On Wednesday 11th November 1970 a girl was born in the cotton town of Radcliffe, in the metropolitan borough of Bury, Lancashire to Maureen and Wilton Holt. She was the third child preceded by two brothers and was christened Andrea Mary.
At the age of seven, her father - Wilton - who was a strong local league player, introduced her to table tennis and began to practice with her. Wilton was a builder and he constructed for the family home a large bungalow in Ramsbottom, to which he attached a double garage to accommodate a table tennis table. At eleven years of age, Andrea was presented with a combination bat and she was introduced to “twiddling” by her doting father. She rapidly developed into a remarkable player who at the age of thirteen, simultaneously became English national cadet and junior champion!
In addition to her father, the formidable Chinese defensive artist - Chen Xinhua taught her the nuances of combination bat strategy, which she employed in her all round style based on defence, combined with a strong forehand attack.
In 1992 she was invited to play professionally for the French club Mondeville and after a while she moved to Montpellier and finally teamed up with Helen Lower at the Lille club.
Her career achievements include being selected for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and the Atlanta games in 1996, which Andrea describes as being “the ultimate experience for any sports person”. She collected three European team bronze medals, four Commonwealth team silvers and amassed a total of five English national women’s singles titles.
In 1995 at Thornaby Pavilion, she reached the final of the English Open, where she succumbed to the talented Dutch woman - Bettine Vriesekoop. As a result of this performance she was presented with the Victor Barna Award “for the outstanding performance by an England player on the international stage”.
Following more than a decade in France, Andrea retired from competition in 2006 having begun her career in table tennis development when she was selected for the post of ETTA regional development officer for the North West in 2004.
Andrea’s academic capabilities had already shone through as she gained seven ‘O’ levels at school, which ultimately led her to achieve a BTEC National Diploma in Sports Science with distinction at Hopwood Hall College and a 1st class honours degree in Sport Development from the University of Bolton in 2006.
Andrea is a UKCC level 2 coach and she expresses disappointment that female coaches are overlooked as non-playing captains for the national women’s team. “There is scant encouragement for women to pursue a career in coaching, yet there are many former England international players who can relate to the women’s game and do a professional job”. She went on to say “female teachers are often role models for girl students but they don’t play our sport, hence the disproportionate lack of girls who play table tennis”.
In 2016, Sheffield was afforded “priority zone” status by Table Tennis England in order to reinvigorate the sport in our City, Andrea teamed up with Rob Loxley - Sheffield League Development Officer - in order to set up new table tennis initiatives in Sheffield. Projects at the Workstation, Moorfoot, Birley Academy, High Storrs, Rainbow Forge, Pond’s Forge, the Institute of Sport and Wadsley Bridge were encouraged by Andrea and received the support of the then Lord Mayor, councillor Denise Fox.
Andrea was instrumental in progressing two successful UKCC level 1coaching courses in Sheffield and two “activator” seminars. She still oversees some of the continuing projects and is currently working on a BETT initiative with Rob and Alan Lowe.
Having a four year old daughter - Olivia, leaves Andrea with a dearth of spare time but she enjoys a round of golf and it’s hardly surprising that this self-proclaimed perfectionist has a six handicap!
We have been fortunate to have had access to the expertise which Andrea has shared with us in Sheffield and I hope that our ability to work together continues.
On behalf of the Sheffield league, I thank this talented Lancastrian for her valuable contributions and assiduous approach to the development of our sport over the past three years - and that’s who Andrea Holt is!
Press Officer - SYCTTA