After nearly a month of waiting, I can now proudly announce that answers to the questions posed to Darius Knight have been received and can be found in full below.
Darius is currently ranked 7 in England and narrowly missed out on playing in the London 2012 Olympic games. In this interview, Darius sheds some light on what he felt about not being selected to play in the London Olympics, what his plans are for the future, and he answers some questions asked by members of the Colchester & District Table Tennis League.
This is the first ever interview carried out that is exclusive to the Colchester league. I can assure you this is just the start of things to come...
Questions and Answers
1) At what age did you start playing table tennis and what made you want to play a sport that is not as well-known as what football is, for example?
Darius: I started table tennis at 9/10 years old and I did it because I was terrible at it. Also where I am from it was the fashion “I thought I was the best at football or if not the best, one of the best in my school’ so that wasn’t very challenging after a while.
2) Did you have any people in your life who encouraged you to develop as a table tennis player and if so, what did they do to motivate you?
Darius: My friends motivated me trying to be better than them, apart from that it pretty much came from myself.
3) What advice do you have that you can give youngsters just starting out playing table tennis?
Darius: Love it, enjoy it and always think you can be better, eat, sleep and drink table tennis. Being a table tennis player isn’t just on the table, stretching, eating properly and watching other players play.
4) Do you think table tennis is a sport that needs to be started at an early age to give someone the best chance to become a good player?
Darius: I think it helps but really depends on the person, work rate, concentration and how often they play. It’s all about the hours you put in.
5) How did you feel not playing in the London 2012 Olympics when you were ranked 3rd in England, and why do you think you were not selected to be part of the four-man team?
Darius: In the end I was included in the team they took to the games but as you know I was not selected to play. I believe this was down to politics and slight jealousy/favouritism but I was still happy to be there. Since then I’ve made a decision for the better and life has been much happier and greater so things happen for a reason.
6) As you are now ranked 7 in England, there are a few other players in front of you who would think they stand a better chance of making the team for Rio 2016. What are you trying to do to give yourself the best chance to represent GB at the next Olympics?
Darius: Well to be honest I haven’t been training full-time for many months, I dip in and out of training and still have the skill to just turn up and use my bat. But I do believe If I trained a little harder and focused more I probably could be a close number 5. My ability is still there, just the consistency and confidence isn’t and in any sport confidence is key. I’ve been busy doing some other things and pursing my business interests.
7) What is the proudest moment of your career so far as a table tennis player?
Darius: Representing England for the 1st time, actually thinking I’ve made it and also believing in the promise my coach Gideon Ashison made to me that I’ll play for England in 1.5 years after taking up the sport.
8) What are your plans as a table tennis player for the next 10 years?
Darius: I can’t think that far ahead but I do know I will not be playing in 10 years for sure, I quite enjoy tennis so hopefully playing in a local tennis league.
9) What advice would you give to smaller clubs in the Colchester league to help them promote the sport in their local community, especially when the financial side of things is such a big problem for the smaller clubs?
Darius: I think life is all about numbers so I believe you have to go out there and get the children, table tennis is a sports that is popular but also hidden. I think I’ll have my own club this year in 2016. But I think a club starts always with a few local volunteers, player’s parents who are passionate about helping their child and other people's children.
10) Almost 2 years ago to the day, you visited Rowhedge Table Tennis Club and ran a coaching session for players of all ages. You also gave them the opportunity to ask you questions as well as having photos taken with whoever turned up. The Colchester league features a few other clubs that also host weekly coaching sessions. Would it be a possibility for you to come back to Colchester and visit a club to do another coaching session?
Darius: Of course I would, I remember the day exactly and everyone had great fun. Let’s get a date in the diary!
11) How do you mentally focus yourself at the table so as not to be emotional at critical points in a match and making the wrong choice of shot?
Darius: I would say experience, everybody has emotions, probably have to watch the top players but the more you’re in the situation the more you’ll work out what’s best for you.
12) What will it take for the UK Table Tennis scene to start competing with the likes of France and Germany for training/coaching juniors and providing a competitive scene here, rather than top players having to train in other countries?
Darius: People who understand sport (table tennis) and business, currently I don’t see anyone or us getting close anytime soon. We’ve had some very good players to be able to produce that, we need our club systems better and level of our coaches better. There are many successful people that play table tennis or have a big love for the game. I think it’s time for the association to tap into our experts to get advice to make it work. Or find out how can they help to make the association a successful one.
13) How has the new plastic ball affected your game?
Darius: I haven’t had time to train and try the balls properly but I think there is more rallies and less speed and spin. So I think you’ll see more random results in the international scene.
14) What do you do to help unwind after a game, particularly at night?
Darius: I watch some Naruto Uzumaki, it’s a Japanese Anime or just watching more inspirational table tennis videos.
15) How do you deal with nerves in a match?
Darius: In training I tend to put pressure on myself, play for a drink (coke) so it somehow has kind of value or meaning no one wants to lose. I think in training you have to put pressure on yourself, or when you’re tired that’s when it counts often you make mistakes when you’re tired or not focusing.
16) What do you think can be done to improve the sport of table tennis as a whole? For example, more advertising, more TV coverage, etc.
Darius: I think there aren’t enough passionate people in the sport to make it work. Also I think they need to talk to the players and young people as times have changed and pretty much young people control the future of the world. Our sport needs to update with the times of the other sports, facts, science and figures. When I watch tennis I just listen to the stats, same with football it’s amazing. With table tennis people still don’t know very much about it. Our sport is doing well, we now have pingpong bars… you couldn’t do that with many sports. So I think there is a few very clever people who understand business and like our sport that are doing very well from it.
17) Have you got any advice on how to become a professional table tennis player?
Darius: I think table tennis is like art, watching the best players in the world is so relaxing and cool. Draw a picture, most of all enjoy it and think that you can always be better. Never be satisfied and the boring stuff is normally the most important stuff.
Questions answered Tuesday 5th January 2016
Tom Lewis - CDTTL Press Officer