THIS boy is special. At just 12-years-old, Tinotenda Fambira is already a member of the Zimbabwe national table tennis team. Although he dreams of becoming a doctor, those who have seen him in action believe the boy will get an Olympic medal before completing medical studies. The starlet, who recently sat for Grade 7 exams, sees no problem. He will simply do both. By Brighton Zhawi

“I want to be a doctor who plays table tennis,” said Tino confidently.

Fambira made his national team debut at the recent Ambassador’s Cup in Harare, winning two of his five games against opponents at least twice his age.

That impressive debut show has put him in prime postion for the table tennis scholarships that the Chinese government is expected to soon avail to Zimbabweans.

China is historically the most dominant nation in table tennis in recent Olympic Games.
“It is still verbal at the moment but if everything is confirmed we will have players going to China on scholarships through our partnership with China. Tino is on top of the list of players we want to send to China,” said Table Tennis Union president John Muringani.“The boy represents the future of table tennis in Zimbabwe and needs international exposure at such a tender age so that his talent develops to the highest possible level. He is a rare talent and the way he performed during the Ambassador’s Cup vindicated our decision to throw him into the deep end.”

The possibility of her son going to China, all thanks to table tennis, has Tino’s mum believing the sport can change her family’s fortunes.
“Sometimes I struggle to give him all that he needs for table tennis but his coaches always come through with help and I am grateful for the support. It shows that they believe in my son,” said Muchadeyi Fambira. “Obviously as a mother I had my own wishes and they included him pursuing his education without much focus on sport. However, I have since resolved to let Tino follow his heart because I am beginning to realise that he can actually earn a living from the sport.“When he started to show interest in table tennis I didn’t expect it to come to this to be honest. Yes he has gone on tours to Zambia and Botswana before but that was with junior teams and it cannot be compared to the national team.”

Mashonaland East Table Tennis Union chairperson Ferenando Noah was the first to see the gem in Tino when the boy was just eight, and he is not surprised by the huge strides the youngster is making.

“When I first saw him in action at Zimre Park Primary School I immediately knew that he was a star, a future Olympic medallist. We immediately designed a training program for him at our High Performance Centre at Old Windsor Primary and the boy has been religiously following it. Tino is headed for the stars, mark my words,” said Noah.

Tino wants to quickly step up.
“I am playing against under 15s in tournaments but I think I now should play the under 18s now because I really don’t have much competition,” he asserted.

With so much happening around him, Tino – who was inspired into taking up table tennis by his older brother Andy – is dreaming of an Olympic medal … and a medical degree.

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