It’s easy to forget table tennis star Tin-Tin Ho is just 17. Less than two years ago she burst onto the scene by winning a silver medal at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games in the mixed doubles, and earlier this month, she was crowned women’s national singles champion after performing a stunning comeback against Kelly Sibley live on ITV4.
SportsAid athlete Tin-Tin, from Paddington in London, was born into the sport. Her father Charles was a talented young player when growing up in Hong Kong and chose Tin-Tin’s name from the initials ‘TT’ for table tennis. Tin-Tin’s brother Ping, 22, used to play for England at youth level and was also supported by SportsAid.
The silver she secured in Glasgow with her doubles partner Liam Pitchford was an incredible achievement for an athlete so young yet it only served to whet her appetite for success. A fortnight prior to winning the national singles title at the PG Mutual National Championships in Hatfield, Tin-Tin was taking the Italian Youth Open by storm.
She secured a bronze medal in the singles before winning gold in the women’s team event with fellow SportsAid athletes Emily Bolton and Kate Cheer as they edged out Japan in the final. She also teamed up with Kate to claim silver in the women’s doubles. The competition acted as a perfect warm-up for the PG Mutual National Championships.
Her singles finals clash with number one seed Kelly, shortly after Tin-Tin had retained the women’s doubles and mixed doubles titles earlier in the day, was a gripping encounter. Tin-Tin came from behind twice to win 4-2 (5-11, 11-9, 3-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-6) as she triumphed over an opponent she’d never previously beaten in training let alone a competition.
“Winning the National Championships has been a goal since day one,” said Tin-Tin. “I've always believed I could but I had lost to Kelly a few times this year so I wasn't feeling the most confident. I found a way to stay in the match and eventually win it. I tried to focus more on being aggressive and relaxing to give myself the best chance.”
The day before Tin-Tin had missed out on winning the women’s Under-21s title as she lost to her women’s doubles partner and good friend Maria Tsaptsinos in a dramatic final. Tin-Tin did beat Maria, who is also a beneficiary of SportsAid support, when they met again in the semi-final of the women’s singles in what she described as ‘always a tough match’.
Tin-Tin and Maria teamed up to win the women’s doubles title, and she won the mixed doubles for the third consecutive year with SportsAid athlete Sam Walker. Tin-Tin felt the atmosphere at the PG Mutual National Championships, with the live television cameras, was the best she’d experienced. She was even spotted by her channel-hopping friends!
“The atmosphere was the best it has ever been since I have played,” said Tin-Tin. “The audience seemed really enthusiastic which helped boost the performances. I think it's vital that table tennis is getting more exposure in England for future development. Even a few of my school friends saw the matches by chance on TV!”
Tin-Tin has now set her sights on the 2016 European Youth Table Tennis Championships in Zagreb this summer with representing Team GB at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics her long-term aim. Tin-Tin, who received her first SportsAid Award when she was just seven years old in 2006, is grateful to the charity for the help she has received.
“I'd like to perform well at the European Youth Championships as it’s my last year competing as a junior (Under-18s),” said Tin-Tin. “It would be amazing if I could get a medal. Unfortunately I can’t participate in Rio this year but with more training and competitions to improve hopefully I can make Tokyo!
“SportsAid’s support has been amazing,” continued Tin-Tin, who helped contribute to a table tennis demonstration at the 2015 SportsBall. “Even when I am disappointed with performances they are always there to encourage me to keep going. The funding has also been essential to give me the best possible chance.”
Tin-Tin reserved special praise for her parents, Charles and Rita, and the support they have given her. She played in 126 matches back in 2013, more than anybody else in women’s world table tennis, which helps demonstrate the lengths Tin-Tin and her parents have gone to for her sporting career.
“No words can explain how much they have given up to support me,” said Tin-Tin. “My mum has driven everywhere for training and competitions all over the country. My dad's love for the sport clearly shows as he encourages me and sees a positive out of every situation. He coaches me in domestic tournaments and always gives me support when I am abroad.”
Tin-Tin attends City of London School for Girls and balances studying for her AS Levels with training and competing. Her determination to perform to a high standard on both fronts is without question, and she intends to go to university after taking a year out to pursue her table tennis ambitions when finishing school.
“It's difficult combining studying with table tennis. My school has been incredible with allowing me to have time off and helping me catch up. I am going to take my AS levels this summer in chemistry, biology, maths and economics. After taking a gap year for the sport, I would like to go to university and study something science and medical based.”
What will you do to #SupportTheNext generation of British sporting heroes? SportsAid needs your help to ensure talented athletes like Tin-Tin can continue receiving the support they rely on. To donate, please text ‘NEXT01 £5’, ‘NEXT01 £10’ or as much as you can give to 70070.