History maker Stephanie Chan heading to Rio for table tennis

At age 50, Stephanie Chan set herself a goal. She gave herself 10 years to make the Paralympics.

On Tuesday she came in right on schedule.

Chan will make history in Rio de Janeiro later this year, when she becomes Canada’s first female table tennis Paralympian since Martha Johnson in 1984,

“So excited and happy, I don’t believe it,” she said from her training base in Nova Scotia this week.

The 59-year-old’s selection for the 2016 Games this September was confirmed Tuesday in an announcement by The Canadian Paralympic Committee and Table Tennis Canada.

Chan stamped her ticket last summer, winning the gold medal in the women’s class 7 singles at the Parapan American Games in Toronto. It was a sweet victory for the Richmond, B.C. native, after taking silver in both the 2007 and 2011 editions of the pancontinental event.

Stephanie Chan celebrates after winning the Gold Medal in Women's Singles Class at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games
Stephanie Chan celebrates after winning the Gold Medal in Women’s Singles Class at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games

Now, she heads to Rio as the first Canadian ranked in the top-10 in the sport to compete at the Paralympic Games.

“This is my dream,” said the right-handed player who picked up the game at age 44. “I’m 59 years old and I can go to the Paralympics.

“I will do my best to take silver or bronze. The gold is difficult.”

Ranked 10th in the world, Chan will be accompanied by Table Tennis Canada’s para head coach John MacPherson, who is one of only four Canadians ever, including Chan, to compete in the event at the Paralympic level. The Dartmouth, Nova Scotia native attended the Sydney Games in 2000 and believes Chan can inspire a new generation.

‘’This is the first time that we ever had a player ranked in the top-10 compete at the Paralympic Games,’’ said MacPherson. “Stephanie has the potential for excellent results in Rio and I know she will be an inspiration to those who follow her in the future.’’

Chan, who will also be joined by her sister and 30-year-old son in Brazil, hopes she will be the first of many.

“I think this is the beginning,” she said. “Maybe in the future there will be many women because they see that even at this age, you can play table tennis.”

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