By Jemima Holmes
From a makeshift plywood table to a year of gruelling training in Germany; Miguel Wong is eager to make his mark at this year’s first-ever Junior Pan American Games.
The National Table Tennis player, who now works assiduously on his craft daily, originated from humble beginnings in one of Guyana’s mining regions, Cuyuni-Mazaruni (Region 7).
“Both me and my brother were born and raised in a small village of Imbaimadai in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni region. We came to Georgetown for a chance at better education at the Mae’s School, we would stay in Georgetown till the end of the school semester and then we would return,” Wong related.
However, before he became entranced with his current love for Table Tennis, the 20-year-old athlete dabbled in a few other sports.
“Every year during the August period we would travel to the inter-village games which consists of 7-8 villages competing. My dad, at the time, was the goalkeeper for the football team. He was also the volleyball captain, and I would go to his practice and play volleyball and football with all the kids in the community,” he said upon reflection of his beginnings in the world of sport.
“So from a young age I was fairly active and around sports.”
Once he got to the primary level at Mae’s Schools in Subryanville, Georgetown, he was introduced to the sport. Notably, this institution is responsible for the introduction of many young players to the sport, some of whom are amongst Guyana’s National and International Representatives.
“I used to play during my lunch breaks and after school was over. At first it was just mainly to pass time, while waiting for my parents to collect me then later on it became an excuse to stay later after school was over,” the athlete candidly shared.
Recognising his passion for the game, his father, made the necessary strides to ensure that he could also practice at home.
“My dad made a makeshift table from plywood and two stands, which we would play during the afternoons at home.”
A little later on, the youngster was invited to the Titans Table Tennis Club by Coach Dwain Dick, where he still trains.
Wong related, “I played my first competition which was an inter-school games. There I was introduced to Coach Dwain Dick who invited me to his club, and then the rest was history.”
Currently ranked 710 in the Men’s seniors by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) with 168 ranking points, the 20-year-old can be considered as one of the best products of the sport in the nation.
This kind of achievement would bring high expectations but Wong, who is up to the challenge, has nothing but passion for the sport.
“From the day I joined the table tennis club, I dedicated myself to the sport.”
The table tennis player continued, saying, “For those, those who have been around me from the beginning, can attest to the sacrifices on work I’ve put in both on and off the table, maintaining all the late-night trainings and early morning fitness in the National Park has led me to this point.”
Though the youngster possessed a zealous passion for the sport, it was not all fairytales along his journey; there were many hurdles for him to cross, mostly mentally at times.
“My biggest challenges so far was to stay disciplined and committed to the sport. There was a point in time where I was inactive.”
“Due to bad influence of persons around me,” Wong regretfully admitted.
He went on to share on the topic, saying, “It was a very, very bumpy road. There were many times I wanted to stop and put the racquet down, because I wasn’t sure where I was heading in the sport.”
Most recently, for his trip to Germany in 2019, which was eventually extended to about a year’s stay, owing to lockdowns for the coronavirus pandemic, Wong was the recipient of valuable support from corporate Guyana.
Beacon’s Café and King’s Jewellery are amongst some of those who have constantly supported the table tennis player on his journey, a factor that Wong is quite grateful for.
“For many athletes, any form of sponsorship helps relieve an enormous amount of baggage. student athletes, for example, they have equipment, training, gym, nutrition, and transportation costs, which would normally have to fall to their parents,” the athlete explained.
He further added, “So, with corporate sponsorship athletes get more marketability. They get access to better training, whether it be abroad or locally. They get to attend more competitions, they get equipment needed to, which will help develop them, and the list goes on.”
When probed about his qualification for the Junior Pan American Games, which is scheduled for November 24 to December 5 in Cali, Colombia, an elated Wong had this to say:
“I’m very proud to be able to represent Guyana, the first ever Junior Pan Am Games. This means that I will be the first Junior games, table tennis player to have qualified for these games which is an honour,” The athlete gushed.
Then again, this major event is not just about representation for the 20-year-old. Wong is keen on making a positive mark at the tournament, not only to win a medal, but also to further improve his level of competitiveness.
“I want to compete with the best juniors in the Pan Americas, to test my level and to measure my development over the years. Also, because it is the first of its kind at the junior level, which is one of the reasons why I am looking forward to the event,” he said.
The table tennis player, who is hoping to get the opportunity to train abroad in preparation for the event, shared his intentions for the tournament, stating, “If I’m able to produce great results at this tournament, it will definitely boost my career to another level. It was part of my development as a player.”