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An Interview with Omer Avi-Tal: World Ranking Table Tennis Athlete
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An Interview with Omer Avi-Tal: World Ranking Table Tennis Athlete

An Interview with Omer Avi-Tal: World Ranking Table Tennis Athlete

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Omer Avi-tal is a VisionDirect table tennis athlete from Panama who is preparing to compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

At 21 years-old, he is a strong athlete and has shown much potential to place for the Games.

In 2012, he attended Beijing Language & Culture University for a year to study Mandarin and further his professional table tennis training. In 2013, he enrolled at Donghua University’s CIP Business School in Shanghai to pursue a degree in International Trade. Last year, he competed in the 2014 GAC Group ITTF World Tour China Open in Chengdu and beat Chinese Taipei’s Wen Wei-Chieh. This big win gave him the motivation that he needed to continue his athletic career.

In the past, he has competed in the 2011 ITFF-Latin America Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico where he placed for and competed in the 2012 Liebherr World Team Championships in Dortmund, Germany.

Currently, Omer is continuing his studies and training in Shanghai and is preparing to compete in Korea next week for the Korea Pro Tour.

In an interview, we asked him about his affection for table tennis, his plans for the future and how he finds the time to balance all of lifes priorities.

When did you first realise your passion for table tennis?

“I first realized my passion for table tennis when I was 15 years old when I qualified for the Men’s Team to go participate in my first Olympic cycle tournament; The Central American and Caribbean Games in Puerto Rico. I was in the Youth Team back then and I really wanted to make the Men’s Team to play with the best players. One week before the qualifications started, I asked my trainer to let me play in the qualification rounds with all the best players at the time. There were four rounds of qualifications. I placed first in the first round and in the other ones, I a placed in between the first four so I made the team and played in Puerto Rico. When I made the team I was very happy and grateful, which motivated me to keep working hard and believing in myself.”

At 21 years old, balancing an education, a professional sports career and a social life must be tough. Not to mention, you can speak Mandarin! How do you find the time to balance all of your life’s priorities and goals?


“Balancing these, I discovered, is an art. A person that knows how to balance all of their major activities in life will be a very successful person in the future. After 10 years of trying to create the perfect routine, I still haven’t perfected it. I have a very systematic schedule were I divide all three major activities of my life. Having a social life is important, but during this time of my life, it doesn’t have the same level of importance as my passion for Table Tennis and my University studies. Therefore, I invest less time in that field when compared to the others. After choosing my classes for the semester, my study schedule can be fixed around my training schedule. I train the same amount of hours every week and I arrange my training so that I can train 6 hours a day 4 times a week, 3 hours two days a week and one day for rest on Shabbat.”

“Sometimes it is very hard to keep up with my University studies when I am preparing for a tournament. During these times, I usually study on my way to the training hall, during meals, in the evenings after I have finished training or I just use some time on Sunday and Saturday night to do revisions. Sometimes tournaments affect my grades and my attendance. At the beginning of this semester, I went to Argentina to play in the Latin American Championships and the Pan-American Qualifications, where I had to miss four weeks of class. Although it has been very hard, I still manage to find free time for myself and drink a beer or two with a good friend once a week.”

As table tennis is not a popular sport of choice in Panama, do you have any words of advice for other young athletes or professionals who want to pursue a lifestyle or career path that is rather unprecedented for their generation?

“I always say do what you love, even if the path looks a little dark and you can’t see the result in the near future. I never thought I would live in China one day and get to experience great moments along the way. Also, you never know if it will become popular later when you reach a higher level in your career. Who knows? Maybe you play your sport in an innovative way that will make your sport more attractive and popular. Maybe popular brands will sponsor the tournaments of the sport having great prices for the winner. The idea that table tennis is not a popular sport never discouraged me. I feel great when I am playing, so I just went with the flow. I just thought, “Why invest my time on things that I don’t really like? Why not play table tennis and pursue my studies at the same time?” Do what you love, work hard, never look back and great stuff will happen.”

Whether you are training or just playing sports for fun outdoors, do you have any favourite brands of sports sunglasses that improve your performance? What are they and why do you like them?

“I don’t wear sunglasses when I am playing or training, but I really like the Carrera sunglasses when I am driving. The style is a perfect fit for when you are going for a drive or enjoying a day on the bay. I think it has something to do with how aerodynamic the sunglasses are that make them so cool and comfortable.”

smartbuyglassesWhat are your expectations and goals for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games?

“First of all, I need to qualify. The qualifications are in Chile next year and I am getting ready, both physically and mentally, because I know it will not be an easy task. I think it is a very good opportunity for me because I have been training a lot and playing in a lot of tournaments lately.
I plan to be at my peak when I arrive in Chile for the tournament. Also, since the Olympics are in Brazil, the Brazilian Team will not play in the qualification rounds, so that means there is a higher chance to qualify. My major advantage is that I am living in the best place of the world to train, China, so I am taking advantage of it every week. Once I qualify, I think if I can reach any of the best 64 positions that would be a huge honor. Never before has any Panamanian player competed in the Olympic Games for table tennis, so I think winning two rounds would be an amazing achievement.”


To hear more about Omer and his story, you can check out the video below.

You can view Omer’s World Ranking table tennis stats here.

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