Battle for junior table tennis honours

Team SA's Simeen Mookrey.

This year’s International Table Tennis Federation World Junior Championships kicked off at Grand West, yesterday, Wednesday November 30, and former national under-14 girls’ singles champion Simeen Mookrey is among the favourites to fly the South African flag.

The competition, which runs until Wednesday December 7, will see 96 boys and 96 girls from around the world – from Algeria to the USA – competing for top honours.

Simeen, 16, said she was expecting the going to be tough as she, and her teammates, will be up against the world’s best – the likes of China, Japan and Germany. She was, however quick to note that they have done their homework in terms of preparations.

One of the things that might work in her favour is the fact that, as young as she is, she has loads of table tennis experience having played the game for a number of years now, and won national honours including an under-17 singles’ victory in 2012.

“I am proud to be representing my country again and am also glad the competition is in Cape Town so that everyone can come and support us,” she said.

“I will go out there and give my best and hopefully make my country proud,” she added.

The youngster, who started out at Stephanian Table Tennis club before joining Duinefontein, said making the national team is her biggest achievement to date.

“My last national title was in 2013, but I’m looking forward to come back stronger next year. I have many goals but I would like to do well in the upcoming African championships, make the African team and then go bigger. It is tough but anything is possible with hard work,” she said.

The former Bergvliet High School pupil said her decision to do homeschooling this year, where she is in grade 10, was aimed at creating more space for the sport.

“Homeschooling gives me more time to train more and spend more time on table tennis. I now train twice a day and do my schoolwork in between,”she said.

Describing herself as a quiet person who loves people, Simeen, from Crawford, said one of the best things about the sport was that it gives one an opportunity to travel and meet different people. This, she said, was important because meeting, and playing with; people from different areas helped her develop not only as a player, but also as a human being.

She also admitted that she was not sure where her talents lay until she came across table tennis, which she instantly fell in love with.

“I did have any specific sport to play and wanted to try something. So, I tried out many different sports until my parents introduced me to table tennis and took me to a club. I’ve loved the sport since then,” she said.

She also noted that her parents, who she says are passionate about the sport, have been instrumental in the way she has developed as a player. This, she said, was because they gave her all the support she needed, especially when things were not going her way.

Simeen’s father, Showkat, described her as a hard-worker who doesn’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to preparations.

“Of course we are proud to be her parents parents. Over the years we’ve been driving (and flying) around – from Algeria to China – to watch her play and she never disappointed. She has also grown and learnt a lot from that experience,” he said.

Mookrey senior said they didn’t want to put any pressure on her going to this week’s world junior championships.

“We don’t really have great expectations, we just want them to enjoy themselves and the results will follow. All of them are talented and know what to do, so I am sure they will make the country proud,” he said.