London Academy – the Best of the Best

London Academy’s commitment to excellence in depth paid off handsomely at the National Schools Team Championships in Wolverhampton when they were the only school to win in both the boys and girls categories, and the only club to win two events.

London Academy has a lot of metrics for success. Participation, personal improvement, enjoyment, sporting values and enhanced fitness among them. But when all is said and done, the ultimate metric of success for any team is silverware. By that standard, London Academy can now lay claim to being the best school-based table tennis club in the entire country.

On the day expectations were high. The club went to Wolverhampton with a simple goal – to win both contests that they had qualified for: the girl’s Under 13 and the boy’s Under 19 competitions. Under the watchful eyes of coaches Bhavin Savjani and Hiba Feredj, they set about doing just that.

The last 12 months have not been easy for any club since coming out of lockdown and getting back on the tables. However, it’s doubly hard for a club that is committed to being the best in the country. The sheer hard work and dedication shown by all these players finally paid off in spectacular fashion.

The girls team were led by the remarkable Sienna Jetha, whose value to the squad lies in both her peerless ability on the table, and her willingness to help raise the level of her team mates: Alisha Dutta, Mauli Shah, Tadeea Aparaschivei, and Bal Balkan.

You can’t win with just one player. Two of the team had only been playing since the middle of year 7. Alisha showed a particular will to compete, having cancelled a holiday in order to go to the finals.

The entire team immediately showed the merits of London Academy’s progressive training regime, where drills and competition are mixed and the older players mentor, coach and continually challenge the the younger ones.

Their three rounds saw them only lose a single game (and even that game was only lost by the narrowest of margins). Their day included a ferocious dismantling of Newcastle Under Lyme, a crushing victory over Bradford M.S. and an empathic win over Putney H.S., their nearest rivals.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing, particularly against Putney. There was a point where the girls were struggling and the boys came along to support them and cheer them on. This made all the difference on the day.

In winning the team title, Sienna added to her collection of trophies as she had won the individual event on the previous day, beating Ella Pashley by 3 sets to 1 (11-9, 15-13, 6-11, 11-9) to take individual gold.

Sadly this was the last London Academy match in the foreseeable future for Bal, as she is returning to her native Turkey with her family. We wish her all the best and hope she keeps up the tremendous improvement she has made over the last year.

The boys team took the title for the third time in London Academy’s history. They won the last of their previous titles in 2014/2015. This was the time for the title to come back home.

Seasoned campaigners Daniel Oluwamayowa, Octavian Aparaschivei, and Robert Ionascu, were joined by up and coming players, Fernando Frandes and Devan Shah.

The boys proved to be just as dominant as the girls, winning all of their rounds against UCS Hampstead, St Mary’s College, Kingston upon Hull and Grantham Academy by 7 matches to 1.

Daniel Oluwamayowa said: “We’re ecstatic – we’ve won the under-19 nationals and nothing could make me feel so happy.

“It was all about teamwork. We expected to have some tough challenges but we came out on top.

“Devan didn’t play much but if he hadn’t been there to support us, we wouldn’t have won.”

The victory was particularly sweet for Daniel as this was his last tournament in this age group. With the previous year’s competition cancelled due to the pandemic he was determined to make the most of the opportunity. He has been a fantastic asset to the team and Devan has very big shoes to step into next year.

For London Academy these players and their extraordinary achievements are just the tip of the iceberg. Given our increasing strength in depth we are focussing on becoming even more successful in the years to come.