Next Generation: Table Tennis gems Jasmine Billingy and Samara Sukhai
In Guyana, when you rank sports of interest, it is very likely Table Tennis may not be the preferred choice for many for varying reasons.
Cricket and Football would be front-runners.
However, Table Tennis has a community that is growing, and one that is filled with raw talent.
As is often the case though, consistent exposure to elite training is a bugbear.
In this particular sport, more constant exposure to higher-level of training is crucial to success on the world stage.
Though the odds are stacked against them, Jasmine Billingy and Samara Sukhai are begging to flourish as roses through the cracks of the concrete.
And though just ages 12 and 11 respectively, they are quite cognisant of this fact.
Billingy, in a recent interview with News Room Sport, revealed: “People don’t expect Guyana or young children in Caribbean countries to do great, so, it is a bit of pressure because most children look up to us, and you have to win.”
It was a bit startling to hear Billingy express such a thought since her persona with a racquet in hand is quite unflinching, eyes pierced on the mission.
To little surprise, such attributes have seen a meteoric rise locally, winning all the junior titles and some senior titles in recent years.
Sukhai is not too far off, and her Under-11 gold at this year’s Caribbean Championships is a testament to her skill.
It is evident both have the skills, but that is only a fraction of the requirements for major success. Mental toughness and parental support are also quite evident.
Just maybe, heavy corporate support to be placed in high-level training programmes might be the ticking box to stardom.
Both are right-handers, with Billingy being taller and physically imposing, while Sukhai is diminutive, but still packs a punch.
Half of their lives have already been dedicated to Table Tennis as Sukhai, who now attends Queen’s College, stated her interest grew from her days at the New Guyana School, while Billingy, currently at St. Stanislaus College, started her journey at Winfer Gardens Primary.
Maturity is a hallmark, as questioned on how she balanced school and Table Tennis, Sukhai credited the support of her parents as key, but understood she had to find a way to navigate time between the two.
At times, training was two hours before and after school, but that could be extended to an additional two hours, all in the sacrifice of achieving the goal of gold.
“Getting closer to competition, the training gets harder. I have to keep my game on, I am training to get better and my opponents are training too, so they will come back harder,” the soft-spoken Sukhai indicated.
With visits to the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago for various competitions, both have a great appreciation for what it takes to compete at high levels.
Unlike Sukhai, who lives with her parents and a younger sister, Billingy has spent most of her life with her grandparents, and just like the Sukhai’s, they are ever-present at training and tournaments.
Billingy’s grandfather, Colin Sultan is a former national rugby player, and she said his vast experience in high-level competitive sport has influenced the hard work she seeks to input into training.
Inspired by Chelsea Edghill, who was the first Table Tennis player from Guyana to compete at an Olympic Games (in Tokyo 2020), both have penciled in being an Olympian as the premier goal.
Immediate aspirations are the Commonwealth Youth Games in Trinidad and Tobago next August, and according to Billingy, though medaling would be a dream, being afforded the exposure to learn from seasoned players and clash against tougher tests, would only bode well for future endeavours.
Academically, both want to “help others” and that has inspired a passion to be a Pediatrician or a Lawyer.
Last but not least, Billingy had a grin when questioned on who defeats who more but did say, she goes home hurt if Sukhai beats her.
Two close pals at a young age, both have one goal and are on the right path to achieving same.