They were not considered medallists at the 2016 ITTF World Junior Championships but they made their impact in front of the home fans with their beautiful display which was greeted by applauds by the spectators at the Grand West Event Centre in Cape Town.
This aptly described the experience of the South African girls’ team led by Lekeasha Johnson after managing to improve their rating by finishing in 19th place ahead of Fiji on the overall rating of the girls’ team event.
“We came into this competition with the intention of learning from the top players and I think we have been able to do that. Also, for the first time, we played as a team and we were united in defeat and victory. As the lowly rated team in the competition, it was amazing that we did not finish last as we improve our ranking from 20 to 19. This alone showed that we have improved individually and as a team. Hosting the championship also afforded us the opportunity to see some of the world’s best and pick something from their style of play,” Lekeasha said.
For 16-year-old SIVNARAIN Keshmika, the tournament serves as a good exposure for them as they never had the opportunity to compete in such tournament. “We have seen and assessed our performance against the top teams and this has shown us that we need to continue to work harder. This competition is indeed a good exposure for us and this has also gave up a lot of confidence that with hardwork in years to come we can start rub shoulders with the world’s best,” SIVNARAIN Keshmika.
14-year-old KALAM Musfiquh is particularly thrilled by the quality of play of the top players, which she admitted she would replicate in her training. “As the second youngest player in this competition, I have never played in this kind of atmosphere before but with what I watched in this competition, I think I am thrilled and believing that when I get back to my training I will practice what I leant. When the competition started I was a bit nervous but as it progresses I gained confidence and this is one quality I have picked up from this championship. Now I can be focused and play with any player regardless of her status in the world. As a member of the team, we bonded together during every match and we also supported one another and that is another thing we have been able to achieve with this competition,” KALAM Musfiquh said.
Unlike her compatriots – 18-year-old MTSHOELIBE Mthabiseng is excited wearing the colours of South Africa in front of the home fans. “I am so proud to be part of this team particularly wearing the national colour in front of South Africans. This alone is a dream comes true for me. I saw had the opportunity to watch and learn from some of the players I only heard and watch on television. This for me is awesome and I hope we can build on the experience to become better players and team.
However, the home players were so happy to have their family members coming to cheer them during the competition. “I am so happy that my parent came to watch me play and they were impressed with what they have seen and I hope through this they can support me more than what they used to do before,” KALAM Musfiquh said.