Table tennis coach is in the running to land new prize at Leeds Sports Awards

Peter Thompson.
Peter Thompson.

For Peter Thompson, a love of table tennis is in the blood.

Peter’s mum, Kathleen Best, was one of the game’s leading lights during the 1950s and 1960s, playing for England all over the world, while his dad, Alan, was her husband and coach.

Peter, 55, from Otley, admits he is “not in their league” when it comes to the art of spinning, smashing and serving – but that hasn’t stopped him making his own impressive mark on the sport.

He trained as a table tennis coach three years ago and since then has been working tirelessly to spread the word about the game’s benefits.

The dad-of-three runs regular sessions that are designed to encourage residents in underprivileged parts of Leeds to become more active.

Peter has also devised a form of the game – called Adapted Ping Pong Activities (APPA) – for the elderly and people with disabilities that he takes into care homes and community centres with support from Leeds City Council and Public Health.

Those efforts have now earned him a nomination for the new Leeds Cares Award being given out at this year’s edition of the Leeds Sports Awards.

And today, as part of a weekly focus on the Leeds Cares Award nominees running during the build-up to the ceremony, the Yorkshire Evening Post is saluting his selfless contribution to the city’s sporting life.

Asked for his reaction to being nominated, Peter modestly told the YEP: “It was a huge surprise and an honour – I’m sure there are many others who should be there instead of me.

“I don’t like to make a fuss about what I do, it’s a privilege to be able to go into these care homes and so on and run the APPA sessions.

“We have people playing who are in wheelchairs, we have people who’ve had strokes, who are coping with dementia.

“We have blind people playing with special larger balls and we also sometimes put nets down the sides of the tables, a bit like when you have the barriers up on the lanes at a bowling alley.”

Peter, who has also worked with a Table Tennis England engagement project called Ping!, added: “What I want to do now is take APPA to many more people and use it to stimulate them and break down social isolation.

“It’s not just about the games themselves, it’s about a philosophy and giving everyone a feeling that they can do things.”

The Leeds Sports Awards ceremony is being held at the First Direct Arena on Thursday, February 28.

The Yorkshire Evening Post-backed Leeds Cares Award category has been introduced in conjunction with Leeds Cares, a charity dedicated to improving healthcare services for patients across Yorkshire.

Nominees joining Peter on the shortlist include Leeds Gymnastics Club, Otley Sailing Club and the Leeds Girls Can Ambassadors.

The list was drawn up by YEP editor Hannah Thaxter with Sarah Griffin from Leeds Cares and Sally Nickson from Leeds Beckett University,

Other categories at the event include outstanding service to sport and service to PE & school sport.

High-profile figures in the running for prizes include Leeds United’s Marcelo Bielsa, medal-winning gymnast Nile Wilson and boxing champions Josh Warrington and Nicola Adams.