My Jakarta: Table Tennis Player Ficky Supit Santoso
The old saying ‘Like father, like son’ is true for rising table tennis player Ficky Supit Santoso, 20, whose dad is Sinyo Supit, a former star of the sport in the 1980s. Ficky won the bronze medal in his first SEA Games in Laos last year and he’s been on the national team since the age of 18. Here, Ficky tells us about what it takes to become a top player and his hopes for the future.
When did you first realize that you liked to play table tennis?
In fourth grade, when my dad put took me along to a table tennis club and bought a table for our house. Before that, I would just go along and watch my dad play in tournaments.
Did you break a lot of windows playing table tennis in the house?
[Laughs] Luckily no, which is weird because I remember playing on that table a lot.
Have you surpassed your dad in table tennis?
Not yet. My dad won a gold medal at the SEA Games in the 1980s. I won the bronze last year. I want to win gold like my dad did in the next SEA Games, which will be in Jakarta in 2011.
What is the best piece of advice that your dad has given you?
He told me once, “Even if you’re far behind in a game, keep fighting and don’t give up.”
Has the advice proven useful?
Yes. Once, I was way behind in a junior competition in Thailand back in 2004. It was 2-8. I remembered my dad’s advice and didn’t give up. In the end, I won 11-8. That’s just one instance.
Who do you look up to in table tennis?
Definitely my dad. If I can be like my dad and win a gold medal in the next SEA Games, I’d be so happy. I also look up to [Chinese player] Wang Liqin. I see a lot of similarities in the way we play.
How do you feel about being on the national team?
I feel proud because I get to play with and learn from some of the best players in Indonesia. We learn from one another’s strengths and weaknesses. That’s how we get better.
What would you say your weakness is?
I’m not very good at defense. I like to attack, I’m good at attacking.
Do you have any quirks or habits at the table?
I like to bounce the ball on the table a few times before serving. It helps me feel less nervous. I also like to return the ball using my forehand after the first serve.
You just spilled your tactics. One of your opponents might be reading this.
[Laughs] No worries, I can always change my tactics.
Can you teach a beginner to become a good player in 10 minutes?
That’s not possible. Even learning the basics takes three to four months. I can tell an amateur from someone who knows how to play just by looking at their movement and their anticipation of where the ball might go.
What is it that you enjoy about playing table tennis?
There are many variations; you can block, spin or chop, plus there are many more other techniques. Asyik aja [it’s just good fun].
Don’t you ever get bored with it?
Table tennis players can remain competitive until they’re about 30. So after I hit that age, I will look at the situation and see what else I can do. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of it though.
How often do you practice?
Currently, I practice with players on the national team every day from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. We’ve been doing this since the 18th of January and it’s going to continue like this until the next SEA Games in 2011 here in Jakarta. We’re also going to China soon to practice. In China, the players play at a much faster speed. It’s good practice for us because when we return and play against other Southeast Asia nations like Vietnam and Thailand, the ball seems to move a lot slower.
Do you feel like you’re different from other kids?
I do, because all I do is practice playing table tennis every day whereas other kids attend university. The only time I feel like a normal kid is on weekends when I hang out with my family and friends. We like to go to Food Fest in Kemang.
You’re also going to Russia in the next few months?
Yeah, we’re going there in May for the World Championship. We hope to move up from our 40-something rank. I hope to play against Vietnam and Thailand because that’s who I’ll be playing against in the SEA Games. My main focus is the SEA Games.
Do you like Jakarta?
It’s disaster-prone, with floods and unpredictable weather right now, but I like it because it’s got lots of places for entertainment. The city is alive.
Ficky Supit Santoso was talking to Angelyn Liem.