RGU scholar Gold Coast bound as Dalgleish reaches the top table9 February 2018
Robert Gordon’s University Accounting and Finance fourth-year, Colin Dalgleish, is the new face in Team Scotland’s men’s table tennis team bound for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
The 23-year-old from Ecclesmachan in West Lothian has competed at a World University Games but this will be the first time he dons the Team Scotland strip.
He joins Perth’s Gavin Rumgay who returns for a fourth Commonwealth Games and Edinburgh’s Craig Howieson who makes his third Games appearance.
Scotland had met its men’s team qualifying standard, of being a top 6 nation Commonwealth nation for three consecutive months, early on in the January 2017 to March 2018 selection window.
After that it was a case of deciding which three would make the team. Dalgleish explains the highly-ranked Rumgay was “a sure pick” and Howieson “the stalwart at number two and a clear choice.”
But the final place became a battle ground for a group of mainly up and coming youngsters which gradually whittled down to three, then one, with Dalgleish edging out two of the Glasgow 2014 team, Sean Doherty and veteran Niall Cameron.
In Glasgow, Scotland’s men finished fifth in the team event. So how does Dalgleish see their chances this time around?
“You’d like to think we would get to the knockouts and be pushing for a final spot and give ourselves a chance of having a crack against one of the top nations in the quarter finals,” he said.
“You never know what will happen if we are all playing well. We’ll in the best shape possible, at the top of our games and looking to push everybody to their limits.”
A member of North Ayrshire TTC for the past six years, Dalgleish shares a strong connection with his two older team mates. All three are former tennis players before fixing their attention on the table-based form of the sport.
It was as a nine-year-old that Dalgleish was encouraged by his older brother to join him at the table in the basement of the family home.
He made good progress, beginning to train with the national squad in his early teens. Aged 16 he developed a love for the game, realised he had potential and began working hard.
But it wasn’t until later, when he began studying at Robert Gordon’s, that he was fully smitten and decided to be the best he could be.
“In my last year of juniors I won the Scottish and British Junior Championships in the space of two weeks and at that point I knew I could achieve dreams if I worked hard, then, when I came up here to Aberdeen, I decided to push myself to the limits,” explained the player who has won five Scottish Open titles over the past two seasons.
“A lot of people say coming up to Aberdeen has made me. When you are away from home you find out whether the sport is just a hobby or if you want to push yourself more and achieve dreams. So it’s all worked out well.”
Aberdeen is a fair hike from other players in the central belt. And funding cuts to the sport following the Glasgow Games have added their challenges. But Dalgleish is both determined and resourceful. And Robert Gordon’s has leant its support.
“The university is a great place to study and very supportive,” said Dalgleish who is in the fourth and likely to be final year of his Accounting and Finance degree.
“The employability rate is really high, around 92 percent, and they give you relevant industry experience with third year placements in business degrees, which is vital.
“They give me time off for my table tennis when I need it and flexibility with deadlines. They are understanding with the Commonwealth Games and have come up with study plans.
“The sports scholarships are supportive and cover S&C and physio. I get the hall and studio for free when I want and all facilities I need. So I can’t ask for anything more from the university.”
The addition of support Scotland’s from national sports scholarships programme, Winning Students, has proven a life-saver for a sport where athletes in Scotland largely have to fend for themselves.
Through Winning Students, 150 student athletes receive funding support and the academic flexibility required to perform at the highest level in sport and studies.
Eighteen Scottish universities and 25 colleges form the Winning Students network with the programme funded by the Scottish Funding Council. Students at network colleges and universities benefit from a dedicated co-ordinator to ensure they can balance their studies and sport effectively.
“Winning Students support has enabled me to bring down a top British coach (Stephen Gersten), from Inverness for extra training and coaching. I’ve not been coached properly for three years and he’s really helped my game on.
“Financially it’s tough when you are supporting yourself and apart from Winning Students and the university I don’t get any funding.
“But Winning Students has given me the opportunity to go abroad to competitions in Guernsey, Luxembourg and Finland too.
“There are hidden costs in playing competitions so to be able to keep playing these competitions and doing well has helped me get selected for the Commonwealth Games.
“The Winning Students support has been unbelievable and I’m so thankful for that.”