In 2015, 15 year-old Lekeasha Johnson was lucky to make the African team to the World Cadet Challenge after finishing well at the ITF African Junior Championship in Mauritius and since then her passion for table tennis has continued to swell.

Having dominated the junior cadre in South Africa in the last two years, it was easy for the South Africa Table Tennis Board (SATTB) to consider the grade 11 student of Western Cape Sport School as the future of the game in the Rainbow nation. To start grooming her for the next challenge the teenager from Cape Town was included in the four-man women team of South Africa to the ongoing ITTF World Team Championship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Even without tasting any action in Malaysia, the excitement of being part of the team was written all over Lekeasha Johnson, who described it as part of her dream of becoming the first female table tennis player from South Africa to play at the Olympic Games.

“I cannot describe how I felt being listed in the team to the World Championship. Being my first senior tournament, I could see that the atmosphere is different with a lot of quality players. I was so excited when I was listed in the team particularly playing alongside some of the best players in South Africa. I was a bit nervous when we got to the hall but I know that when I get to the table, I will comport myself. I cannot really describe my feelings for now because with this rare opportunity I think I am getting closer to my dream in life,” she said.

“I actually started table tennis in 2008 and since then I have been fallen in love with the game. Apart from the joy and excitement I derived from playing the game, it has taken to country I can never imagine I would visit. Although combining the sport with my studies have not been easy but it has become part of my life. I most times wake up by 5am and I had to go for training before attending classes. I also train after school and this has become my daily routine and I am now used to it,” she said.

However, the journey to stardom for the Cape Town based star started with her conquering the junior level in South Africa and this also qualified her to make the team to the 2015 ITTF African Junior Championship in Mauritius. “I won the U-15 and U-18 national tournament in south Africa for me to be part of the team to Mauritius and I must also admit that making the Africa Cadet Team to the World Cadet Challenge in Egypt was the best moment of my career and for me I hope and dream that I will become the first female table tennis player in my country to feature at the Olympic Games come Tokyo 2020 in Japan. This is my dream and I will continue to work hard to achieve this,” she added.

Lekesha Johnson who idolises Ding Ning of China believes with more support from the South Africa government, she can fulfil her dream, while hoping to meet with her Chinese idol in Malaysia in order to draw inspiration from the World Champion.

One thing that still excites her is the hosting of the 2016 World Junior Championship by South Africa later this year, and she says, “I am eagerly looking forward to the tournament and all of us in South Africa have started working hard so that we can make our country proud. This is also another opportunity for us to showcase our talents as well as meet with other top junior players across the globe.”

“But one thing that I would not want to happen was seeing my parent watching me play because whenever I am playing they are always nervous and I would want them to be there. But there is nothing I can do because they will surely want to come and cheer and my teammates during the competition. So hosting the tournament will also afford us the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best junior players in the world which will help us in South Africa to gain some experience from these top players,” she added.

For Lekeasha Johnson, the different between South Africa and the top teams in Africa – Nigeria and Egypt is exposure which she said would have helped most of them. “I think the major challenge for us is getting the fund to attend more competitions and I believe if we can attend more tournaments we can rival some of these top players in Africa,” she admitted.

In order to disengage from her passion which is sports, Lekeasha Johnson said that she hopes to become a physiotherapist as she loves helping people in sports. “Even when I am not playing table tennis again, I will always want to do something with sports and that is helping sports people. That is why I was to become a physiotherapist to be able to assist sports people get well.”

Also she would not want to be dissociated from her second love which is singing. “I love singing and I will also continue to sing because this is what I also love doing part from playing table tennis.”