Ari Arratia, a bright young man
Photo By: Richard Xue
Intelligence, being one step ahead of your opponent wins sporting contests; table tennis is no exception, in fact it’s the example, by being clever, subtle and clear minded, you can outwit your opponent.
It is a view strongly held by 17 year old Ari Arratia from Los Angeles on the west coast of the United States of America; he is one of some 120 players competing in the Mike Dempsey Memorial Tournament, which is being held in San Diego from Thursday 29th November to Saturday 1st December 2012.
Furthermore, he is one of several players who are present at a specially organised Training Camp being staged prior to the tournament and with notable names advising.
The Training Camp is under the guidance of former World champion, Stellan Bengtsson and Gozard Vecko, England’s Performance Director.
Proceedings commenced on Saturday 24th November and will conclude on Tuesday 27th November, being followed by two days of practice and the necessary classification procedures before competition starts.
A Class 6 player, Ari Arratia suffers from dysmelia, a congenital disorder that affects the limbs; his left leg is severed just above the ankle, the right leg below the knee, he has just one finger on his left hand.
Yet, with no fingers, he plays right handed; a specially designed extended handle with straps has been designed in order that the teenager can hold the racket.
Bullied at School
“You have to compensate by being clever; I think table tennis lets you do that”, said Ari Arratia, an intelligent young man who during his school years had resort to virtual self-tuition.
“I was bullied at elementary school, other boys would steal my wheelchair and go joy-riding”, reflected Ari Arratia. “It got to a stage where if I saw those boys when I arrived at school, I would go back home; I dropped out of school for one year.”
Studied at Home
He studied at home; he spent hours reading and in particular took an interest in insects!
Also, quite amazingly he became most proficient in the art of origami; the traditional Japanese art of paper folding!
“When I returned to school I return to my year”, he smiled, “I didn’t miss a year.”
Simply, Ari Arratia was not going to be beaten by those who were perhaps physically stronger but mentally weaker and that is very much reflected in his attitude to table tennis; during the break in play when all had left the playing hall, he practised serving.
It is an inner determination that has seen him overcome the hurdles presented in life; it is that will-to-win that is seeing him develop into a confident young man who has achieved.
“Last year at the United States Open in Milwaukee I won the silver medal in the Class 6 Team event”, reflected Ari Arratia. “As yet I haven’t played outside the United States but for sure my ambition is to qualify for the Paralympic Games in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro; if I don’t qualify, I’ll go to watch!”
Such is the young man’s determination, who thanks to the outstanding support of his mother has made the three hour car journey south from Los Angeles to San Diego.
“My grandfather used to play table tennis, he played in New York but I never knew him; my father tells me he was a good player”, smiled Ari Arratia. “My father moved to Los Angeles and I used to tag along to the table tennis club to watch him play; I think I was about 12 years old when I started to play.”
Now, the book on insects is left on the shelf, he still enjoys reading but it would seem table tennis is now top of the contents page.
“I think by backhand top spin is my strongest stroke”, said Ari Arratia, who is currently in his final year at High School and practises against able bodied players three times a week at the Westside Table Tennis Club in Los Angeles.
“Many players in Class 6 use long pimples; especially on the backhand”, explained Ari Arratia. “My backhand is my strength, so I think I’m better with the reversed rubber and you don’t put long pimples on the forehand!”
Area for Improvement
Furthermore, he is aware that there are areas for improvement.
“I must improvement my movement”, he said. “Sometimes I become lazy and just stretch for the ball when it is wide in my forehand.”
Follow He Zhiwen
Make no mistake, there is nothing lazy about Ari Arratia; he works hard and he has the same qualities as possessed by a London 2012 Olympian.
Spain’s He Zhiwen, who at the age of 50, competed in the London Olympic Games will tell you if you want to win you need one quality above all, intelligence.
“Play smart is the motto”, of the venerable Spaniard who made his debut at the World Championships in Gothenburg in 1985 in Chinese colours; it is also the motto of Ari Arratia, a bright young man and ready for the fray – play smart Ari, play smart.