Martin Perry is an internationally recognised para table tennis player of extraordinary talent, dedication and focus.
Three years ago, Brand Oath were so impressed and inspired by him that they immediately wanted to help. To that end, they provided the GB Performance athlete – currently ranked No 22 in the world – with a new brand identity to help increase his profile and encourage sponsorship.
With the Tokyo Paralympic Games next year, the Paisley player is now stepping up his efforts to fulfil his dream of competing at a first-ever Games – and is seeking further support on his journey. Read Martin’s remarkable story…
I was born with Congenital Limb Deformity / Loss. This resulted in me only having one fully formed limb. No hands, and almost half of my left leg were missing at birth. However, sport was thrust upon me from a very early age, growing up in the west of Scotland. I had even less opportunity of shying away from sport with three older brothers. They had me out playing football, basketball and everything that kids do. As brothers, you get very competitive and I had that attitude instilled in me growing up.
At school, PE was one of my favourite lessons, giving me the opportunity to almost disregard my disability and play sport like everyone else. Hitting adolescence, at high school, I tried to channel that in a more specific way. I played football for an ambulant disability club for around six years and I really enjoyed it. But there didn’t seem a pathway to progress to playing for my country at the Paralympics, as was the same with rugby and basketball.
Someone from Scottish Disability Sport heard about me in the local paper. They contacted the school and wanted to find out what else I could do. Around 16, I went along to a summer camp and from there I tried a lot of sports. On the last day, there was table tennis. I was atrocious on day one but it’s probably the most fun I’ve had playing sport. It was so quick and fast-paced and looking around the hall,there were able bodied Scottish champions to guys like myself with no hands. Everyone was able to play, enjoy it and have fun. For me, the grey area between disability and ability was covered. I thought ‘wow, everyone really can play this sport’.
With no hands, fashioning a career in table tennis was going to be difficult but not impossible.
When I first started, on that day at the summer camp, I was almost strapped with a dishcloth and Velcro wrapped around my arm and the bat. It almost just about stuck together. We had different experiments, but reached out to the GB coaching staff for advice and with video footage I went to the old Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. They fashioned some upper arm models and on I went, playing with the aid of two prosthetics.
Attending London 2012 as a fan provided all the motivation Martin needed.
It was so inspiring. Watching people I knew win medals, it made me sit up and take notice that the sport can really take you places. From there, I really pushed and dedicated myself, from university onwards. I’ve never lost sight of my dreams and maintained a positive attitude.
I’ve gone on to win Scottish Championships, the West of Scotland Open, the North of Scotland Open, British Championships, European Championships, the US Open and won a medal at the World Team Championships. I now train with the GB Performance squad every day, full-time in Sheffield. I want to keep going, as it’s an absolutely fantastic feeling. There are iconic images and names on the walls of our training facility and it just drives me on to do more. The medals are fantastic from years of hard work, but I don’t want it to stop.
Dependent on your previous success as an athlete and your ranking, you receive a level of funding. With 16 athletes and eight members of staff within Martin’s squad, going around the world every few months is very expensive.
It’s a 6,000-mile trip one way to Tokyo. So I’ve set up a ‘Buy A Mile’ sponsorship page where people can support me. The funding I’m trying to raise is basically to cover everything the programme can’t. For example, thanks to donations, I’ve been able to fund the Italian and Spanish Open in March.
Now aged 24 and recently married to Sionbhain, Brand Oath are right behind Martin, providing branding on his shirt which can be displayed at UK events.
To be associated not just with a respected agency, but one in Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, is something I love. I’m the only Scottish athlete in the GB performance team. I feel like I know Bernie and Julie (Shaw-Binns) well, they are great people, and it’s great to have the home support from them behind me. I’ve worked with them for three years and it’s been a fantastic relationship. They have a real versatility to them which I just love.
I’m going to do everything I possibly can for Tokyo in 2020. I gave it my best for 2016, but it probably came around too early for me. I believe I can get there in 2020, but it’s not going to come easy and be handed to me. I’ve got to get the results, starting in March.
You can help follow Martin’s progress and help support him here: https://martin-perry.co.uk/