(Courtesy of buenosaires2018.com)
Table tennis prodigy determined to live up to favourite tag
Table tennis star Kanak Jha will enter the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) as one of the favourites to win the men’s singles gold. Despite his extraordinary talent and remarkable achievements to date, it is not a position the 17-year- old is used to.
Less than two years ago, Jha became the youngest competitor to represent the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the first USA athlete born in the 2000s to qualify for an Olympic Games and the youngest male table tennis player ever to take up a spot at the Olympic Games. Having routinely smashed expectations, from the moment he won three junior categories and reached the men’s semi-finals in the 2013 USA National Championships aged 13, Jha has flourished at tournaments he is not even meant to be at.
It all changed in December 2017, however, when the Californian went to the North American YOG qualifier. It featured eight USA and eight Canadian players, all in a battle for one spot in the Buenos Aires 2018 draw. All eyes turned to Jha, the reigning back-to-back USA national champion.
“It was a different kind of pressure than before. For sure, I had a lot more expectations going in, I wanted to win,” he said, before betraying the kind of attitude that may well see him go a long way in the sport. “But it also gave me confidence to know I was one of the favourites to win the qualification (place). That helped.”
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