I am Michiel. I am 12 years old… and I follow my heart. I fight for my dream. Sport is my life. In the beginning I was very shy. All my friends played soccer but… that did not feel like my thing. The first matches I played weren’t great, I lost everything. I did not feel like an athlete at that time. The others were simply better. That didn’t make me feel good… but I still enjoyed playing. If I could score a point, maybe win a set… we had a good time, went out for a snack with the team. There was one table in the middle… and everybody was cheering. I thought to myself, wow this is a cool sport. You can play it on a high level. After Dusseldorf, I started searching online. I found a trailer of the world championships… and it wasn’t because I liked the video that much… but because I dreamed it was me playing there. I decided to go for it. There was a trainer who wanted to work with me in his basement. And at home I carried my racket everywhere. It just didn’t stop, I was constantly playing. I pictured myself playing at a real table but in reality… it was the table in my livingroom. We also bought a real table and a tabletennis robot. Father: How much longer will you continue? Michiel: That… I don’t know! Then I got selected to play with the best players of my province. The first training, I was really nervous. Actually, I was the lousiest player of the bunch. But we only did one training a week there… and that wasn’t enough for me. Wherever I could play… I was there. I continued to work hard… and went from the worst to one of the best players in that group One day, my trainer said… maybe you can do coordination exercises at home. So we bought a ladder and a rope to jump. I started doing simple exercises… that were difficult in the beginning. But after a while I improved and we put the table in our garden. I practiced my serves. That was training but to me it felt more like playing. At the start of the new season, playing for a new team… I immediately won the first tournament. That same year my team won the league. That felt great. I started to fit in. I was allowed to train in Arlen, a training camp for the best players in Flanders. After the camp they said I did good and they saw I was very motivated. They selected me for their team. Then I knew… I am one of the best in Flanders, in my country. In that time, I got the opportunity to play international. That was no immediate success but after some tournaments I started to play for… the top 10, quarter final, semifinal… . And I want to keep growing like that. [applause] Host: Michiel Nijst… Michiel: It’s going good and I am having a lot of fun. Michiel: I tried to win everything but it is not possible. Host: Ladies and gentlemen, the bear of Wiemesmeer, congratulations! [applause] That year was really hard for me. I hated going to the hospital because I saw him laying there… and I did not want to see him like that. I learned that life is not always easy and that things don’t always run smoothly. And that sometimes you have to accept things as they are. One of the emotional moments was the Flemish championship. For the first time, my father could not come to the tournament with me. I told him, today I will win for you father. He was worried and said, it’s good for me even if you don’t win. What he meant to say was don’t feel bad if you fail. But I thought, I won’t fail… I’ll fight for it. And then I won! I really wanted my father to be there but… I still felt him with me. That’s when I decided… I’m going to work even harder. Go and take each moment, fight for everything you’ve got. Never give up on something you love. Train as hard as you can and enjoy what you do. Table tennis is a fantastic sport, it is my passion… I love it. I don’t know how to live without it. But some people say that you can’t make a living playing pingpong. And then I think, if you say so… but I’ll still try to do it. I don’t care about how much money I make. If I can do what I love most… I can be happy. I know it’s still a long way to go and that I’ll have to overcome setbacks. But I don’t fear that… that’s a part of life. I will get the best out of me, physically and mentally. I want to understand the game and learn to play smart. Improve my technique and become a complete player. And then… I want to see… if I can compete with the best players in the world.

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Dennis Veasley

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