 2016; European champion 2013/2015/2017/2019; European team champion 2013/2015

In brief:

Inspired by competing in London 2012 former rugby player Rob became European champion and World number one in 2013 and after taking silver in the World Championships in 2014 he went on to become Paralympic champion in Rio 2016. In September 2019 he won his fourth consecutive European singles title and was focused on defending his Paralympic title in Tokyo but had to withdraw before the Games due to a shoulder injury.

Rob’s story

Born and bred in Wales, Rob played semi-professional rugby until a spinal cord injury while playing left him wheelchair-bound at the age of 21. In a bizarre twist of fate, at the same time that Rob was injured his twin brother Rich was involved in a serious car accident on the way to the match but went on to make a full recovery.

While undergoing rehab at Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff, Rob was encouraged to take up table tennis by Para table tennis international Sara Head, who was doing voluntary work at the hospital. 

"I’d always been sporting,” says Rob. “I’d played rugby since I was four years old and never had an injury until then.  I’d always seen table tennis as a bit of a girly sport compared to rugby so I wasn’t that helpful to begin with. My grandparents pushed me and I started training with the guys in Wales and that was it. When I left hospital I started training two or three times a week.”

In 2007 he became part of the GB Development squad and after taking silver medals in the individual and team events at the European championships in 2011 realised his ambition of competing in the London 2012 Paralympic Games. He admits that London was a massive learning curve and although he enjoyed the experience he was disappointed to come away without a medal, losing a vital group match to the then World number one Jean-Francois Ducay from France 3-2.

“I didn’t expect to win a medal as much as I wanted one at a home Games,” he explained at the start of 2013, “and I was pretty gutted for a few months. But it has made me more determined and I’m training so much harder - I’m wiser now. I’m stronger and faster and more positive towards life in general.  London has given me a boost and I’m going to push myself a bit more now.”

Rob’s aim for 2013 was to improve his consistency and his world ranking of six and he achieved even more than he had hoped for - defeating Ducay and Paralympic champion Holger Nikelis on his way to becoming European champion, taking gold in the team event as well with fellow Welshman Paul Davies and replacing Nikelis as world number one in October.

Rob began 2014 by taking gold in singles and team in Slovenia and came back from losing to Ducay in the singles in Slovakia to take gold in the team event with Paul Davies. In the World Championships in China he showed all his fighting spirit to reach the final of the men’s class 1 singles but had to settle for silver after a 3-1 loss to the Korean Changho Lee.

In 2015 Rob came back from a few disappointing results earlier in the season to successfully defend his European singles title in Denmark beating old rival and the current World number one Jean-Francois Ducay in the final. With Paul Davies absent due to injury Rob had a new team partner in another Welshman Tom Matthews and the pair took gold in the round-robin team event to crown a successful competition for Rob.

In December 2015 Rob regained the World number one ranking in men’s class 1 and he beat Paralympic champion Nikelis in the semi-finals on his way to winning gold in the Slovenia Open in May 2016.

In Rio Rob came through two tough group matches 3-2 to win his group and after defeating old rival Ducay in the quarter-finals and the Hungarian Endre Major in the semi-finals he beat the Korean Young Dae Joo in the final 3-1 to take Paralympic gold.

At the end of 2016 Rob received an MBE in the New Year Honours List and in July 2017 he married his fiancée Megan. After taking gold in the Czech Open in September 2017 he won his third consecutive European title in Slovenia, leading an historic one-two-three for GB in men class 1 after beating old friend Paul Davies in the semi-finals and young pretender Tom Matthews in the final.

Rob’s season in 2018 did not go according to plan and he struggled to find his form at the World Championships, losing in the last 16 to Guillermo Bustamante Sierra, the Argentinian PanAmerican bronze medallist. He bounced back in 2019, taking gold at the Italian Open and winning his fourth consecutive European singles title, an achievement that led to him being nominated again for the Male Para Table Tennis Star award at the prestigious 2019 ITTF Star Awards.

After the postponement of the Tokyo Paralympic Games Davies made the most of his time at home during lockdown and discovered a passion for gardening in the process.

“We bought a new house a couple of years ago and lockdown has given me the chance to do what I wanted a bit quicker and get it done basically,” he said. “My grandad was a farmer and before my accident I used to spend a lot of time with him. As a builder I was always outside or playing rugby so I just love being outside. That is what I love about being in the garden – having fresh air and being outside gives you a bit of mind space which has been especially important this year. Just doing physical work again in the garden is what I have been enjoying, especially when it was nice weather.”

Sadly Rob was unable to defend his Paralympic title in Tokyo as he had to withdraw two weeks before the Games due to a shoulder injury.

“I’m obviously very disappointed,” he said. “Winning gold in Rio was one of my proudest moments and I was looking forward to defending my title and competing in my third Paralympic Games. But injury is part of sport and I’ll now focus on regaining my fitness ahead of the World Championships next year.”

Rugby is still a passion of Rob’s and he goes to watch his local side play whenever he can as well as being a keen supporter of the Welsh team. “I still miss it,” he admits. “I do wheelchair rugby now for fun but I wanted a different challenge - rugby is a team sport and I could see table tennis was different and wanted to challenge myself.”

Take 5 with Rob:

Most admired sportsman - Jonny Wilkinson

Three famous people you would most like to have a drink with - Freddie Flintoff, Jonathan Davies, Charlie Sheen

Place in the world you would most like to visit - New Zealand for the rugby culture, amazing scenery and weather

Favourite film - Top Gun

Three words that describe you best- happy, busy, committed

and finally - the sporting event that Rob would most like a ticket for is Wales v England in the Rugby World Cup Final

2019 Results:

European Championships, Sweden – gold, men’s singles (class 1)

Czech Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 1)

Slovenia Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 1); group stages, men’s teams (class 1)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – gold, men’s singles (class 1); group stages, men’s teams (class 1)

2018 Results:

World Championships, Slovenia – L16, men’s singles (class 1)

Czech Open – group stages, men’s singles (class 1)

2017 Results:

European Championships, Lasko, Slovenia – gold, men’s singles (class 1)

Czech Open – gold, men’s singles (class 1)

Bayreuth Open, Germany – gold, men’s teams (class 1); group stages, men’s singles (class 1)

Slovenia Open – silver, men’s singles (class 1)

2016 Results:

Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro - gold, men’s singles (class 1); QF men’s teams (class 1-2)

Slovakia Open - bronze, men’s singles (class 1); bronze, men’s teams (class 1)

Slovenia Open - gold, men’s singles (class 1)

2015 Results:

European Championships, Vejle, Denmark - gold, men’s singles (class 1); gold, men’s teams (class 1)

Bayreuth Open, Germany - gold, men’s teams (class 1); silver, men’s singles (class 1)

Slovakia Open - bronze, men’s teams (class 1); QF men’s singles (class 1)

Slovenia Open - silver, men’s singles (class 1); bronze, men’s teams (class 1)

2014 Results:

World Championships, Beijing, China - silver, men’s singles (class 1)

Slovakia Open - gold men’s teams (class 1); bronze, men’s singles (class 1)

Slovenia Open - gold, men’s singles (class 1); gold, men’s teams (class 1)

Career Highlights:

2019:    European Championships, Sweden – gold, men’s singles (class 1)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – gold, men’s singles (class 1

2018:    European Championships, Sweden – gold, men’s singles (class 1)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – gold, men’s singles (class 1)

2017:    European Championships, Lasko, Slovenia – gold, men’s singles (class 1)

Czech Open – gold, men’s singles (class 1)

Bayreuth Open, Germany – gold, men’s teams (class 1

2016:    Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro - gold, men’s singles (class 1)

Slovenia Open - gold, men’s singles (class 1)

2015:    European Championships, Vejle, Denmark - gold, men’s singles (class 1); gold, men’s teams (class 1)

Bayreuth Open, Germany - gold, men’s teams (class 1)

2014:    World Championships, Beijing, China - silver, men’s singles (class 1)

Slovakia Open - gold men’s teams (class 1)

Slovenia Open - gold, men’s singles (class 1); gold, men’s teams (class 1)

2013:    Belgium Open - gold, men’s singles (class 1)

European Championships, Lignano, Italy - gold, men’s singles (class 1); gold, men’s teams (class 1)

2012:    Slovakian Open - gold, men’s singles (class 1); gold, men’s teams (class 1)

2011:    European Championships, Split, Croatia - silver, men’s singles (class 1); silver, men’s teams (class 1)

British Open - gold, men’s singles (class 1)