KANAK JHA: Youngest male Table Tennis player at the Olympics

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There are some of us who wait to attain a certain age to participate in Olympics. While there are kids who leave us dumb struck by showing such enthusiasm than us, adults. At the age of 16, Kanak Jha an American athlete becomes the youngest male table tennis player at the Rio Olympics. It is such an irony that how such young enthusiasts emerge as big heroes while we adults wait for the right time to come.

We have heard many stories of where the kids inherit the interest for sports from their parents. Same happened with Jha, he developed his passion for table tennis at the age of 5 whilst watching his parents play ping pong with his sister.

“I think it was sort of all of a sudden,” he said recently. “I just started doing it, I kept saying ‘table tennis’ instead of ‘Ping-Pong.’”  He paused. “I guess because that’s what I was playing.”

Normally all elite players will know how much important a spin is in table tennis world. Kanak Jha is known for his Topspin, sidespin and backspin. Spin is the reason that he is so successful in his life. Playing the game since he was 5, in 8th grade he dominated his school mates in this sport because of his spins. . After a few years, Mikael Anderson who is an official in table tennis and works for American national team, met Jha at a tournament. He confronted his parents and convinced him to move to Europe.

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According to Anderson, Sweden was the best place where Jha could achieve all his dreams considering that Jan-Ove Waldner also is from the same place. Belief was that Jha also could become famous athlete like Jan-Ove Waldner.

One morning, he arrived at Halmstad Arena where all other junior players were already present. He just silently went on to the other end and started his exercises first, without even touching the table nor the paddle. Fitness is his first priority.

“I thought it could really help Kanak to be in a situation like we have here,” To be able to train with and play against top players, international players, every day is something he could not have in America. There are great coaches there, but there is nothing like being in a group. You need competition.” Anderson said in an interview.

At such a young age, it was easy for Jha to whip his body and spin the ball. His forehands resembled like throwing paper airplane and his backhands resembled like slicing. “You need to have a lot of explosiveness, to be able to snap the hips,” Jha said. “People wouldn’t think it, but it’s kind of like the start to a 100-meter dash. You need to be able to fire.” He then went to many training sessions, attended multi ball sessions, took training from his coach Jakobsen in hitting shots.

Qualifying for Olympics is said to be a very difficult task for him. No one believed that a 16 year old boy could participate in Olympics. But the art of spinning gave him away.

If Anderson had not taken the responsibility of moving him from his home, then this would not have been possible. He got training from best of the coaches in the world every day for 5-6 hours to train him for Rio Olympics. Kanak Jha is the first American athlete to enter Olympics at the age of 16. He hopes that seeing him, table tennis would become popular in America.

Nikita Ramesh
Nikita is a good table tennis player and also follows it closely. She loves to read and write about table tennis whenever she gets free time.
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