Anita Stevenson, part of the England women’s team which finished third at the European Championships in 1980, has died at the age of 66.

Stevenson (pictured above) was from Leicestershire and as a Junior was national Girls’ Singles champion in 1974.

In the Seniors, she went on to play alongside Jill Parker, Linda Jarvis and Carole Knight at those European Championships in Berne, the same edition where John Hilton won the Men’s Singles gold.

At the National Championships, she was twice a Women’s Doubles champion, alongside Knight in 1980 and 1982, and was Women’s Singles runner-up in 1982.

In 1973, she was part of an England tour of China alongside the likes of Karenza Mathews and Andy Barden.

Below, Leicestershire’s John Bowness pays tribute to her.

We have to report the sad passing of one of Leicestershire’s most promising juniors when she made her very considerable mark in the early 1970s, firstly in local table tennis, extending this to a wonderful career as a junior in the top echelon in the country.

Eventually this was extended into senior level where she was knocking on the door close to the summit.

Just when her table tennis career was reaching towards that very top, with appearances in both England’s World Championship team in 1979 and the European team in 1980 as well as runner-up in the National Championships Women’s Singles in 1982, alas, soon after this she fell into an illness that she had to battle against for the rest of her life.

Anita Stevenson competing alongside Jill Parker (picture by David Dalby)

Born on 4 July 1956, she died just after her 66th birthday on 19 July 2022 after fighting against her illness for almost two-thirds of her life and is still remembered by many of her team-mates and opponents from her playing days with great fondness.

I had the privilege of being the Leicestershire Junior Team non-playing captain when Anita came into the side under the coaching guidance of John Ellis and took it by storm, helping the team to become one of the best junior teams in the country at the time and, at times, THE best.

A left-handed aggressive attacking player with a great deal of flair and a fierce competitiveness, my own most vivid memory of her came in around 1972 when, as non-playing captain of the Leicester Bromfield Trophy team for junior girls we had to travel down to Sittingbourne in deepest Kent for a quarter-final match – a 100-mile train journey to London, across the capital by tube and then a 50-mile train journey to Sittingbourne.

The girls with Anita and including Karen Rogers (now Smith) and Susan Baxter, did us proud as I believe the opponents were defending champions at the time. So, a full match and then three train journeys all the way back to Leicester, all in one day. That is how it was in those days and probably would not even be allowed now.

Although Leicester did not quite win this National event they did win the JM Rose Bowl for Women’s teams with Anita leading the way once again and more than ably supported by Karen Rogers and Suzanne Hunt in 1981.

It was interesting looking through my press cuttings from back then and seeing that in the 1973/74 season the indelibly linked by this time Anita and Karen were in their last season as juniors and began the season as, respectively, one and two in the national Junior rankings.

1974 saw Anita as part of the England team to play in the European Youth Championships in Germany where she, together with Karen and Carole Knight won a bronze medal.

The season before I seemed to be writing about the two girls every other week with Anita having reached number two in the National rankings with some first class results on the tournament circuit and a brilliant display in the initial 12-player trials where in typical attacking style she won the first seven sets before tasting one defeat.

What a career she had albeit much shorter than it should have been, and who knows what heights she might have achieved if tragedy had not struck so early for a very popular person, team-mate and opponent.

Additional material by Mike Smith and Peter Wilson.