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Anthonette Riley was given an ultimatum-athletics or table-tennis. She chose the latter. And according to her, it was the best decision she ever made.
“If I’m not playing table-tennis, I feel as though a part of me is missing,” she said.
Though petite in stature, the 18-year- old National Table-Tennis Champion packs a mean forehand push and has the accolades to prove it. She has won the Caribbean’s Region Table Tennis Federation Girls’ under-10 Championship, all of the junior titles, majority of the senior titles, and just last year was crowned National Women’s Champion, a feat she said she wanted to achieve before her 18th birthday.
She credited her father, Peter Riley, who is also a table-tennis player and her former coach, for inspiring her to play the sport. “When I was a little girl my dad used to play table-tennis, and he would take me to his games. It was at that time that I fell in love with the sport and decided I wanted to play,” she said.
The former Grazettes Primary and Combermere Track & Field athlete said she decided to hang up her track shoes after she found it difficult to balance with table-tennis and her academics. “I used to run for Grazettes, and I was on the Combermere track team for four years. I ran the 100, 200 and sometimes the 400,” she said, “Table-tennis was where my heart was, so ultimately I chose that.”
She said while table-tennis seemed to be one of the less popular sports on the island she would like to see more young people involved, adding that it was a fun and interesting sport. She noted that sports was not just about the fun and adrenaline rush, but it helped to shape you as an individual. “I think sports is very important. It helps a lot with discipline and it teaches lessons that you can apply to your life. It teaches you how to deal with criticism, pressure, and how to work as a team,” the former Head-Girl said,“Sports can help shape you into a better person.”
Anthonette said she was grateful for the opportunities that playing table-tennis had provided her, especially travelling to other countries since she enjoyed meeting new people and learning different cultures. “It’s been really interesting; it opened my mind to the different sports the world has to offer. It has made me more humble to understand how lucky and blessed I am to be able to play table-tennis and travel the world,” she said.
With her eyes set on the 2020 Olympic Games, Anthonette said she believed that with support and the right mechanisms in place, Barbados could have a table-tennis team. “I would love to compete at the Olympics. I think we have juniors who have a lot of potential. Once the athletes are dedicated, and we have the necessary training programmes and financial support in place, it’s possible,” she noted.
The UWI Cave Hill student said she was elated to be a part of the Barbados Olympic Association’s 50th Independence games, and that it was a great opportunity to unite sports in Barbados. “It’s nice to see all sportspeople come together to put on a show for everyone. I think it’s going to be amazing. I’m looking forward to participating,” Anthonette said.
As for her future goals, she said she was aiming for a scholarship to an overseas university, and would like to turn professional.
When she is not playing table-tennis or reading novels, she is listening to her favourite pop duo Jack and Jack.