IT was love at first sight for Tredegar table tennis star Chloe Thomas, who first picked up a bat aged nine and hasn’t put it down since.

She got fed up of travelling with her parents to pick up older brother Patrick from his training sessions as a youngster, so decided to step up to the table herself.

Having instantly developed a passion for the game, it soon became apparent she had the talent to match and a Wales call-up came within just three years.

At the age of 16, Thomas left school to concentrate on table tennis full-time and went on to make the national squad for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

She replicated that feat on the Gold Coast, and the four-time World Championship contender is still driven by her love of the game.

Thomas, 25, who is due to make her second appearance at the World University Games in Naples this week, said: “One day I just had a go and that was it.

“I’d just go with my parents to pick up my brother and then I started playing as well. I entered a few competitions, then gradually went from competing for my club to playing for my county and then the whole country.

“I moved to Sweden to play full-time and managed to make the Commonwealths and the Worlds, but as I started to get a bit older I decided to go back to education.”

Thomas graduates from Bournemouth University this summer, having studied nutrition, and she explains the course gave her the perfect chance to study and maintain her standard of table tennis.

Having competed at the last edition of the World University Games in Taipei – where she made the last 32 in the women’s singles – the 2016 BUCS champion is relishing the chance to pit her wits against the world’s best students once again.

She said: “I was training in Bournemouth, so the course gave me the chance to stay where I was and keep up my level in the sport.

“After my second year of uni I took the year out following the World University Games and moved to China for six months to practice full-time ahead of the Commonwealths in Australia.

“I can’t wait for Naples, it’s the second biggest event after the Olympics and it was such an amazing experience last time. Being surrounded by so many different athletes from different sports and countries is brilliant, and the standard is also so high.

“The highest ranked player there last time was top eight in the world, so there are professional-level players in the field. I prioritised my studies this year, but I've just come back from China where I’ve been practicing for a month, so I’m raring to go.

“In table tennis, we’re normally split up into the separate home nations, so it’s a privilege to play for the whole of Great Britain.

“This is definitely up there with my Commonwealth and World Championship experiences, and I’m massively proud to be involved.”

While acknowledging the competition in Italy will be tough, Thomas admits she isn’t sure what lies in store for her after the Games.

She said: “With table tennis now, I don’t know. I’m getting older and I’m going to need a job and an income.

“I’d like to pursue something in nutrition, and maybe do a masters in sports nutrition. I still want to play table tennis as much as possible, whether that’s for Wales or just for myself.

“I’m not sure long-term but I’m just looking forward to the World University Games and then whatever may come after that.”

British Universities & Colleges Sport is the national governing body for higher education sport in the UK, organising leagues and competitions for more than 150 institutions across 52 sports. For more information visit