Rio Paralympics 2016: From rugby injury to Paralympic glory, Rob Davies wins table tennis gold

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From bricklayer to table tennis star
Paralympic Games on the BBC
Venue: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Dates: 7-18 September Time in Rio: BST -4
Coverage: Live updates, video clips, medal table, results and news alerts, catch-up service, plus commentary on BBC Radio 5 live. Television coverage on Channel 4.

Rob Davies laid bricks during the week and flattened out the opposition playing for Brecon RFC at the weekend.

Then 21, he had spent the summer of 2005 training and labouring hard as a semi-professional rugby player in Wales.

But his and his family's life changed on a September day that year.

It was Brecon's first match of the season. Rob's twin brother Richard was travelling to cheer his sibling on.

However, Richard didn't make the first whistle and Rob failed to hear the final one. Both were airlifted to hospital by the same helicopter within half an hour of each other.

En route to the match, Richard's car was involved in a head-on collision with another vehicle and he was fortunate to escape with only cuts and bruises.

Rob was at the centre of a collapsed scrum and told he was unlikely to regain movement in either his arms or legs after a serious spinal cord injury.

A chance meeting at Cardiff's Rookwood Hospital while going through rehabilitation changed his life for the better.

Sara Head - a Wales Para-table tennis player - was volunteering at the hospital and convinced an initially reluctant Davies to take up the sport.

"I didn't want to go at first, but my mum dragged me along because she thought it would be good therapy for me," Davies told Wales Online in 2013.

"She was right. It really gave me what I needed, namely something to focus all my attention on."

Davies was hooked. He even developed his own unique playing chair which allowed him to make use of his left arm for greater stability.

Rob Davies and Sam Warburton
Davies met Wales rugby union captain Sam Warburton at this year's Grand National

He made the Great Britain team for London 2012 but failed to progress out of the group stages into the knockout rounds.

Davies had intended that to be the final act of his table tennis career but he was drawn back to the table.

"I didn't expect to win a medal as much as I wanted one at a home Games and I was pretty gutted for a few months. But you get the hunger and want to improve," he said.

He did exactly that, becoming European champion in 2013 and world silver medallist in 2014 before retaining his European crown and climbing to the world one ranking in 2015.

His hard work has been rewarded.

A cagey four-set win over Hungary's Endre Major in the semi-finals means the 31-year-old will go for gold against Korean Young Dae Joo in the class 1 final on Tuesday at 15:45 BST.

How did he do? Davies clinched gold with a 3-1 win in the final.

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