First of all, congratulations on your recent Swedish Junior Open Singles victory! Who or what inspired you to play Table Tennis and why?
I actually began to play table tennis as a result of my sister! It all started with me going to watch and support her in competitions and then I started trying it myself for a bit of fun!
How often do you train, and do you always enjoy it?
I train twice a day most days of the week but it can change week by week. It’s like all things I suppose, there are tough times and great times however the good times completely outweigh the bad ones! I love what I do and that’s the reason I’m practising so much.
Which Coaching style brings out the best in you?
For me, the most important thing is that a Coach is also your friend and someone you can trust. I then feel that they understand your personality and what works for you in the corner. It’s very personal and it’s just finding what works for you!
Can you give us 2 of your favourite Table exercises?
My favourite table tennis exercise is and always has been two forehands from the forehand corner and two forehands from the backhand corner and repeat. It is great for footwork and very important for my style of play. My second favourite would be service free as other than playing a match it is the most realistic and best way to improve your match play. I also find that this exercise enables you to try things freely as you’re not keeping the score.
You seem to be very driven and single minded, where does this attitude come from?
I try my best. I also think in an individual sport that yes, a Coach can help you, give you advice, and try to motivate you, but at the end of the day if you are not willing to put the work in there’s no way you will really improve! People can help but only you can actually make the difference and become the best you can be. So you have to be!
You are already one of the greatest players Ireland has ever produced, can you give us 2 factors that enabled you to reach such a high level so quickly?
My first reason would be that I just love this sport! I was willing to put, not just the hours in but basically make it my lifestyle and practise as hard and as much as I can. The second reason is probably because I kept amongst a small group of people who were good for my game and my mental side of things so I was always positive, excited, and looking forward to practise. I have been very lucky to have a group of people around me who have always supported and wanted the best for me.
Image from Owens Instagram
You are training full time in Halmstad, Sweden, can you elaborate on your experiences so far at this legendary club?
Yes, I have been living full time here in Halmstad for around 2 years now and am playing in the second league in Sweden. (Suprettan) It’s a great club with a top level practise group and superb coaches. Everyone in the hall has the same goal, to be the best they can be and to practise hard.
Do you have any mental tools that you use to cope with pressure?
I think to deal with pressure, it’s firstly about what you do in the practise hall. If you can go into a match knowing you have done all you can in practise and that you have worked hard it can not only reduce the pressure but even give you an advantage mentally, knowing that your opponent is unlikely to have put in the same amount of work. Also to just fully believe in yourself, it’s you out there in the court and the only person who can put pressure on you is yourself! Table Tennis is an individual sport and you have to be doing it for yourself. This is just how I think in these situations, of course, it can be different for each person and again, it’s about finding what works for you.
If you could choose one player to watch, who would it be and why?
For me, I would choose Zhang Jike. I loved how he played and how much of a physical athlete he was. Also, he played with a lot of emotion and showed it and yes, I just loved to watch him play.
Finally, can you give 2 tips to any young aspiring Table Tennis players?
Just to enjoy it and work hard and also to keep trying to play as much as possible as this sport has some amazing opportunities in it!