Although table tennis may seem like a social sport, Anja Lamont takes the sport seriously and has had a passion from a young age. Naturally, she began playing tennis throughout her schooling career because it was a common sport offered at schools where she could get exposure and training from a coach.
“It was the closest thing to my real passion that I could find coaching and exposure to, but my real passion has always been table tennis,” says Lamont.
She recalls the time when she was just a toddler and visited her grandparents’ home during the school holidays in December, where they owned a table tennis table. She was so adamant about playing the game even though she could barely see over the table, her cousins would allow her to play but looking back she was just the glorified ball girl.
“This, however, didn’t end up in their best interest as this sparked my passion for table tennis to such an extent that we got our own table at home,” expressed Lamont.
She would play with her father, and when she turned 10 the two of them joined the local table tennis club in Knysna where they resided at the time. She recalls the club being full of old retired folks, but she enjoyed being part of a community where they shared the joy of playing the sport, despite most members being 50 years older than her she adds, the club members were very welcoming and taught her a lot about the game.
Lamont further recalls one December, when her cousin and his university friends visited and found themselves trying to compete for a few points against the 11-year-old year paddler.
Her table tennis course was put to a halt when her family moved, but she enjoyed the games she played with her father and some of her friends.
When she joined Stellenbosch University, she looked forward to the annual Societies Fair which offers students a wide range of out-of-class activities on campus.
“The first thing I looked out for at the society fair was the table tennis stand. Since then, I’ve joined Maties table tennis where I’ve approved significantly with the help of the more experienced players and I’ve been enjoying every opportunity to participate in tournaments and training,” she said with gratitude. The support of her executive committee, and especially her fellow Chairperson Jaco, has guided her through her journey as a leader in the sport code.
Recruiting new excited players is one of Lamont’s highlights as a chairperson. Table tennis is a recreational sport at Maties but seeing people being interested and eager to play at a competitive level, as well as the enquires [about the sport] has made her enthusiasic for the club.
Although the club has a handful of women on the team, she is hoping more female paddlers join the club. “The sport truly needs more women to step up. I would love to see a strong women’s team form before I leave Maties.”
She says girls may be intimidated but she’s confident that she has cultivated a great community filled with passionate people who are excited to help in any way.
“Apart from leadership, getting good at table tennis so you can see the shock on some guys’ faces when they never thought they would be beaten by a girl is a satisfaction on its own,” said a happy Lamont.
The chairperson says she was proud to have hosted a Commonwealth GAPS tournament in April, the Maties club had the opportunity to train alongside other athletes from different parts of Africa and receive some invaluable training from their coaches as well.
“We are also in the process of trying to get a paid coach which we are currently lacking so that we can get into form for USSA taking place at the end of the year.”
Lamont is coordinating a residence league, which has been going on since the second term, and is expecting to host the finals at the beginning of the fourth term later this year.
By Jamie Wyngaardt