As the ITTF World Youth Championships concluded, it was not just an event but a whirlwind display of youthful talent, echoing the relentless efforts and hard work invested in nurturing future stars. Among the captivating 38 players showcasing their prowess, those emerging from the Hopes program or currently holding WFIM scholarships painted a vibrant tapestry of determination and skill.
Portugal’s Tiago Abiodun lit up the U15 Boys’ category, weaving his magic as a WFIM scholarship holder. His Bronze medal in the Singles event bore testimony to his unwavering brilliance. At the same time, the performance of the 2022 ITTF World Hopes Week & Challenge boys champion, Danilo Faso (partnered with France’s Nathan Pilard) wove an inspiring underdog tale, stunning the crowd with their victory over the formidable Chinese duo Sun Yang and Wang Jixuan in a riveting Round of 16 clash.
The U15 Boys’ Doubles witnessed breathtaking performances by Australia’s Won Bae (WFIM Scholarship) and Aditya Sareen (WFIM scholarship), securing a commendable Bronze medal. French talent Flavier Coton, also a WFIM scholarship holder, etched his name in the annals of the U15 Boys’ Doubles, amplifying the fervour of the competition.
On the girls’ side, Italy’s Nicole Arlia (a scholarship holder) exemplified grit despite her round-of-32 loss, leaving an indelible impression with her unyielding spirit. Hopes alumni Nina Guo Zheng and Leana Hochart from France embodied resilience, clinching Bronze in both the U15 Girls’ Team and Doubles events, enchanting audiences with sheer determination.
India’s Jennifer Varghese, a scholarship holder, scripted her triumph by claiming the U15 Silver in Girls’ Doubles, toppling formidable Chinese opponents with finesse. The ecstatic Indian contingent’s jubilation extended to their U19 Girls’ Bronze, thanks to the efforts of Hopes alumni Suhana Saini and scholarship holder Yashaswini Ghorpade.
Germany’s Annett Kaufmann, a scholarship holder, dazzled the arena, collecting Bronze in U19 Girls’ Doubles, Mixed Doubles, and Singles events. Her partnership with former Hopes alumni Anna Hursey secured an outstanding Bronze in Girls’ Doubles, elevating their synchronisation on the court.
The tale of scholarship holder and Hopes alumni, Izaac Quek was one of sheer brilliance, securing a Silver in U19 Boys Doubles and clinching Bronze in U19 Mixed Doubles alongside Annett Kaufmann, highlighting their remarkable chemistry and court finesse.
Korea’s Yoo Yerin, a scholarship holder, emerged as a spectacular talent, securing the U15 Singles Silver, adding another feather to her cap, and further highlighting the tournament’s depth of talent.
But shining brightest among them all was Hopes alumni and scholarship holder, Romania’s Elena Zaharia. Her journey from U19 Girls’ Team Bronze to a gripping U19 Girls’ Singles performance resonated with sheer determination. Overcoming stalwarts—Japan’s Rin Mende and Korea’s Park Gahyeon—Zaharia’s spirited journey culminated in a mesmerizing final against favourite China’s Xu Yi. Though the final win eluded her, Zaharia’s resilience and determination etched her name as a beacon of promise for Romania’s table tennis future.