In a previous blog post I wrote about my experiences from representing Sweden in an international para tournament. The outcome of my participation drastically changed the way I now focus and practice table tennis. As mentioned in the post I was reclassified during the event as a class 8 player. The perception is that the higher a class one competes in the more mobile the player. I had previously been classified as a class 7 for national competition. So in a nutshell, the international classifiers concluded that I am more mobile and less affected by my disability than class 7 players.
The difference in mobility between 7 and 8 is significant. This is why I was in disbelief and why we put in a formal protest to get myself reevaluated. Regardless of the outcome of my protest, I realized during my first day of competition that certain things had to be changed. I had to change! One thing that I saw that needed to change was my footwork speed. To really compete with 8’s I realized I had to become faster and my endurance needed to increase to levels I have not experienced.
I realized during my first day of competition that certain things had to be changed. I had to change!
I knew then that if I wanted to succeed and progress that I needed to change clubs. On the train journey from Ostrava back home I wrote an email to a few clubs, stating my purpose and goal. In a matter of a couple days I was at the facilities of Ängby SK. I practiced with a group of fairly like-minded adults who wanted to keep active. It was in the later part of the evening and some even competed in local tournaments. After the practice session I discussed how it went with the coach. We both agreed that the level of play was not where I wanted or needed it to be to reach my goal.
Therefore, the coach and the club suggested I try out with their elite youth squad. Players in this group are in their early teens. A few are even younger than that. I think most adults would be uncomfortable being in a group with such an age gap, it would certainly test one’s ego. Some have praised me for being brave. While I appreciate the compliment, I don’t see this as brave at all. I set out a goal and I believe playing in this group will empower me to reach it.
When I decided to find a new practice squad, I wanted to find one where they would kick my ass. Not only by the players but also the coached. They have definitely ticked that box. Not only are these young guys really good players but I also have very good coaches who push me to get better and more importantly don’t let me slack off. As I’m writing this post, my quads ache from the practice the day before.
I’m working hard on to increase my speed and endurance that I saw as the mayor gap between me and the players I competed against in Czech. I believe that I’ve improved in both. I also try to remind myself to treat this as a journey. I might not be at the top today but if I can steadily improve, someday I might. If any of my fellow practice players are reading this, I’m sure they will try to do everything they can to stop me. That’s exactly how I want it and I love that!
Brief description* of class 7 and class 8 in para table tennis:
- Class 7: players either have significant impairments of both legs or the playing arm, or impairments affecting arms and legs moderately. For example, a player with an amputation of both arms above the elbow could compete in this sport class.
- Class 8: Athletes with moderate impairment of their legs or moderately affected playing arm compete in this sport class. An athlete with muscle weakness in one leg due to polio would for example compete in this sport class.