4:50pm Wednesday 20th May 2009
A 2012 Olympic hopeful returned to his former Watford school this afternoon to launch the UK's first table tennis academy with Urban Progress TTPro.
Will Maybanks, 17, is set to sign with an Austrian table tennis team after leaving Watford Grammar School for Boys last summer to pursue his sporting ambitions.
And he put his ping pong ball skills to the test in front of a packed school hall this lunchtime after the Rickmansworth Road school was selected to help increase the sport's popularity.
The academy, based at the school sports hall, will open to pupils and the public in September Will, whose parents live in Bushey Grove Road, left Watford Boys last summer and has spent the last eight months training in Hungary. He is now set to join a team from Linz where he will play competitive matches, having competed in Belgium last year.
He started playing for Watford Jets seven-and-a-half years ago before teaming up with Urban Progress TT Pro, who will also run the academy.
Will said: “You've got to really focus (during training). It's just table tennis, table tennis, table tennis. You've got to be mad to play it but it's always what I've wanted to do and I'm happy doing it.
“Table tennis is like an addiction. It's such a rush and a lot of people, once they start playing, they play until they're 70.
“My goal is 2012. England haven't had a team in the Olympics for a good while but now it's on the way up and because it's in London, they automatically get a team. It would mean everything to be at the Olympics.”
Watford Boys' headteacher Martin Post, who took on his former pupil in several furious rounds of table tennis in front of a boisterous crowd, said: “It's opened my eyes to find table tennis players are earning €150,000 a year. It's pretty big in Europe. The aim is to make it big in this country.
“We're really pleased (to be chosen for the academy). There's quite a strong tradition here but it would be nice to make it into the next league and develop a local schools league.
“We're very proud of Will and glad he's found time to come back.”
Chris Ogle, from Urban Progress TT Pro, said the academy would be a “Centre of Excellence” for the sport.
He said: “We're very excited about this project. It's a fantastic opportunity with the Head being so positive about it.
“If we can get kids playing table tennis, there's a natural progression from seven and eight-year-olds right to international standards though the academy.
“England is not on the world stage as far as table tennis is concerned. There's an opportunity to raise the profile of the game and I hope we can put table tennis on the map.”
To follow Will's progress, visit www.willmeon.com.
Photography by Eddie Dillon of Promedia Ltd http://www.promedia.ltd.uk