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Krish Avvari looks like any other small child: adorable, energetic, shy. But watch him smash a feather-light table tennis ball at an opponent twice his size, and it’s clear he’s not your average 10-year-old. At the National Championships in Las Vegas last December, Krish secured his place as the #1 table tennis player in the Under-12 Boys division in the country. Watching him practice at the India Community Center’s (ICC) Table Tennis Center in Milpitas, I can see why he is at the top of his game. His paddle held closely, Krish’s arms swat the ball back across the table every half-second. His incredible skill makes it clear that each swing is a fusion of timing and aim—he takes more than three dozen turns before missing, the ball instead flying at an angle through the air away from the table. His glasses slip down his face, but he doesn’t stop to adjust them. He is poised, waiting for the next serve, leaning forward on his toes. He’s been practicing for an hour, and he’ll do it for two to three hours more after I leave.

I sat down and talked with Krish, starting off with his recent win. Slowly turning his paddle in his hand, he said that he had fun at the Nationals because he was able to compete with people who had different styles of paddle and play than he was used to. He pointed out the tiny dots under the rubbery skin of the paddle as an example, calling them “pips.” He explained that “There are short pips and long pips, and players use different ones. They make a difference in how you hit.” I asked if he had felt nervous during the three matches he played to win the title, and he said no: “It’s like I can’t wait to play. I just can’t wait—I just want to play.” He lifts his paddle from the table as he says this; his eyebrows lift above the rims of his glasses in unison.

Krish tells me that he has been playing since 2005, when he was six years old. He says that his favorite thing about table tennis is becoming a “better sport.” He explains “I used to get angry and sad when I lost, but I don’t anymore.” When I ask if the kids at his school know he’s a national champion, he smiles and looks at his hands. “I don’t tell them, but some of my friends know anyways. They’ve seen me on YouTube.”

The pride in his voice is well-deserved: he practices six days a week, for as many as four hours a day. The practice pays off—at this past weekend’s California State Tournament at the ICC, Krish claimed two more victories, Champion in the Boys 11-and-Under category and as a member of the winning team in the U4200 Doubles category.

 – Sarah Leavitt

For information on the ICC’s Table Tennis Center and program, please