King of spin aims for the Olympics

REBEKAH SPANN meets the teenage table tennis star who hasn’t lost a match in nine months and has his eyes set on the Rio Olympic Games

TEENAGE table tennis champion Rohan Dhooria is aiming to be “number one in the Olympics”.

And it is the passion to improve and the feeling he gets when he catches up to older and more experienced players that’s inspiring the 14-year-old to aim for gold in Rio in 2016.

First he has to qualify for the Australian team next year, but Rohan has not lost a match in nine months, is number one in the ACT and is currently ranked number five in the nation. He is also the Under 15 Champion in NSW and Victoria, and recently won the NSW Under 18 Championships where “I conquered my fears and beat my rivals,” says Rohan.

After beginning in the fourth division three years ago, Rohan has worked his way up to first division, and is the first player from the ACT to rate in the top five in Australia.

According to his co-coach of more than two years, Xiaoping Sun, it is rare to get to that level in such a short time.

A former player and a State-level coach in China, she hopes he can get into a national team and represent Australia – “Even better if he could represent Australia for the Olympics and beat the Chinese player,” she says.

Rohan’s mother first discovered Table Tennis ACT, which offers junior coaching and training on Saturdays during school terms, and took Rohan and his older brother Raj along. But it was his father who encouraged him to compete in the interstate competitions that have become yet more triumphs in a procession of accomplishments.

His strategy for winning is to be an offensive attacker, to take control and to play close to the table. “Oh, and I don’t give up in a match,” Rohan says. He also wears bright-coloured sneakers – one orange and one yellow.

The mental training is a big part of table tennis, Rohan says, and his dad, Jimmi, helps a lot with this.

“Because there are 11 points, you have to fight for each of those points. If you lose one that’s nearly 10 per cent of the game gone,” Rohan says.

“When I play the top players I’m kind of in their face trying to get every point.”

But it is facing older and more experienced players that Rohan enjoys about the sport.

“I like the feeling when you catch up,” he says.

“Because I started later than everyone else, they’re just in denial after that… Someone lower than them, that they beat three to zero and thrashed, comes up and beats them.”

Looking to the future, Rohan seems unfazed by the task of qualifying for the Olympics, even though he will be only 16 by then. His determination and love of the game seems to be all the certainty he needs right now. That and coaching from his other coach, Bruno Levis, Chile’s number one table tennis player.

“He perfects all my weaknesses, skills, footwork – he strives to make me a better player,” says Rohan.

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