Francis dreams of topping TT game
Two years ago, national Under-21 table tennis champion Onika Francis had everything on her mind but playing the game.
All that changed one evening in May as her father, Derrick 'Dougie' Francis, made his way home and saw a table tennis coaching session in progress at the Longville Park Community Centre, with Clive 'Sir G' Gossett volunteering his expertise.
Derrick went home and told his daughter about it, issuing the invitation to check it out.
"It was my first time ever, I had never even held a tennis racquet," she told The Gleaner.
Something special happened when that racket finally touched her hands. "I found out I really liked it and felt I could be good at it," she said.
Onika was not the only one who had that conviction, as Gossett, after watching her play told her she was going to be a champion player.
Two months later, in July 2012, Onika was representing Jamaica in a tournament. Although she didn't win any matches, it made a big impression on her.
"I got a real taste of a tournament, I was determined to shine, I wanted to conquer table tennis and I made the promise to myself that the next year I would do much better," said the now 14-year-old Innswood High School third-former, who notes that relaxation, for her, is watching television and listening to music.
She kept that promise and, this year, she was selected for the team to represent Jamaica in Cuba. Although Onika never won a medal, she came back earning high marks from coaches and management for winning a lot of games against older and more experienced players.
She draws inspiration from players such as multiple national women's champion Yvonne Foster, Shanique Clair and China's World Championships and World Cup winner, Ding Ning.
Looking ahead, Onika said her goal right now is to "do all that it takes to be number one in the world".
She sees herself representing Jamaica at all the major international championships and dominating.
For now, though, while she keeps her goals in sight, she is balancing her love for the game with her schoolwork.
With her dream of being a veterinarian, Francis said, in the evenings when she gets home from school, she beats the books, then after that it's TT training.
"I want to be the face in table tennis. I know that it is not easy, that is why I am putting in the work on and off the courts," she said.