IT is an extremely select group of athletes who can boast five Commonwealth Games appearances. 

Gavin Rumgay is on the verge of joining that lauded gang this summer as, twenty years on from his first appearance at the Games, he has been included in Scotland’s four-strong table tennis squad for Birmingham 2022 and so is preparing to make his fifth appearance for Team Scotland

The country’s top table tennis player is well used to making history; having won 16 national singles titles, he has set a record that is unlikely to be surpassed any time soon and as the 37-year-old heads into this summer’s Games, he believes despite being almost certain to be one of the older members of Team Scotland, he is in as good shape as ever. 

“Table tennis is a lot more physical than people often think and so for me over the past few years, it’s been about trying to keep up with the suppleness you need,” he says. 

“My form is right up there – I’ve been playing professional matches in Germany and that keeps me up to speed and gauging it from those matches, I’ve been winning a good percentage so that indicates the level is still up there.” 

Rumgay works as a coach, teaching badminton and tennis as well as table tennis in London, where he has been based for twelve years. 

And while running his own business, as well as juggling the commitments of having a young family mean his schedule is constantly jam-packed, he wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“Things are very busy – there’s not a day I have off but you’re used to that, working hard is normal. Sitting at home doing nothing feels very strange,” he says. 

“I think coaching has helped my game a lot – you break things down slightly differently and it makes you think about things which can help your own game. 

“And I think a lot of the reason for my longevity is that I enjoy it – I really enjoy competing whether it’s on the world tour or around the UK.” 

Rumgay’s best-ever Commonwealth Games result to date has been reaching the last 16 in singles in both 2014 and 2018 – who can forget his famous “wedgie” celebration at Glasgow 2014? – and he is targeting at least matching that in Birmingham.  

However, he admits the disappointment of his long-term coach not being given the opportunity to travel with him to Birmingham is far from ideal and he will have to use every ounce of his experience to minimise the damage he is concerned that decision might cause. 

“Over the last year, I’ve not played as many World Tour events and my ranking has slipped but despite that, it’s looking like I’ll get into the top 16 seeds which makes a huge difference,” he says. 

“That’ll mean I’ll start in the last 64 which makes a difference. The past two Games I’ve made the last 16 and that’s the initial aim for Birmingham and then we’ll see. 

“There is only one thing that’s not positive; I’ve worked with my coach Miles Ross down in London for years but a coach has been selected to go who I’ve never worked with before. It’s an example of the athletes not being at the centre of the decision. 

“It’s a niggle, for sure, although it’s absolutely nothing against the coach who is going. 

“It’s disappointing that in a tournament that comes around once every four years, this has happened.” 

Despite having been Scotland’s best player for almost two decades, Rumgay admits retirement is still not at the forefront of his mind. 

He believes he has the potential to play well into his forties, although he acknowledges he may choose to hang up his racket before that, but the Scottish number one is not considering calling it quits just yet. 

“Going forward, I’ll keep my options open and not make any rash decisions because often, players retire and then make a comeback, which I don’t want to do. 

“I’m sure I could play for Scotland for another eight or ten years – although I’ll probably choose not to but I think I could continue on for quite a while longer going on how I’m currently feeling. 

“I’ll see how my form is and then you never know, I could maybe squeeze in another Commonwealth Games.” 

Rumgay’s three-year-old daughter, Amber, will be in the stands in Birmingham and already, she is showing glimpses of having inherited her father’s table tennis genes. 

But, Rumgay admits, he would prefer her to pick up a tennis racket than a table tennis one if possible. 

“Having Amber there was part of the motivation to get to Birmingham – and it’ll be exciting for her too,” he says. 

“She’s already picked up a racket – I’ve got a video of her before she’d even turned two and she could comfortably hit the ball.  

“I’d like her to be involved in tennis - with table tennis, I don’t really want her to have that pressure of going into the same sport I’ve been in.  

“But hopefully she just finds a sport she enjoys.”