by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer
A student at Whitgift School in Croydon, south London, time has travelled fast.
“The time has come very quickly for me. It was like yesterday that I started playing as a cadet. I will try to make full use of this year being my final year as a junior. “ James Smith
Much travelled, James Smith is well aware of the difficulties faced when competing on the international scene.
“As a junior player it is very difficult because you have to start from the group and the first match is always very difficult. You have to also realise that everybody is a quality player at senior level, especially in Europe, where you have thousands of players. I was disappointed that I was not selected for the European Youth Championships. In England, we have been given a policy that you must at least finish in top 16 in any ITTF tournament or make the last 64 in Europe to get an automatic slot to European Youth Championship. This has really motivated me to work hard this year being my final year as a junior.” James Smith
Impressed by the recent feats achieved by Liam Pitchford, James Smith admitted that it will be difficult for him to step into the shoes of the England international; education comes first.
“I think it will be very hard for me to match the feats achieved by Liam Pitchford, he has risen from the top 50 to be among the top 15 on the world ITTF ranking. It is quite difficult because I will not have enough time to train. I intend to go to university next year.” James Smith
University awaits and that places new demands but as he looks forward to the next stage of his life, he is well aware of the benefits gained by playing table tennis internationally.
“Most of my best friends are from table tennis and I have met several people I could not have come across without table tennis. It has also taken me to different countries in the world. Most especially this is my first experience in Sub-Saharan Africa playing at the Ghana Open. It is indeed a different atmosphere and environment entirely compared to Europe or any other part of the world.” James Smith