Ranked number 1 in the country, SA’s table tennis champ, 16 year old Lekeasha Johnson, admits that she never thought she would be good at the sport, especially coming from Hanover Park where the situation is very difficult. After having started in 2008, it took Lekeasha a year to win her first national tournament in the under 12 tournament, and since then, she hasn’t looked back.
After having dominated in the junior tournaments for the last few years, the South Africa Table Tennis Board considers Lekeasha to be the future of the game in South Africa. She made the African team to the World Cadet Challenge in 2015, played at the2015 ITF African Junior Championship in Mauritius, qualified for the SA four-man women team competing in the ITTF World Team Championship in Malaysia, and she won the South African under 15 and under 18 national tournaments. She also competed in the International Arnold Schwarzenegger Tournament where she got to meet Arnold Schwarzenegger. She was also the youngest member of the SA women’s team at the 2016 International Junior Table Tennis Championships.
She is currently ranked fourth in Africa, improving three places over the last year, so her next goal is to climb into the top three.
Despite her success, whenever she speaks, she always expresses a humble feeling of gratitude for the opportunities she has been given. She has visited places she had never thought she would ever get to see and met people she would never have thought she’d meet.
However, she admits that it is very difficult balancing her training schedule with her studies but she has become use to maintaining a very strict schedule. She gets up at 5am in the morning to go for training before she attends classes and she also trains after classes. However, she makes sure that she makes the time to get all her schoolwork done.
Lekeasha plans on studying physiotherapy because when she retires from table tennis, she still wants to continue with a career in the world of sports. She says she loves sports and wants to continue helping other sports people.
She also plans on going overseas to countries like China, so she can train with the best but still represent South Africa. Her goal is to become the first female table tennis player from South Africa to play at the Olympic Games in 2020 and she plans on working hard to achieve that goal. She believes that it is an honour and a privilege to represent her country and fly the South African flag high.
Lekeasha’s parents are proud of her and makes a point of attending every game and cheering for her. She also says that he friends are very excited to see her compete against international competitors.
She says that the worst thing you can do is underestimate your opponent so she has to work harder everyday to remain at the top. When she played the top ranked African player at the African Junior Champs, she did not do so well. She says that she was nervous playing her and although she was disappointed by the result, she is determined to learn from her mistakes. She watches that match over and over again to see where she went wrong and how she can improve.
The advice she gives others who wants to play the game is to practice as much as you can and to learn everything about the game, including the theory, the rules, and the tactics.