Rafael Nadal is fuelling Craig Allen’s pursuit of a memorable hometown Commonwealth Games. Bromsgrove’s para-table tennis star has enjoyed success on both the domestic and international stage, scooping medals in Mexico, Romania and Spain on a globetrotting tour in his Class 9 category.
The Commonwealth Games will be held in Birmingham in 2022 and Craig says it’s Spain, not Solihull or Selly Oak, from where he’s sourcing inspiration.
“I really look up to Rafael Nadal,” said Craig, 25, who is financially supported by Entain and SportsAid through the Pitching In initiative. “He’s an absolute workhorse – his coaches say the hardest thing about him is not getting him to work, it’s the opposite, it’s getting him to not work.
“He pushes himself so hard that they need to try and stop him getting injuries so in terms of work ethic, I look up to someone like Rafael Nadal.
“I want to put in the hours to things that aren’t necessarily on the table - I go to the gym three or four times a week, and it’s about those extra things that not necessarily everybody will see.”
Craig first honed his craft at Arrow Vale Table Tennis Club before scaling the international heights and suffers from undiagnosed dysmorphic syndrome.
His career on the table has soared and with Birmingham 2022 looming, he says nothing would be more special than an evocative hometown glory.
“Disability table tennis has now been confirmed as being part of the Games - and living in Bromsgrove, it would essentially be like a hometown Games,” added Craig, who is following the same SportsAid pathway as Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sir Mo Farah and Dina Asher-Smith.
“It would be amazing and a great achievement and honour - that’s my main ambition in the future, followed by the Paralympics in 2024.”
Entain announced a three-year partnership with SportsAid in 2019 to help talented young athletes, just like Craig, realise their potential and pursue their sporting ambitions.
The investment provides funding for training, travel and equipment, and allows athletes to access mentoring by Olympians and Paralympians on topics such as nutrition, media and sports psychology.
“The work SportsAid has been doing over lockdown has been helpful - they've helped to provide me with structure. They put on interviews with Leon Taylor and other high-profile athletes in sport.
“Some of them have been through long-term injuries, similarly to being in lockdown, so they could share those experiences with us and we could make the most out of that.
“It’s incredible to follow in the footsteps, and an honour, to be in a group with those people and to have gone through the same system," he added.
“You see people who have gone through that system and what they’ve achieved off the back of it - and it makes you aware of what you can possibly achieve as well.”
Entain is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. Please visit https://entaingroup.com/entain-foundation/sportsaid-partnership/ to find out more.