Palliser student ready to take on the table tennis world

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 Calgary Christian student Bryan Ho.  

Bryan Ho isn’t one to hustle kids out of their lunch money over a “friendly” game, nor strut the hallways of Calgary Christian Secondary School with a puffed out chest. His actions on the international table tennis circuit speak louder than words.

The 16-year-old has made a quick climb up the ranks since a family friend introduced him to the sport a half-dozen years ago. Ho is off to France as just one of four members of Team Canada competing in the World Junior Championships.

“My strength is my speed and also my power,” says the Grade 12 Palliser Regional Schools’ student. “My coach says sometimes I go with a bit too much power.”

Ho says it was the social side of the game that attracted him initially.

“Ever since I started that was my main goal, just to have fun and get to know other people and expand my boundaries,” he says, although admitting he’s grown to love the competitive side of table tennis.

This is his first time at the World Juniors but last year Ho helped Team North America earn a third-place finish at the World Cadet Challenge (under 15) in Barbados. That tournament was an eye-opener in that he saw the hard work, perseverance and focus that set the great players apart from the good ones.

“I’ve been able to apply that to both table tennis and school, so I guess I learned a lot from that tournament specifically,” acknowledges Ho.

He admits it can be a challenge to find time for his studies given a tournament schedule that had him competing in B.C. a week ago and Toronto before that. Ho has gone from practising every day last year to two or three times a week in this his graduating year.

“School is the first priority of course; sports being second.”

His table tennis experience has helped in that he’s learned to have a more even keel and to focus on his homework without getting too stressed out.

For now, however, his attention is on the world championships, where he’ll compete in singles, doubles, mixed doubles and the team event. While everyone wants to win gold, Ho says his goal is to play to his full potential. As for the team event, he says Canada has the talent to win a medal, with China heavy favourites and Japan and Korea among the top contenders.

Despite listing his physical skills among his strengths, Ho says the mental aspect likely accounts for 60 to 70 per cent of the game.

“The physical side is something you can practise but the mentality is something that is very crucial to the sport,” he says. “It’s almost like a physical game of chess: whose mental fortitude is stronger and who can outlast the other? It’s about placements, what kind of spin you use, where you serve. . . ”

While it is Ho’s first trip to Europe and Vendèe is located on the west coast of France, he’s not sure about sightseeing prospects given the area’s agricultural nature. Ho is also uncertain where table tennis might take him in the future, although he’s confident he’ll always play at some level.

He’s listed as a member of Canada’s “shadow” or backup squad for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Since Ho doesn’t get the same exposure as his eastern teammates because of a lack of tournaments in Western Canada, however, to make that jump to the Olympic team he’ll have to show extremely well at the World Juniors and then the Canada Cup this January.

There’s also the possibility of competing in the Universiade Games – the second largest multi-sporting event after the Olympics – as Ho recently applied for admission into the Faculty of Engineering at two universities.