Table tennis 'saved me'

Table tennis prodigy Darius Knight says the sport has saved him from the get-rich-quick attitude that made many of his friends turn to crime.

The south Londoner is the rising star of British table tennis. He is a three-times British under-21 national champion and European youth champion, and has made the sport appeal to youngsters coming up behind.

Darius's talent and background have made him the perfect figurehead for the Fred Perry Urban Cup, which promotes table tennis in inner cities.

Table tennis club membership numbers have been falling since the late 1970s, but it’s hoped initiatives like the Urban Cup will reverse the trend.

In the competition, set up by the English Table Tennis Association and clothing brand Fred Perry, players from eight cities compete in a tournament in London.

“Table tennis is like my baby,” says Darius. “It was my saviour, giving me a new direction from a young age. I was fortunate.”

New direction

As a child, Darius lived on a council estate in Lambeth, south London. He spent much of his time with a gang of 15 boys. Darius found that table tennis gave him a purpose, while many of his friends went in the wrong direction, getting involved in crime.

"They wanted the quickest way of getting what they wanted and sometimes that meant doing negative things," says Darius. "That was why I got into table tennis. It opened a lot of gates and has made my life easier.

“I was always pretty good at sport, but with table tennis I started off at the bottom. I was taunted by other players who had better skills than me, so I was determined to be the best.

"I was fascinated by the game. It requires speed, reflexes, technique and strategy. Anyone can play but when you take it to a higher level, it’s very technical. For me, it’s like one fast and furious chess game.”

Explosive style

Darius’s training started in a shed in Wandsworth, but he soon caught the attention of the table tennis authorities.

He now trains at the prestigious English Institute of Sport Sheffield, where he has gone from strength to strength.

His explosive style and athleticism have turned him into a star attraction at tournaments in Britain and abroad.

Darius aims to build on his national and European youth titles by making his mark as a senior player.

He says: "I'd like to become a top-class table tennis coach and give something back, especially in London. Being able to win at the highest level for your country is the best thing ever."

Find out more about table tennis on the English Table Tennis Association website.

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