How a childhood injury led Benjamin Gould to the Youth Olympic Games
3 August 2018
BUENOS AIRES: When Benjamin Gould was seven-years-old, a severe hip injury stopped him from playing sport with all the other kids.
Now, 11 years later, Gould has been selected for the Youth Olympic Games Team as Australia's sole Table Tennis representative for Buenos Aires 2018.
“When I was seven, my grandad bought me table tennis for Christmas. I had a serious hip injury at the time, so the doctor wouldn’t allow me to run or play any form of contact sport for two years,” the 18-year-old said.
“I became hooked on it and never looked back.”
Now, a hobby of convenience has led the Brisbanite to collecting a multitude of championships and awards, along with the opportunity to represent his country at YOG.
In 2016 and 2017 Gould took out the U15 Australian Championship, U18 Oceanic Championship, U18 Australian Team Champions, the QLD Junior Sports Team of the year award along with the prestigious World Junior Championships Fair Play Award.
The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) describe the Fair Play Award as recognition of someone who ‘upholds the best interests of sport and act in fair play.’
"During the team match against Tunisia the match was tied at two-all. Benjamin was leading 10-8 in the first game. He made a strong topspin, the Tunisian appeared to block the ball off the end of the table. The umpire awarded the game to Benjamin; the Tunisian player started walking to his coach; immediately Benjamin called him back advising the ball had hit the edge. Finally, he won both the match and this award in the spirit of fair play."
The Fair Play award also carried with it a US $1,500 scholarship towards Gould’s training and competition.
So far in 2018, Gould has collected first place in the Australian U18 Boys Top Ten and the Oceania Cadet and Junior Championships, as well as finishing runner up in the Oceania Youth (U21) Men’s Singles.
But the path to Youth Olympic qualification hasn’t been easy for the young athlete and his Buenos Aires 2018 dreams almost didn’t come to fruition when he placed second at the Oceania qualifying event.
“The process to qualify for YOG was very long with many emotional ups and downs through my attempts to qualify through different pathways,” the Queenslander said.
“It started in August last year when I did well at the Australian qualifying event and then went on to the next stage, the Oceanic qualifying event in November. The timing of that event was challenging, as it was in the middle of my Grade 12 final exams. The competitors were all tough and I just missed out on going through.
“I went to Thailand in April and attempted entry through the “Road to Buenos Aires” event and that was a great experience, but again I didn’t reach the goal.
“Over the past year I played well at several international tournaments so I had a reasonable World Ranking, then it improved dramatically when I won the Continental (Oceanic) Championships in May to put me in prime position for the July cut off.
“I could never have imagined that I would qualify for YOG with the World Ranking method,” the elated teenager shared.
Now Gould has secured his spot at YOG, he has taken on a strength and conditioning coach to get him in the best possible shape in the lead up to Argentina.
Gould will continue honing his skills over the next two months, training in Shanghai at the ITTF Pre-YOG training camp with other YOG athletes from around the world.