Wykes’ Swedish switch
DENMARK, Belgium, Poland and Sweden. For many 18-year-olds it might read like part of an itinerary for a gap year travelling through Europe, but for Jersey’s Jordan Wykes they are stops on a table-tennis tour of the continent which he hopes will culminate with a professional career in his chosen sport.
Wykes started playing a decade ago at the age of eight and within years had gained a wealth of international experience. Many may have first heard his name though at the home Island Games of 2015, in which he claimed singles and doubles silver, following it up with a brace of Games bronzes last year in the Scandinavian island of Gotland.
Now he’s preparing to pack his bags again, with Scandinavia set to become a home-from-home when he moves to Sweden next month to train full time at a leading professional academy in Eslov.
When friends are starting new jobs or going to university it is perhaps a bold move to put your eggs in the professional sport basket, but then again sport is all about following your dreams.
‘You have to be brave and just go for it and if it doesn’t work out I’ve always got coaching or my sports studies to go back on,’ Wykes explained.
‘I’m going to go and try and play full time in Sweden. I’ll be playing about six hours a day, Monday to Friday, and then I’ll have league matches at the weekend so it’ll be pretty full on.
‘I hope to maybe get an opportunity to play as a career. I’ll be in Europe so I’ll be able to access things easier and I might get a club to play as a job. [Eslov] is a world-famous academy; they’ve got a lot of top players from all around the world there so I just wanted to make sure I got a good, strong club to start with.’
Before the move there are
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training camps in Denmark and Poland in the diary for the next few weeks. But Wykes is no stranger to being away from home. During his past two years at Grantham College taking a Sports Science course, weekends were often filled with Eurostar trips to Belgium to compete.
The busy schedule, plus the tricky task of balancing competing with his studies, didn’t seem to greatly hinder his performance at the table, winning 30 out of 32 matches. Still not totally satisfied, Wykes reflects: ‘I managed to only drop two and I was unlucky in one of them as well.
‘It’s been good match practice and I’ve managed to do really well in the league. I had to keep my college work up to date, because if I fell behind it meant I was pretty stressed at the weekend.’
He is not the first young Jersey table-tennis player to dream of making a career from the sport. Josh Band, who now runs JB’s table-tennis bar in St Helier, spent a few years on the international tournament circuit at the start of the decade.
‘It’s quite difficult to do that when you still play in Jersey because they’re a lot higher level at all these tournaments,’ said Wykes. ‘I’m going to be trying to play Swedish tournaments or ITTF opens.’
With Band now retired from playing and former development officer Craig Gascoyne away from the island, Wykes could settle for battling it out with top local players like Luc Miller or Chris Morshead for Jersey honours for many years to come. But he clearly wants more and believes playing 30 plus hours a week in Eslov will push him on to a whole new level.
‘My ultimate aim is to play as my job and be funding myself and if not I’ll try and be a coach I think, because that’s what I’ll be doing on the side, I’ll be doing some ITTF level coaching courses,’ he added.
‘It’s going to be very difficult [to step up to professional table-tennis], it’ll be very tough physically and mentally. A lot of people struggle when they go away, sometime they may find it boring but I think I’m going to enjoy it and I have to push for it.’