Eleven-year-old Francis makes mark in Puerto Rico
Cecelia Campbell, Gleaner Writer
Derrick Francis is now back home after representing Jamaica in an international competition for the first time, as an 11-year-old. He took part in the 2014 Pre-Cadet Caribbean Table Tennis Championship, which was held in Puerto Rico from December 17-21.
Playing in the in the Under-11 age category, Francis and 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," Grossett admitted. "He would follow his sister (Onika Francis) to the club and work out with her."
According to the coach, the more he took part in events and saw that he was holding his own against his peers, the more his interest grew.
"His passion grew because tears would stream down his face during competition, whether he was winning or not," Grossett observed.
Francis admitted that he was just following his sister, Onika, who 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'!" Derrick confessed.
In addition, he admits finding the game to be fun, saying although he enjoys football and cricket, he doesn't plan on changing his focus anytime soon
That could be a good thing too as his coach sees him 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 stride as he maintains a serious attitude about his training, even while he juggles his GSAT preparation. But it's something he can handle.
"In the afternoons I study, then get some sleep," he told The Gleaner. "When I wake up it's time for training."