by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor (Interview: Olalekan Okusan)
Esther Oribamese beat Georgina Newton (11-8, 9-11, 11-7, 11-4), before Alimot Ayinla doubled the advantage when she overcame Holly Nicolas (11-9, 8-11, 14-12, 11-7).
It was at that stage the recovery began; Marsha Guseva overcame Agnes Onoja (12-10, 11-9, 12-14, 11-7), before Holly Nicolas accounted for Esther Oribamese (11-6, 7-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-8) and Georgina Newton completed the fightback by defeating Alimot Ayinla (11-6, 11-2, 15-13).
A quite remarkable success with, arguably the full distance five games win recorded by Holly Nicolas in the fourth match of the fixture, giving Georgina Newton the impetus needed to push for victory.
Holly Nicolas is a 16 year old, year 11 student at Mindarie Senior College in Perth, she suffers from cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that principally affects lungs and can therefore result in breathing difficulties.
“I don’t believe that my sickness will stop me from playing table tennis because it has helped to improve my health and has given me hope that I can become one of the best in the sport. Although I visit hospital four times a year, each visit lasts for two weeks, I still find time to train three hours a day”, Holly Nicolas.
Balancing education with high level play is the dilemma facing most teenagers, for Holly Nicolas there is the third element of health and the enforced stay in hospital, even that fact does not stop her practising her table tennis skills.
She is right handed, the intravenous line is injected into her left arm; she leaves the hospital, goes to practise and then returns the hospital!
“Most times the intravenous line is placed on my left arm so that I can train with my right, my medication is worked around my training regime; this allows me to leave the hospital, train and then head back to the hospital for my next round of medication”, Holly Nicolas
Earlier this year in April, Holly Nicolas won the Junior Girls’ Singles title at the Oceania Junior and Cadet Championships, staged in Tweed Heads, a city located on the east coast of Australia, about 2,000 miles distant, an estimated car journey of two days or a four and half hour flight.
Clearly Holly Nicolas is no stranger to long journeys and has quickly acclimatised to the environment in Grand West Casino and Entertainment World.
However, when preparing her schedule, whether to Tweed Heads of Cape Town; the health issue must be included in the itinerary. She left hospital one month ago in order to be ready to compete in the Sun International 2016 World Junior Championships
“My parents and school have been very supportive because my parents are always there with me in the hospital and they also make sure I keep up with the training. Also my school allows me to travel for major competitions and makes arrangement for me to keep up with the school work whenever I get back; this has also been helpful for me as well”, Holly Nicolas
It is for Holly Nicolas her second appearance in a World Junior Championships; she was present last year in France when Australia finished last place in the Girls’ Team event.
Disappointed maybe but it would seem Holly Nicolas took the positives from the experience and has benefited from the European excursion.
“I think coming to this tournament has really increased my confidence and I have also learned from the top players because this is another opportunity to learn new things in the sport. Table tennis is what gives me joy, I love the sport and it has helped my health,” Holly Nicolas.
The dream for Holly Nicolas dream is to represent Australia at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, the Gold Coast being some 20 miles north of Tweed Heads and at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“I won’t give up because giving up is like telling yourself that you cannot do it. I will continue to pursue my dream and I want people to know that you are only limited by yourself and not by the situation in life in which you find yourself. For me table tennis has ignited my hope that I can continue doing what I love in life without focusing on my challenges,” Holly Nicolas.
Determined and there is plenty of evidence that the goal may be achieved; one year ago at the 2015 World Junior Championships Holly Nicolas did not win a single match.
In Cape Town she is proved pivotal to Australian progress.