KZ: Hi Michelle! What do you love about playing table tennis?
M: Table tennis is a really fun and addictive sport. What I also love about it, is the high level of skill, speed and fast decision-making involved. It is great for developing hand-eye coordination, and is really beneficial for the mind – it’s a sport that requires concentration, and also a problem-solving ability in order to maximise points won against your competitor. Not to mention being a great way to stay fit and active. I’ve also made many life-long friends from all over the world through table tennis.
KZ: What training have you been doing to prepare?
M: My regular training week consists of 18-20 hours of on-court training, which is quite repetitious, and can include many things from footwork, technique, ball placement, attack and defense work and service practice. On top of this, I do three sessions a week in the gym for strength and conditioning and around one hour a week working on the mental side of things. Closer to tournaments, I also like to do video analysis on competitors to ensure I have a clear strategy going into a match.
KZ: Do you have any pre-competition traditions that help you focus?
M: No major rituals for me, other than a sneaky bathroom stop to relieve some nerves before the match – I do know other players who have quite noticeable rituals during the match, such as taking sips from certain drink bottles between sets, or placing their sweat towel a certain way, but for me it’s mainly about getting in a really good 1 hour warm-up before the match starts, to get my body moving, the heat flowing, and give me the confidence to come out ready to fire. Focusing on slow breathing is also a good way to calm the nerves.
KZ: Since you’ll be taking the gold, who do you think will grab silver and bronze?
M: Australia is yet to win a medal for the sport of table tennis at an Olympics, so it would be amazing if I could get the gold in Tokyo. The sport is heavily dominated by the Chinese and Japanese players. They will definitely be in the mix.
KZ: When you were a child, did you participate in any activities that gave you useful skills for table tennis?
M: Growing up, I loved playing any sport that I could for the school – soccer, touch footy, volleyball, tennis, squash, cricket, basketball. These have all required a range of different skills, whether it’s speed, hand-eye coordination, agile footwork or teamwork, which have all been beneficial in what I do on the table tennis court.
KZ: Do you have any advice for K-Zoners who want to become an Olympian in their chosen sport?
M: I would say – there’s no shortcut to any place worth going. Don’t settle for less than what you want. Young people often get impatient when they’re not improving at the rate that they would like, and give-up on their sporting dreams too early. Don’t get disheartened when things don’t happen overnight. Put your head down, and work even harder. I promise you – it is worth it in the end.
To read more of our interview with Michelle and other athletes heading to the Tokyo Games, grab the August 2021 Sports Jam issue, on sale now!