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Meet the 15-year-old making Australian table tennis history

Meet the 15-year-old making Australian table tennis history

 


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Sareen is one of seven athletes who will represent Australia at the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Busan later this month, where an impressive campaign could secure his ticket to Paris for the Olympics in July.
Sareen will be part of the Australian men's team for the upcoming championships in South Korea, joining fellow teenagers Nicholas Lum and Finn Luu in group matches against France, Denmark, Austria and Algeria.
The US-based athlete, who first left Australia as a toddler, has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the national team despite only picking up a racket six years ago.
“My father and I went to a local gym that had basketball, badminton and all kinds of sports, and there was a room where it was almost like free table tennis lessons,” Sareen said. SBS Sports.
“I was like, 'oh, that's cool, why don't you give it a try?', and so I went in there and played a little bit, maybe 30 minutes, with this one coach and she said, 'I see well. You have some talent, maybe you can go to the table tennis club and give it a try?'

“So I tried, then I kept training with my dad, and now I'm here.”

2023 was particularly important for Sareen's development: in August, the Seattle Spinners selected him in the second round of the first Major League Table Tennis Draft, and a month later he would rewrite the Australian record books.
Fresh from becoming the youngest men's singles champion at the Oceania Championships in Townsville, Sareen climbed to the top of the world rankings in the U15 age category, joining Lum (U17) as the only Australians to reach such heights in singles competition.
That achievement would cement Sareen's status as a rising star in the sport and allow him to reconsider his view on the extent of his potential.
“When I saw my name, I was almost stunned,” he explained. “Like, wow, I really accomplished this, and it really meant a lot to me.
“I think my goals for the future are just to keep improving, try to get better and better and see if I can compete internationally with all these big boys.
“If I keep working hard and know what I am capable of, I think I can take the next step.”
Balancing education with the demands of being an elite athlete – with training sessions lasting two to six hours a day – has been a unique challenge for the Victorian, but one he has overcome with the help of his coaches and teachers at Laurel Springs School for distance learning.

His father, Rahul, has also played an important role in his career, having first moved from India to Melbourne and then to New Jersey shortly after Sareen's first birthday.

Despite having a limited memory of Australia, Sareen's affinity for the country never wavered; This ultimately influenced his decision to commit to a national team which has since furthered his development alongside Lum and Luu.
“Finn and Nick, they played a lot of international tournaments before I did,” Sareen said. “I didn't have much experience so they taught me a lot about how to play and what to feel when you play.
“They gave me a lot of good tips on how not to feel pressure, and I am also very grateful to them. They have been good role models for me.”
Sareen's position as one of the youngest players on the scene hasn't deterred his ambition; the two-winged forward is confident his play will get him over the line against his more experienced opponents.
That is the message he will remind himself of in Busan, and one he will carry with him throughout the Olympics and throughout the year.
“This is my first time playing in such a big event, there are almost no expectations,” he added. “Just try to play my game, try everything and maybe see if we can get further in the group.

“I mean, it's going to be a tough one. There are many good players. But I think if we really focus and really try our best, it's very possible to do this.”

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