by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer
A qualified dentist but table tennis is the first call.
“When I started table tennis, it was not as professional as it is at present, so I decided to go to school and become a dentist; this was necessary because I needed to have something to fall back when I quit table tennis. Now that table tennis has now been professionalised, I think my love for the sport continues to soar. I actually started playing professionally at 23 which was a bit late compared to what happens now.” Panagiotis Gionis
Now the 39 year old has eyes set firmly on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, he believes as long as his body still carries him, he will continue to play table tennis but with a possible target of ending in the next three years.
“I am in Budapest with the aim of getting ranking points ahead of the qualification for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Going to being a dentist will not be easy because I did not practise in the last 10 years and if I have to go back, I need to start reading again which is not going to be easy. My target in table tennis is to make it to the next Olympic Games in Tokyo and as long as my body can carry me I will continue but I am looking at three to four years more of playing actively.” Panagiotis Gionis
Now very experienced, in the men’s singles event, he will need that experience in abundance; he is in the same half of the draw as China’s Fan Zhendong, the top seed but more significantly in the second round he could face Chinese Taipei’s 17 year old Lin Yun-Ju, the no.20 seed.
“In the men’s doubles, I am hoping we can make it to the main draw but in the singles, I hope I can get a good draw to win my first round match. However, I am faced with a tough task against this young Chinese Taipei’s star in the second round. It is not going to be easy against this youngster because he is playing very well now.” Panagiotis Gionis