Big win for Bran­don

Central Leader - - Sport - By Justin Latif

Bran­don Wal­lace started his ta­ble ten­nis ca­reer as a 10year-old play­ing his dad.

The pair faced off across the din­ing room ta­ble with a net across the mid­dle.

“Play­ing on it helped me train my eye be­cause it was so small,” Bran­don says.

Five years on, Bran­don is a na­tional cham­pion with his sights set on even higher things.

The teenager is a mem­ber of the na­tional de­vel­op­ment squad and won the na­tional un­der-15s dou­bles ti­tle in Oc­to­ber. He was also a nom­i­nee in the top Maori achiever cat­e­gory of the Auck­land Sports Awards this year.

Bran­don is from the Ngati Raukawa tribe in Otaki, near Welling­ton.

His Maori her­itage is im­por­tant to him and this year he joined the Henderson-based Wai­pareira Trust which has its own ta­ble ten­nis squad man­aged by Bill Tan­gariki.

Bran­don wants to rep­re­sent his coun­try at the Com­mon­wealth Games and knows what is re­quired to make it to the top.

“To be suc­cess­ful you need de­ter­mi­na­tion and a drive to do well,” he says. “Some­times I play seven days a week.

“I would do two hours or more of prac­tice a day.”

Bran­don has learnt much from the na­tional coaches and cred­its them for chang­ing his de­fen­sive style to a more ag­gres­sive approach.

“If you at­tack first you’re al­ways on the front foot,” he says.

Bran­don’s big win at the na­tion­als was hard-fought and learn­ing how to han­dle the pres­sure was the key to vic­tory.

“The fi­nal had a re­ally great at­mos­phere,” he says.

“It went to five sets. But the more you get into those sit­u­a­tions the more you learn to deal with it.”

Bran­don is one of the few non-Asian play­ers in the top ranks and he wants to en­cour­age other Maori to get into the sport.

“It’s a re­ally great sport.”

Photo: OLIVER XIN LI

In­spi­ra­tion: Bran­don Wal­lace’s bed­room wall is cov­ered with posters of the world’s top ta­ble ten­nis play­ers.

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