Murrayfield Table Tennis Club have a rare asset within their squad as 13-year-old Chris Wheeler continues to show there is no end to his natural ability.
The Edinburgh and Lothians Table Tennis Premier Division side have virtually assured the championship title for a second consecutive year after recently defeating nearest challengers North Merchiston 1, an achievement spearheaded by their talented teen and No. 1 player.
The Braes High pupil, who resides just outside Falkirk, is a regular visitor to the Capital through his club commitments where, despite his age, he also attends Scotland’s senior (18+) national training two-to-three times per week. However, it is a journey he has become fond of as he continues to strengthen his position as the country’s most promising individual.
Chris said: “I’ve been playing with Murrayfield for about three years now where I haven’t lost a league match for two seasons. I want to try and keep that record going, but it’s more important just to win the games. Just last week we won the match that should win us the title for this year so it will be our second year of winning it. It’s not the main thing for me at the moment but it’s nice to have these titles as well.
“I am really enjoying the Scotland training at the moment too and am the youngest by quite a bit. I am ranked at No. 12 in Scotland for senior men, so I would need to break into the top six before I could play for Scotland at that level, but I am only 13. I am one of the least experienced players there, so it’s about getting used to playing at a higher standard but I am determined to improve.”
His first interaction with the sport at the age of six, Chris’ career with the bat and ball has progressed perhaps faster than he would have envisaged with the youngster showing little signs of naivety at these early stages of his career. Regularly pitched against opponents well beyond his years in both age and experience, Chris was recently crowned Scottish Under 15 champion in addition to powering his way to first in the Six Nations Championships down in Preston.
Reflecting on his victory down in Lancashire, Chris said: “It’s definitely the best tournament I’ve won. We had a good chance in the team event but finished second behind England so it was quite difficult to wipe that disappointment, but I think I managed to step it up on the Sunday to win the singles championship.
“I think some of the opponents I play whether it is in competitions or with Murrayfield get distracted because of my age as they think they should be beating me.”
Chris’ aptitude has not gone unnoticed further afield. He was selected by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) to represent their World Hopes Team where he has had team-mates from Canada, Hong Kong and Trinidad and Tobago. Whilst future aspirations of the sport extend into a professional capacity, the youngster is taking one step at a time and remains focused on delivering on an academic front in the meantime.
Chris added: “I went over to Sweden for trials for the Hopes team, where everyone was tested. They then selected the boy who was the best and they thought I had the most potential out of everyone. I have since been to training camps in Korea, Barcelona and Austria with them so it’s been really good.
“I want to stay in Scotland just now and achieve my Highers, but then hopefully I can go and play full-time as a professional abroad. Countries like Germany and France have big professional leagues, so it would be good to go over there and give it a try.
“If I think I’ve got the chance of making a living out of it then great but I want my school results to fall back on if not.”