Two young brothers from Broadstairs have won gold at the Kent County Table Tennis Championships.
Benjamin Willis, 11, became the Kent Under 13 Champion (boys singles) and his 7-year-old brother Oliver won the second-tier Under 13 Plate (boys singles) tournament at the event held in Sittingbourne on June 4th.
Upton pupils Ben and Oliver started playing table tennis regularly in 2020 during the COVID lockdown, when their dad Russell bought a table tennis table and squeezed it into the kitchen.
Since then, they have trained in Japan when returning for holidays and to visit their grandparents and also attend weekly sessions at Chestfield Warriors Table Tennis Club in Whitstable and Thanet Vikings in Margate.
The boys are also coached at home by education software developer Russell three times a week.
Russell, wife Akiko and the boys moved to Broadstairs just before the pandemic hit.
Russell said: “We used to play on a little wooden table because I like table tennis but we didn’t do it regularly.
“Then (with the lockdowns) we were stuck indoors so I thought we would get a proper table and we squeezed it into the kitchen.”
The brother took to the sport and revealed a growing talent. Russell said: “Akiko is from Japan and the boys were born there. So, when we go back they do some training there, Table Tennis is really big in Japan.”
The lads, who are also into Pokémon, Beyblades and football, started playing in local tournaments about 18 months ago.
Ben is now one of the best players for his age in England and will be attending the National Championships in Aldersley this weekend where he will compete in both the under-11 and the under-13 sections.
Russell said: “It’s a big challenge. To qualify they have to be in the top 24 players (for the age group) in England and Ben is number 11 for under 11s and also qualified for under 13s.
“The level is very high so we aren’t expecting to win, although he could, but it is a very high level. Any adult that thinks they can play table tennis won’t beat these kids!
“It has been a big boost for both of them to win the Kent championships, winning a gold medal was thrilling for them and for us.”
And Ben has his sights set high. He said: “My ambition is to play in the 2028 Olympics.”
“Me too,” added Oliver.