Sports

Commonwealth Games 2022 Diary: 62-Year-Old Table Tennis Coach, Steve Reilly, Turns Player To Carry Family Tradition

In the 1938 edition, Steve Reilly’s father, Jim Reilly, competed in the boxing event representing Scotland. Steve will represent Fiji in the Commonwealth Games 2022.

Action during a table tennis match at the Commonwealth Games 2022.
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In a remarkable story, Steve Reilly, an England-born Fiji table tennis coach, has turned player at the age of 62, to continue a family tradition and realise his father's dream at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

As many as 84 years ago, Steve's father Jim had boxed in the 1938 British Empires Games, now called the Commonwealth Games. Jim Reilly boxed for Scotland from 1936-43 and his son Steve still remembers the Games uniform he brought home.

In his honour, Steve will take part in the table tennis event at Birmingham 2022, wearing the 1936 Scottish Boxing Championships medal (pictured) his father won while playing for Fiji.

“As a kid, one of my big memories was his blazer with the embroidered Empire Games emblem on it. It was beautifully stitched - not like a school badge, it had really nice gold stitching,” said Steve. For his adopted country, Steve will take part in the men's singles, mixed doubles and team event.

Steve had explored boxing and diving as well in his younger days. “My dad started me in boxing and other sports at 10 years old. I started to focus on table tennis when I joined the Royal Navy at 17, and served for 22 years as an electronics technician and a diver.

“On leaving the navy I wanted to make diving my career and chose diving training rather than commercial diving on oil rigs,” he added.

How did the move to Fiji happen? “While working in Florida, I was approached to take my diving teaching skills to Fiji. A two-month contract turned to three, six and then permanent. I've been a Fijian citizen since 2009.”

Steve was born to Scottish parents in England after his mother, a Protestant, married his father, a Catholic.

“They had to run away to England to marry and have me because my grandad wouldn't accept their (mixed religion) relationship. We came back for me to go to primary school in Scotland,” Steve recalled.

He now refers to his home on the Pacific Ocean island as 'Little Scotland". “They have a clan system the same as Scotland, and Fijians wear sulus, the equivalent of the kilt. I am helping to develop the next generation of table tennis players mainly through coaching,” he added.

While coaching, Steve turned down previous offers to compete at the Games. “I am sorry I turned it down before, but it was worth the wait and my family are really proud that I have made it here,” he added.  

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