Even when it was clear that the Mauritius Table Tennis Association (MTTA) cannot afford to offset her bill to come to the 2016 ITTF Africa Olympics Qualification Tournament in Khartoum, Sudan, 24 year-old Widaad Gukhool sourced for sponsor and she was lucky to get one and this facilitated her presence in Sudan.

The number national female player in Mauritius is not only a table tennis star in the Ocean Island, she is a Mechanical Engineering undergraduate at the Institute Technology of Brunei. And despite the quality of players taking part in the Olympics Qualifiers, the former member of the 2009 African Cadet Team to Japan was undaunted by this and she find her way to the competition.

“I knew that the Olympics qualifiers will hold this year in Sudan and I was aware that my federation does not have enough budgets to sponsor me so I had to look for sponsor to make it to the competition. I knew it will be difficult but it is possible to qualify for the Olympics,” she admitted.

Gukhool who is on academic scholarship believes playing table tennis has enriched her in all ways particularly in her studies. “I must say that table tennis has taught me a lot of things like discipline and this have exposed me to the outside world where I have also met a lot of people. Sports is about discipline because if you are not, you cannot go far. I think I have gained a lot from playing table tennis and it has aided me in my academics,” the 2015 Indian Ocean Games gold medallist said.

On her romance with table tennis, Gukhool recalled, “I could remember vividly that our present national coach – Rajessen Desscann used to go around the town training people and my father introduced me to him and he started coaching. It was few years that I started I became part of the national junior team to various continental tournaments and I could also remember that I was the youngest player at the 2007 African Games in Algiers at age 13. I later got a personal coach – Nasser Auchaybur who still handles me up till date.”

Combining table tennis with a tasking field of mechanical engineering, Gukhool said: “I think it all depends on discipline and time management. I manage my time very well because I trained six times a week as I am at present doing my six months internship in Mauritius before going back to school for my final year. So discipline and time management are very important and this have helped me to combine well.”

Having made three appearances at the African Games, Gukhool who admires Egypt’s Dina Meshref said she would have loved to turn professional but the situation in Mauritius where lack of funds does allow them to get enough support has prompted her to embrace her studies.

“I love Dina because she is a very well-mannered athlete with a lot of talent and I refer to her as queen of Africa with her friendly disposition to people. She is my role model and I admire her a lot because of these vices,” she said.

As an optimist, she has not given up on making appearance at the Olympics but said she would continue to work hard in order to fulfil her cream of playing at the biggest stage.