Undying ambition

2013-09-10 00:00

DYNAMITE comes in small packages.

Sarah-Lee Gobindlall of Orient Heights in Pietermaritzburg may be small in stature, but her star in the sport of table tennis is rising.

The Raisethorpe High School Grade 11 pupil participated at the All Africa Junior Games in 2011. She has caught the eye of German company Tibhar, who provide her with flights to compete at events, and sophisticated equipment for her sport.

Not bad for someone whose first introduction to the game was watching her older brother play for fun.

“I’ve been playing for six years,” Sarah-Lee told The Witness.

“My brother used to play as a hobby, and I used to stand on a box and watch him play,” she said.

When she was still only 10, she was invited to Eddels Sports Club where she was given a racket. From then on, she never looked back. That same year, she went to play at the national championships, and won a bronze medal.

In July, she scooped two medals at the national championships in Cape Town, and brought her tally to 12 in the competition over the last six years.

A highlight for the 16-year-old was officiating at this year’s World Transplant Games.

“That was a really lovely experience,” she said. After the event, she rated Thailand’s Nopparat Karnkayan, who won the gold medal in the U20 competition, as her favourite table tennis player. After the games, he gave her a miniature racquet, which he signed.

Sarah-Lee’s big dream is to represent South Africa at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, and said she wanted to keep playing the sport until she could no longer move.

“I want to play right up until I’m a veteran, until I can’t move.

“Nothing beats the adrenalin of being in the middle with lots of people watching you play.”

Her love for her sport was such that she also wanted to get into the coaching side of things. For now, Sarah-Lee plans to carry on playing while studying and hoped to “study physiotherapy or something in health sciences” at UKZN’s Westville campus.

Her father Anand Gobindlall was never a player in his younger days, but he had to learn the game fast so he could be her coach.

“When I’m training, he screams in the background ‘you better play properly’,” she said, laughing.

Her father said: “Through sport, you get to learn your children’s weaknesses and their strengths and we can use them to define their character.”

He referenced an incident where Sarah-Lee was given a warning by an umpire for losing her temper, to which she replied, “I got that from you”.

Gobindlall said parents should encourage their children to take part in sport, as it developed their character.

“This is a good, fantastic sport. We spend many hours in here [home garage] just playing. Once the bug bites, it won’t let go of you,” he said.

NAME: Sarah-Lee Gobindlall

AGE: 16

HEIGHT: 1,5 m

SPORTS CODE: Table tennis

AMBITION: To represent South Africa at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

Honours: Represented South Africa at All Africa Junior Games in 2011; Plays for eThekwini at SA Championships.

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