Star­let Thakker’s go­ing for the big time at Tokyo 2020

Ta­ble tennis teen up for Olympics or Par­a­lympics

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - SPORT - by Jon Batham tms-sport@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

DEN­HAM ta­ble-tennis star­let Shae Thakker had a brush with TV star­dom last week – but a Paralympic spot is the ul­ti­mate goal.

Thakker, 13, demon­strated his ping-pong prow­ess to an au­di­ence of mil­lions on the ITV gameshow Go For It.

Hit­ting two dif­fer­ent coloured balls fired at ran­dom by a ro­bot into dif­fer­ent buck­ets at the op­po­site end of the ta­ble proved a breeze for the for­mer Chal­font St Peter Mid­dle School Pupil, so much so the Dutch com­pany be­hind Go For It are talk­ing of hav­ing him on the equiv­a­lent show in the Nether­lands.

The young­ster, though, born with a se­vere case of club foot, is re­ally dream­ing of wear­ing a Bri­tish vest at the great­est sport­ing show on earth, per­haps even as early as Tokyo 2020.

When he was born, Shae’s foot was 180 de­grees the other way around,” said his fa­ther Sun­jay. “So it qual­i­fies him to play as a paraath­lete as well as able-bod­ied.

“Shae’s aim is to be an Olympian and I would say 2024 for def­i­nite.

“I would love it to be in Tokyo, but it is about him earn­ing the rank­ing points needed to carry on mov­ing up the lad­der.”

Shae has al­ready made great strides towards re­al­is­ing that dream, hav­ing rep­re­sented Eng­land twice when aged just 12 and risen to a rank­ing in the top 30 of able-bod­ied young­sters his age and as high as six in his own dis­abil­ity cat­e­gory. He is cur­rently a mem­ber of the BTTAD Devel­op­ment Squad.

It is a re­mark­able rise con­sid­er­ing he only took up the sport three to four years ago and even then it was al­most as an af­ter­thought.

“He first picked up a ta­ble-tennis bat when we were away on hol­i­day and he en­joyed it but did not take it too se­ri­ously,” said Sun­jay.

“Then at mid­dle school he wanted to play football, but there were no spots avail­able and his head teacher Mr Un­der­wood per­suaded him to play ta­ble-tennis.”

Mr Thakker sus­pects Shae’s gift for the nec­es­sary hand-eye co-or­di­na­tion is in­her­ited from his mother, a keen tennis player in her youth.

Although the Asian cul­ture of the time dis­cour­aged sport in favour of aca­demic study, the shift to a more bal­anced ap­proach means Shae, now a pupil at John Ham­p­den Gram­mar School, in High Wy­combe, is free to ex­cel at both.

“Com­ing from an Asian cul­ture, my wife was never pushed with her sport as it was all about aca- demic achieve­ment,” added Mr Thakker.

“But times are chang­ing and now you can do both with sup­port­ive par­ents.

“Ed­u­ca­tion means a lot to Shae, so he does his home­work at lunchtime in­stead of play­ing football as he knows he has to have his work done be­fore he can go and play ta­ble-tennis.”

Big dream: Shae Thakker is hop­ing to rep­re­sent Team GB in the near fu­ture

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