11-year-old Jamaican shines in Puerto Rico at TT champs
Cecelia Campbell-Livingston, Gleaner Writer
Eleven-year-old Derrick Francis is now back home after representing Jamaica in an international competition for the first time.
He took part in the 2014 Pre-Cadet Caribbean Table Tennis Championship in the Under 11 category which was held in Puerto Rico from December 17 – 21.
Young Francis and his team member Omarion Hyde earned bronze in the team competition.
Coach Clive Grossett told The Gleaner Francis has come a long way as when he first started playing the game two years ago at the Longville Park Table Tennis Club, he was not serious.
"At first he wasn’t very serious but I could detect that he had an innate ability for the sport. He would follow his sister (Onika Francis) to the club and work out with her," said Grossett.
According to the coach, the more Francis took part in events and saw that he was holding his own against his peers, the more his interest grew.
"His passion grew cause tears would stream down his face during competitions whether he was winning or not," Grossett said.
Francis admitted that he was just following his sister Onika, who made the national table tennis team and represented Jamaica last year April in Cuba.
"In April when she returned from Cuba I said, ‘yes daddy, I want to travel on a plane so I am taking this serious!' " Francis told The Gleaner.
In addition, he said he is finding the game to be fun and although he enjoys football and cricket, he doesn’t plan on changing his focus anytime soon.
That’s a good thing too, as his coach, Grossett sees Francis as a hard working player and one who will go far.
"Derrick has the right attitude towards the game. He will need a lot of help, as table tennis equipment is expensive. So sponsorship with equipment and international exposure to youth tournaments would definitely enhance his game as this is the way to go," he said.
In the meantime, Grossett said his young charge is taking everything in strides as he maintains a serious attitude about his training even while he juggles his Grade Six Achievement Test preparation.
But Francis says it’s something he can handle.
"In thee afternoons I study, then get some sleep. When I awake it’s time for training,” he said, outlining his routine.
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