Starlet Thakker’s going for the big time at Tokyo 2020
Table tennis teen up for Olympics or Paralympics
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