TRIBUTES have been paid to Helen Hamilton, the only Scot to have won a table tennis world title, after she died days before her 86th birthday.
Born as Helen Elliott in Edinburgh in January 1927, she first took up the sport aged 16 at the Dalry First Aid Post, then at Murrayfield Tennis club before moving on to the Gambit Club.
She caught the table tennis bug while playing ping-pong in an air-raid shelter during the Second World War.
When her father was killed in an accident in 1943, Helen was forced to quit school and take a job as a medical secretary at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
But it was table tennis where she soon made her mark, winning the women’s singles titles in 1946 at both the Scottish and Irish Open championships, before landing her first Scotland cap in 1947 in Paris.
Helen then went on to twice win the ladies’ doubles at the World Championships – alongside Hungary’s Gizella Farkas in 1949 and partnering English player Dora Bergei in 1950 – and remains the only Scot ever to do so.
She added to her World Championship medal tally in 1952, when she won bronze in the doubles event with Austria’s Ermelinda Wert.
The World University Games in Warsaw in 1955 saw Helen back on the podium after she teamed up with Romania’s Angelica Rozeanu to land gold before losing out to her partner in the singles final.
At home, she claimed 13 Scottish Open singles titles and won national championships in Germany, Holland and Belgium.
She was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 for her achievements and contribution to promoting table tennis throughout Scotland.
Louise Martin, who is the chair of sportscotland and a member of the hall of fame selection panel, said: “As the only table tennis player ever to be inducted into the hall of fame, her wonderful accomplishments will forever be remembered.
“Helen Hamilton was a wonderful sporting talent and it is with great sadness that we mourn her passing.”
Despite her international reputation, Helen devoted much of her time to coaching youngsters, spending time at Butlins holiday camps throughout the UK, and was honorary president of the Scottish Table Tennis Association, now known as Table Tennis Scotland.
She is survived by her only daughter, Suzie.
Lindsay Muir, president of Murrayfield Tennis Club, said: “My earliest memories of Helen are in the 70s, of her coaching me as a junior at Meadowbank Stadium.
“Over the past 30 years being a coach myself, Helen was always very interested on how Edinburgh youngsters were progressing and always gave warm encouragement and advice.
“She will be sadly missed by the table tennis community in Scotland, but will always be fondly remembered.”