Thai table tennis star Orawan “Thip” Paranang shoots balls at the practice table that dominates the living room of his modest home on the outskirts of Bangkok.
The makeshift training facility is the latest stop on a 17-year journey that took the left-hander from poverty in rural Thailand to the big stage of the Olympics.
The 24-year-old, who was once told she was too short to play, secured her place at the Tokyo Games by winning the Southeast Asia regional qualifiers in Qatar in March.
After helping support her family in Thailand with cash prizes since the age of 15, she now stands on the threshold of the highest stage.
“When I passed that point (Olympic qualification), I felt like I finally managed to lift a heavy stone from my chest,” Orawan told AFP.
“It was an indescribable feeling.”
His love of gambling was sparked in his home district, in the heart of the rice fields of Ubon Ratchathani, an agricultural province on the border with Laos and Cambodia, when 7-year-old Orawan saw older students earning prizes. price at school.
But as the fourth of five children born to poor farming parents, getting even basic equipment like bats was a struggle.
âMy family didn’t really have a lot of money to support my pursuit of this sport. But they always supported me spiritually and mentally and let me do what I love,â she said.
Orawan also had to fight to get his first trainer, sinking into drills for countless hours to prove his commitment.
Eventually, the trainer agreed to take Orawan, pay for her kit and equipment, and then she enrolled in a specialized sports school in Bangkok.