Tony West has reflected on a ‘phenomenal’ weekend that saw him emulate a Rocky movie, to star at the World Championship of Ping Pong.
The 44-year-old travelled to Alexandra Palace in North London on Saturday as nothing more than a reluctant spectator, there to support a friend, after failing to clinch one of four competitor berths at the qualifiers in Harlow weeks earlier.
However, after discovering a French competitor had dropped out and by chance having his kit packed in the boot of his car, West miraculously found himself facing Billy Pegg in the first match of the group eliminations as one of 128 competitors battling it out for a share of the $100,000 prize fund.
An unexpected 2-1 victory proved the catalyst for the Mildenhall resident’s almost unbelievable tale, with a 2-0 win over Harry Kruizenga ensuring his progression from his elimination group.
A place in the last 32 awaited and an encounter against Serbia’s Attila Koszo.
Another upset followed as West rallied to a 2-0 success, sealing a place in the last 16 and a chance to star in front of the Sky Sports cameras on the main table.
“It was a mad situation to be in because I was so devastated at not qualifying I almost didn’t go at all because I couldn’t face it,” admitted West.
“Being the highest-ranked player available I was called into the championship.
“I ran out to the car, where I luckily had my kit and went straight on to play in the first round.
“I only took my kit with me in case and in hope of a miracle, praying last minute something might happen, thank God I did.”
Despite not having any expectations, West was now fully caught up in the whirlwind of the king of sporting spectacle Barry Hearn’s new initiative to take the once docile dining-room pastime of table tennis into an all-action must-watch television event.
Walking out among the dazzle of flashing lights, thumping music and the vociferous capacity crowd, West himself conceded the unfamiliar environment may have affected him as he crashed out in a 2-0 defeat to Richard Gonzales of the Philippines.
Despite that, West will always have unforgettable memories of a unexpected experience that thrust him in front of the live Sky Sports cameras and netted him a $2,000 windfall.
“It was a phenomenal experience and to be part of the atmosphere was just incredible,” he added.
“Playing live on Sky was amazing, I had people chanting my name, the place went just mental.
“Overall it was the most amazing experience ever, the atmosphere was just phenomenal and to play among some of the best players in the world was fantastic.”