Rising table tennis star David Thompson has his sights firmly set on the Olympics - and to achieve his dream the Sheffield teenager plans to spend 12 months honing his talents thousands of miles away in China.
David is a national champion after representing Sheffield in table tennis’s English League Cup, and hopes to eventually compete at the highest level against the world’s top players.
But before he can set off for the Far East, David has to raise £15,000 to fund his trip - a sum he needs to collect before September in order to start the intensive programme in China this year.
The 18-year-old, from Handsworth, attended a three-week training course in 2012 at the Zhengding International Table Tennis Training Centre, where he practised for up to nine hours every day.
The centre has produced scores of top players, with bosses describing it as ‘the cradle of world champions’ and the Chinese table tennis team’s ‘land of promise’.
The nation still dominates the world of ‘ping-pong’ - at the London Olympics in 2012, Chinese players won all possible gold medals in the sport.
“It was really intense, you need to be physically and mentally quite strong to do it,” said David.
However, despite the testing conditions, he noticed some encouraging results.
“I noticed a massive improvement just in that short time, so obviously a year is going to take me a step closer to the Olympics.
“The best players in the world still go there for training. They take table tennis very seriously in China.”
David, who caught the table tennis bug aged 10 while a pupil at Athelston Primary School, said there was ‘no opportunity’ to progress further in England.
“It’s difficult to find a training partner who is going to push me hard enough,” he added.
“Table tennis means pretty much everything to me, really. I’m dedicated to it full-time. It’s different to anything else. I love it for its uniqueness, its speed and how technical it is.”
The £15,000 will cover David’s accommodation, three meals a day and his training.
“I’ve never really had to raise money like this before, but I’m hoping all be able to do it,” he said.
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