World-class Para Tennis Table player from the New Forest pleads for financial help to keep competing
WATCH ITV News Meridian's Andrew Pate attempting to return one of Simon Heaps' serves.
One of the world's best Para Tennis Table players may have to give up the sport despite being in the best form of his life.
Simon Heaps, from Milford on Sea near Lymington, says he'll have to give up if he doesn't get any financial backing.
The 67-year-old competes for Great Britain around the world but is self funded and says he's desperate for help.
He was 8 years old when he first played table tennis at the Reading YMCA, where his dad was head coach.
Simon Heaps went on to be a European champion at the age of 14 but, over the last four years, he's had both legs amputated.
"The doctors now know a lot more about diabetes. I now wear a patch on my arm which goes straight through to my phone and my watch which tells me how my blood sugar levels are. Unfortunately after 53, 54 years that came too late so I lost my right leg on May 29th 2019, knowing full well that I might lose my left leg."
Simon had his left leg amputated last year but he's made sure none of this got in the way of his table tennis career.
"For me it was a second birth. As soon as I lost my right leg it gave me the impetus to play wheelchair table tennis and I knew that if I could control my wheelchair and with my previous experience I had a chance of playing internationally again."
The 67-year-old has had a spectacular year. He's now ranked number 2 in Great Britain, winning medals at all but one of the international tournaments he's competed at.
"I don't think there's too many sports where people win European titles 52 years apart. Something I'm very proud of, of course."
Although Simon represents Great Britain, he's entirely self funded and he's set up a GoFundMe page to support his efforts.
"I'm in a real dilemma. I'm playing the best table tennis of my life. My biggest competition I've got is finance. If I don't have the finance I can't get to these events and I just won't be able to play."
He hopes to be selected to represent Great Britain at the European Para Table Tennis Championships in September but knows the fight away from the table will be just as important as the one on it.