Like her compatriot Jianan Yuan, Prithika Pavade qualified for the Tokyo Olympics (July 23 to August 8) after her semi-final victory at the European Olympic Qualifying Tournament (TQO) in Guimaraes, Portugal. A dream before its time for the 16-year-old table tennis player.
A last forehand slammed to end a largely controlled match before collapsing, back to the ground, wide smile on his face. At 16, the 394th in the world has just won her ticket to Tokyo after an obstacle course consisting of seven matches in four days.
After the Czech Hana Matelova, seed number 1, in eighth, then the Ukrainian Solomiya Brateyko (189th world) in the quarterfinals, it is the Russian Yana Noskova (seed number 3) who has had no other choice than to bow to the young Frenchwoman of Indian origin.
The pride of Saint-Denis
A few seconds after the victorious match point, the president of the Saint-Denis club, where the young girl is fired, cannot believe it. “Huge, exceptional, incredible, ecstasies Jean-Claude Molet. She wins all her matches with serenity… for her age, it’s crazy. The Russian tried to put her to sleep but she remained focused and dynamic until the end. at the end.”
An opponent against whom she had already bowed a few months ago: “Noskova plays in the French championship in Saint-Pierre-lès-Elboeuf that we beat in the semi-finals of the French championship. Pritikha lost 3-1 against she at the start of the season, recalls Jean-Claude Molet. Since then, she has never stopped passing caps, nothing scares her. When you see her level of concentration and will, it’s exceptional. Even today, she loses a set and gets back into it right away. “
“I don’t realize. It’s unexpected, it’s incredible”
Barely enough time to savor her victory or to congratulate her compatriot Jian Nan Yuan also winning her ticket for the Olympic Games (4-2 victory against the Portuguese Jieni Shao) that Prithika Pavade must go through the anti-doping box, that price reductions before delivering his first reaction. “It’s really huge. I’m super happy. I knew she was a very good player and I was ready for a big fight. From the start I felt good, I was super aggressive and I was ready for a big fight. surprised myself “explains Pavade, laughing. “Frankly, I don’t realize… I know now I’m going to go (to the Games) but I don’t know what to expect at all. It was unexpected, it’s amazing.”
Already, when we had met her two years ago, in Saint-Denis, in the room of La Raquette where her face as an ambassador for the 2024 Games adorns the walls, Tokyo was unthinkable: “Paris in 2024, it would be a dream of participating, I would be 20 years old, I will be fine. Tokyo 2020 is too early “said the 14-year-old table tennis player at the time and already the youngest professional player, ranked 57th French.
A steel mind and a qualification dedicated to his late trainer
So when last January, she learned of her selection for the TQO of Doha and then of Guimaraes, it was astonishment: “It’s crazy, I did not think of doing these qualifying tournaments at all, I thought that the Federation was going picking two other girls, I was surprised and I thought it was my chance. It went well in the first qualifying tournament in Doha, I knew it was going to be played now “.
And she did it, under the eyes of the Director of High Performance of the French Table Tennis Federation (FFTT). “Its level of play has progressed turn after turn, in density, in stability, always with the ability to go through the event without pressure and without being affected by changes in environments and contexts. This is its strength, underlines Rozenn. Jacquet-Yquel. She always tends to seize opportunities. She will be able to soak up the Olympic context which is special when it’s the first time. It’s incredible for her to have the chance to know the conditions Olympics before 2024. It will not be expected, will be in the conquest and will take whatever it can take “.
For Jean-Claude Molet, the protégé of her club will reach her highest level in two Olympics: “I no longer see her performing very well in 2028. In 2024, she will be in her twenties and will still be young, but hey, she has already made people lie, with her you never know “. What we do know, however, is that the emotion was intense once the ticket was won, a sesame partly dedicated to his ex-trainer Nicolas Greiner, who died in October 2020: “It’s obvious to have a thought for him, I started with him, he always aimed to aim the highest for me, he wanted to accompany me to the Olympics. Succeeding in reaching it makes me think of him “. Jean-Claude Molet also pays tribute to his friend “he would have been very proud and happy to see her qualify for the Games”.
Savor and prepare
Back in France tomorrow, Pritikha Pavade is now preparing to celebrate the Olympic ticket with her relatives. “Right now I’ll call my family,” said the newly qualified table tennis player. My parents were behind me, always believed in me and followed the competition closely. I will also enjoy with my teammates. I know that without my entourage, the training players and the staff I would never have been able to achieve this. Then we will prepare thoroughly but immediately, we must savor (laughs) “.
To prepare, the 2020 European under-21 champion will pass through Warsaw (Poland) where, from June 22 to 17, the individual European championships will take place, “enough to assert herself in the European gratin” Rozenn Jacquet-Yquel explains: “For the moment it can quickly reach the Top 50. The other step is to measure itself against the Asian competition and that is still a thing”. Nothing very insurmountable for the one who never ceases to surprise.