London Academy walked away with three trophies from the National Schools Team Championships at Wolverhampton. The Under 16 Girls and Under 16 Boys champions were joined by our Under 11 Girls team who came home with London Academy’s first ever primary school national title.
In just under 2 years, the Under 11 Girls team of Soraya Rahmani-Walentynska, Assil Sarri, Inayah Zasella, Serene Rahmani-Walentynska, and Ruby Gandi Bamidele have gone from table tennis novices to national champions.
The London Academy girls were flawless in pursuit of the title as they won their first two matches 8-0 against Dovedale Primary School from Derbyshire, and Shakespeare Primary from Leeds.
Their final match set them against the similarly unbeaten Fox Primary from Kensington & Chelsea, a team with a long pedigree of success at this level.
But London Academy were in no mood to respect tradition, beating their closest rivals 8-0.
They were so dominant, they only dropped two individual games all day as they lifted the Martin Foulser Cup.
Team No.1, Soraya Rahmani-Walentynska said: “It’s very, very, very good to be part of a team because we’re all best friends and it makes our relationship better. We divide the success by five.”
It’s no coincidence that London Academy have quickly begun to duplicate their secondary success at the primary level. The younger players are not only coached in the traditional manner. They are also trained, mentored and inspired by the older players.
Alongside this they gain invaluable match-play experience across a broad spectrum of competitions, from our hugely successful grassroots Outreach Championship, to elite competition at the 2 Star level, and team competition in the National Cadet League. Moreover, they become part of the extended London Academy Table Tennis family, with shared goals and a commitment towards living better, healthier and more focused lives.
The Boys Under 11 came very close to matching the girls, just falling short in their final tie against the vastly more experienced St Edward’s Catholic Primary, who were aiming for their third year in a row as champions.
Having won their first two matches 8-0 against East Bridgford and Seamer & Irton, the boys went into their last match full of confidence against a team whom they had beaten earlier in the season at the Jack Petchey London Finals. However, this time the St Edwards boys had the upper hand and despite some close matches, London Academy had to settle for Silver after a 7-1 loss.
London Academy also took both titles at the under 16 level.
The Under 16 Girls team beat defending champions St George’s Catholic School to take the Mick Betts Memorial Cup.
Having comprehensively beaten Toot Hill School and Wade Deacon High School, the team of Sienna Jetha, Alisha Dutta, Mauli Shah and Tadeea Aparaschivei, faced off against their toughest opposition of the day in a final decider.
In the deciding match, St George’s twice took the lead at 1-0 and 2-1, with victories for Jonabel Taguibao and Jadeine Augustin over Alisha and Tadeea respectively. But the eventually swung towards the North London girls when Mauli and Alisha, playing on adjacent tables, won two nail-biting matches in quick succession. Ably led by the unbeaten Sienna, London Academy won the last five matches on the trot to take the tie 6-2.
Mauli Shah said: “We feel really proud to be winners of the under-16 girls. Last year, we participated here in the under-13s and we won that as well, so overall as a team we’ve done pretty well. We have all the support from our coaches and parents to be successful in the whole competition.”
In the Under 16 Boys, Fernando Frandes, Parsa Yamin, Shahuraj Nimse, Devan Shah and Ilyes Djeraoui won the Leach-Carrington Cup as they edged a tight competition in which two of the matches ended in draws.
They made the best possible start, beating St Mary’s College from Liverpool 8-0 and following that up by dismantling Reading School 6-2. Their last tie came against the formidable Warwick School, who had already beaten St Mary’s 6-2 but had drawn 4-4 with Reading.
It meant that London Academy just needed a draw to take the title. For a while that looked to be too much to ask as Warwick won the first two matches and stayed ahead throughout the tie. With the team 4-3 down, llyes Djeraoui went into the last match against Yannic Fowler needing a win to take the title. Ignoring the pressure, Ilyes trounced his final opponent by a scoreline of 3-0 (11-5, 11-7, 11-8), delivering the title to London Academy.
Shahuraj Nimse, 14, said: “I’m glad and elated that we won, it was hard work but we worked our way through all our rounds and it paid off. Our coaches Bhavin (Savjani) and Gabriel (Achampong) guided us to the trophy.”
London Academy have a long tradition of table tennis victories at the secondary school level. Over the years the academy has stood out from their peers by repeatedly winning national medals with multiple teams. This has meant success at a level that no other school has come close to matching.
Within the last two years we have seen the arrival of primary school players into the London Academy system. The pyramid that the London Academy coaches to inspire and encourage their younger players is already bearing fruit and we look for to more success in the future.