Young table tennis champ Maria Rony dreams of bringing an Olympic gold for India

While most children are busy planning a long list of fun things to do in the sun during their summer vacation like summer camps, trips with the family and such, ninth standard student Maria Rony from SDV English Medium Higher Secondary School, Alappuzha, has a different itinerary in mind.

The only Indian girl to be part of the winning Asian team in the ITTF Global Challenge in San Juan, Puerto Rico, she plans to up her game strategy in table tennis during the summer.

Says Maria: “I need to be more aggressive, improve my receive, concentration, and stamina.” So, how does she plan to do this? “Practice.” Practice, according to her, includes training with her coach Bobby Joseph, running along the Alappuzha beach and working out at the gym to improve her stamina and concentration.

“My Chinese contemporaries at the competition at Puerto Rico, Liu Gaoyang (China), Lee Seui (South Korea) and Doo Hai Kem (Hong Kong) have amazing energy levels. I too need to reach their standard of fitness.”

A ‘sports' family

Sports runs in her family, to be more precise, basketball. Her grandfather, K.C. Mathew, her father, Rony Mathew, and her brother K.C. Mathew all play basketball. So, why doesn't she play basketball? “My mother, Reena, is not too fond of the game. She preferred me playing an indoor game to basketball.”

Her training as a paddler began when she started kindergarten. “I wasn't really interested in the game when I started but then as I grew older, I started developing a genuine interest in table tennis. It is a good game as it requires a lot of concentration,” says Maria who has won medals at the French Open and Spanish Open last year.

A travel buff, she is glad her love for sports takes her places. Among all the places she has been to, the country she likes the best is the United States. But doesn't the constant travel affect her studies? “I am thankful to have extremely supportive friends and teachers.”

So, what's next? “Well, I need to get my head back into my studies as I have my school examinations coming up and then concentrate on my game. My dream is to bring India a gold medal at the Olympics.” And as you note the steely determination in her voice, that dream may just come true.

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