Kanak Jha, a most experienced 11 year old
Photo By: Simon Petersson
2012 2nd ITTF World Hopes Week & Challenge
Almost 70 young Hopes athletes, 12 years of age and under, gathered in Falkenberg on Monday 11th June 2012 for seven day programme, which includes a five day Training Camp and two day Challenge Tournament.
Falkenberg is the famous table tennis capital of Sweden.
There are plenty of talents making a case for themselves; many of them completely new to the international environment. However that is not the case for a certain group of players, believe it or not at the age of 12 years old, already with plenty of international events under their young and hardly flight ready wings.
Sun Breaks Out
On a day when the sun broke out, following a few days of ugly Swedish weather with rain and drizzle, we met up with a group of Hopes players, who already last year managed to gain selection for the ITTF World Hopes Team.
Back in business for another kick at the can are Kanak Jha from the United Sates, Montenegro’s Filip Radovic, Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz and Egypt’s Youssef Abdel-Aziz.
You can quickly notice that experience counts.
Kanak, Filip, Adriana, Youssef have already established themselves in the training hall.
They enter the court with a purpose. They drive forward. They work hard and more important, they know that the many coaches’ eyes are watching every move. You also have a feeling that they already like the attention; like to be seen and showcase a tremendous skill set.
Pleasure to Watch
What a pleasure it was to watch the practice this morning between Kanak Jha and Youssef Abdel–Aziz.
All through the session both youngsters maintained a very high level of play. They challenged each other to raise the level as the session progressed and it was simply a treat to watch. The fun thing is of course that much like any great athletes both players like the attention and being in the spotlight.
“I am enjoying it here in Sweden; some of the players in this camp I have seen before,” said Kanak Jha, who knows Filip and Youssef well but also the emerging Swedish left hander Vilmer Georgsson. “I lost to him in the Safir event in February,” explained Kanak.
Hard to imagine that Kanak Jha will celebrate his 12th birthday next week; not only does he come up big in the training hall; also the dreams and determination impresses anyone who cares to listen.
“I am dreaming about Rio 2016”, Kanak said. “However, first I have to make it to the Men’s National Team and also, of course, to our cadet and juniors teams that will compete at various events around the world.”
He explained that it is important to dream and set goals, in a way that makes you believe you are talking to a seasoned established top level athlete, not a young boy from the city of Milpitas in the United States who has picked table tennis as his number one sport.
Back home he is in the good hands of some really high level coaches.
Kanak practises at the Academy in Santa Clara with coaches like Li Shenzhi and his wife Zhang Li; both World champions and familiar names to many of the locals here in Falkenberg.
No Strangers to Sweden
Both spent time training in Sweden some 25 years ago.
Kanak jha also works privately with Stefan Feth from Germany and occasionally with Dennis Davis, the coach of the Palo Alto Table Tennis club, where it all started some five years ago.
When it comes to role models the young American is quick to mention Timo Boll, simply for his way of playing and the Swede Jan-Ove Waldner. “I like him more for all the cool stuff; it’s fun to watch him play on YouTube”, smiled Kanak Jha.
What about this year’s ITTF Hopes Camp; any difference that you can notice just after a few days?
“Well, there are more coaches for sure and I also think that the level is a bit higher”, said Kanak Jha. “There are more and better players in camp.”
Right here and now, Kanak’s father listening in to the interview interrupts with another obvious difference; the large number of coaches present from other countries. Spending a few days on the floor watching every move in the hall, Arun Jha knows what he would like to see.
“Clearly it seems like the United States players here in Sweden are the only one’s travelling without an official coach”, he said. “It should be like that as the players need pro level support during the event.”
Very True and good thinking coming a caring father but again Kanak is indicating that he is a special breed, an independent thinker, ready to take on the world.
“Well, I better listen carefully to the coaches”, said Kanak Jha. “I know that my father is not a coach and of course he is welcome to give me advice but I do have to pay attention to the coaches first.”
Milpitas is located in the Bay Area of the United States. It is the home of Silicon Valley and information technology giants like Apple and Google.
Zoned in on Table Tennis
Nevertheless, Kanak Jha is zeroed in on table tennis training, some five times a week privately and in group and on top of that physical conditioning classes on an individual basis.
“If I do not train I kind of enjoy walking our dog”, Kanak Jha explained.
However this week, far from home but far from lost in Falkenberg, Kanak Jha has lusty in his eyes.
Eagerly he awaits the next training session and even more so Saturday and Sunday; the ITTF Hopes Cadet Challenge.
Hopes players at the statue of Stellan Bengtsson from Falkenberg
Crowned Men’s Singles World Champion in Nagoya, 1971
Photo by Simon Petersson