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August 24, 2010 > Top youth ping-ponger a local boy

Top youth ping-ponger a local boy

By Gary van den Heuvel

The India Community Center (ICC) in Milpitas serves the community with a variety of programs for local youth, seniors, medical clinics, banquet facilities and even income tax assistance. What isn't necessarily widely known about the ICC is that it is also home to the largest full-time Table Tennis Center in North America.

Come in during the week and you are likely to see young players of top skill swatting the ball back and forth at each other at dizzying speeds, each player like a metronome, either winding up for a blast of topspin, or methodically returning that blast, preparing for another. Rallies often last for dozens of shots before the point ends.

Perhaps the most renowned player who currently calls the ICC his Table Tennis "home" is Krish Avvari, a 10-year-old who is ranked as the no. 1 table tennis player in the Under-12 Boys division in the country. Avvari gained his ranking with a win at last December's National Championships in Las Vegas. He cemented his reign with a win at last month's California State Tournament, held at ICC, prevailing in the Boys 11-and-Under category.

Krish has been playing since age 6, when, "My dad enrolled me in ICC for a table tennis class and I liked it very much. I used to go to soccer and swimming but I didn't like them as much as table tennis," he explained.

Avvari credits his parents (father Murthy and mother Gayatri Avvari), coaches and his 16-year-old sister Manaswini for giving him support and encouragement. His favorite memory of his young table tennis career came last December.

"On that night, I had just won an event in the ICC tournament. I was playing a man named John in the semifinals. He put up a great fight against me. Somehow, I had managed to beat him even though I barely won. When I came home, my sister came up and cheered for me very loudly. My mom, she was calm, but she told me congratulations. That is one night I will never forget," remembered Krish.

Avvari attends the Challenger School in Ardenwood and will be entering fifth grade this year. His favorite school subjects are math and science, but besides reading, most of his spare time is taken up with table tennis, practicing at ICC as much as six days per week, four hours a day. Krish says that his goal is "to get to the Olympics and maybe coach kids later on." Beyond sports, Krish sees himself as a doctor in the future.

Krish's coach Rajul Sheth mentioned that "Krish has been born and trained only in the USA. This has never happened for a 10-year-old boy in the history of U.S. table tennis."

Some of Avvari's eye-popping table tennis prowess can be seen on Internet sites such as YouTube.

The ICC Table Tennis program, which has also been the training ground for two other international youth table tennis stars - 14-year-olds Lily Zhang and Ariel Hsing - has been growing exponentially since its launch in 2005.

In five years it has opened North America's largest dedicated table tennis center and boasts 19 nationally ranked players, two of the youngest 2009 World Championship contenders (Ariel and Lily), more than a dozen medals from the U.S. National Championship, and a nationally acclaimed coaching staff.

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