Seabrook’s Jake Ballestrino, co-captain of Table Tennis Australia’s national para-squad, on Wednesday competes in his first match at the Tokyo Paralympics.
The 30 year old’s journey to Tokyo started in country Victoria.
“I started in 2013 and that was my first real tournament – played at the nationals in Ballarat – and one thing led to another,” he said.
“Came away with a gold medal in the teams and that was the start of my journey in table tennis.”
Ballestrino started playing right-handed but after breaking his arm he started playing left-handed and never went back.
“Originally I was a righty … well I was a little bit ambidextrous anyway because at the time I didn’t have a backhand,” he said.
“Then what happened was, I was playing for about 12 months and then broke my arm.
“I was playing footy, being a little bit silly.
“Instead of sitting down for the required eight weeks, I went from right-handed to left-handed and kind of never looked back.
“I pretty much stick to probably 95 per cent left now but I definitely do throw in a couple of right-handed serves because I’ve worked tremendously hard to get a backhand now.”
Ballestrino said his favourite inspirational quote is: ‘I may not be there yet but I’m closer than what I was yesterday.’
“A few people through life have inspired me,” Ballestrino said.
“I take a lot of inspiration from football players.
“I’m a crazy Carlton supporter, so players like Anthony Koutoufides, Stephen Silvagni.
“Probably the main reason why I’m actually in table tennis at all is through my dad.
“He used to play years and years ago, and then we kind of just played around the house.
“I draw a little bit of inspiration from him as well as having his kind of attitude towards life, which is a ‘can do’ attitude, and that’s what I try to do.
“That’s why that quote kind of speaks to me. Yeah, it’s great I’ve got plans, I’ve got aspirations and goals … but you’ve got to sometimes take a step back and [say] I may not be there yet but I am significantly closer than what I was yesterday.
“It’s good to reflect, it’s good to remind yourself where you’re coming from and how far you have progressed, as well as knowing how far you have got left to progress.”
At Tokyo, Ballestrino has goals of playing well and being proactive.
“I like to think of myself as a bit of a chameleon,” he said.
“If I need to be defensive, I can be defensive.
“If I need to attack, I can do that.
“I think a lot of players are going to be doing very similar type things so I need to be as good as I can be with my attack and starting on the front foot and getting in front and then improving my position.”