Kanak Jha – Interview
Courtesy of USATT, by Rahul Acharya – 15 year old Kanak Jha hardly needs an introduction. Kanak’s game and impressive record does the talking. Kanak recently made waves when he qualified to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympic Games along with Yijun Feng and Timothy Wang.
Off the table, Kanak has a pleasant personality. However, at the table he is a ferocious fighter who never gives any easy points to his opponents. I had the opportunity to talk to Kanak about his table tennis journey thus far, his new milestone, and future plans.
I hope you enjoy getting to know Kanak!
Quick facts about Kanak Jha:
- Current USATT rating 2655
- Highest world ranking #3 (Under 15)
- Currently at highest world ranking #287 (Men)
- 2016 Rio Olympic Games Qualifier
- 2016 U.S National Men’s Team Member
- U.S. National Junior Boys Team Member (2014 and 2013)
- U.S. National Cadet Boys Team Member (2014, 2013, 2012)
- U.S. National Min-Cadet Boys Team Member (2013 and 2011)
- Sponsored by Butterfly
1. Congratulations on qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games. Most athletes can only dream of this and yet, you have accomplished this at such a young age. Can you describe how you are feeling?
It feels amazing to qualify for such an event. It has been my dream my whole career and now I’m just excited to compete in Rio.
2. Tell us about any special preparation that you did for the Olympic Trials.
Before the trials, I trained more at my club in Sweden and played more competitions to get ready. (Writer’s note: Kanak trains at Halmstad BTK coached by Ulf Carlsson and Frederick Hakkenson)
3. Now that you have qualified, do you plan to work on anything specifically before Rio?
I’m going to continue with my training. I will start training more specific aspects of my game when the tournament gets a little closer.
4. Let’s go back in time … When and how did you start playing table tennis?
I started playing table tennis in 2005 (at the age of 5) after watching my older sister practice.
5. What equipment do you use?
Blade: Butterfly Petr Korbel
Forehand rubber: Butterfly Tenergy 05
Backhand rubber: Butterfly Tenergy 05
6. How often do you play and train?
I currently train 1 to 2 times a day. I also try to get physical exercise everyday – simple stuff such as running and free weight exercises. I also try to go to the gym 2-3 times a week.
7. How often do you do serve practice?
I practice my serves once or twice a week.
8. Do you have a favorite training drill? If so, what do you like about it?
I like “feeling” drills because they are more fun and usually not intense. For example, after hard training, I like to practice chopping, fishing, etc.
9. What do you do to prepare yourself mentally before an important match?
I try to pump myself up and stay focused for the match.
10. Is there any particular area of your game that you would like to see improve?
I would like to improve all aspects of my game.
11. What do you think your biggest strength is?
My fighting spirit because it is more important than most technical strengths.
12. What are your long-term goals with regards to table tennis?
As of now, my long-term goal is to be top 100 in the world.
13. You’ve spent a significant amount of time training overseas. Tell us about when, where, and what role that has played in your development. Also, what do you think is the biggest difference between training overseas and training in America?
I think training in Sweden has helped me a lot. I train in Halmstad, Sweden and have been there since August 2015. I think the biggest difference is that Sweden has a greater variety of players with many different styles.
14. What has been your best win and worst loss so far?
I think my most important win was in the Olympic trials. I don’t remember my worst loss.
15. Was there any stage of your career that frustrated you? If so, when and why? How did you overcome that?
All careers have ups and downs. It is sometimes tough when you have been training hard, but cannot perform well. But, no single moment that was worse than any other. I try to stay focused and keep making progress.
16. Who is your favorite international table tennis player? Why?
I like Chuang Chih-Yuan from Taiwan because of his playing style. He is a very aggressive player with a great fighting spirit. He is also very strong in the rally, with a lot of speed on the table and has a strong forehand.
17. Couple of rapid-fire questions:
Talent or hard work? Hard work
Best chance to win – player with skills or player with confidence? Player with skills
Poly ball or celluloid ball? Celluloid ball
Spin or speed? Both
Power or placement? Power
More drills or more practice matches? Both
To cho, or not to cho? Always cho
18. It seems like your family has played a huge role in your table tennis. Tell us how that has helped you.
It would be impossible for me to accomplish anything without my parents. My parents are my number one supporters and are always helping me. They have always supported me through good and bad times. From the little stuff to the big, they are always with me 100%.
19. While growing up, was there ever sibling rivalry with regards to table tennis between Prachi and you?
Yes, but it was mutually beneficial. I always have someone who wants to improve as much as me as a training partner.
20. What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to go to beach, hang out with friends, learn cooking, run, and play backyard basketball.
21. Anything else that you would like to add?
I would like to thank all my supporters and well-wishers.