By Marcus Uhe
The Greater Dandenong Table Tennis Association will have two representatives at the 2021 World Youth Table Tennis Championships in Portugal starting Thursday December 2, and are calling on members of the public to help get them there.
Dandenong’s Connie Psihogios, 12, and Berwick’s Parleen Kaur, 18, are the only two female junior players from Australia to have qualified for the tournament, and a GoFundMe has been established to help cover the costs of their trip.
President of the Greater Dandenong Table Tennis Association Aleks Lazarevic has established the crowd fundraising page with a goal of raising $7000.
“Her (Connie’s) flights are going to cost her around $4000, and entry for the tournament and accommodation is roughly another $4000,” Lazarevic said.
“Travelling is very very expensive at the moment because of Covid. She also has to pay for PCR testing when she leaves Australia and when she arrives back.”
Psihogios will have to pay her way there through donations and member contributions from the club, as the government bodies for Table Tennis are not able to provide significant financial support.
As of Monday morning the page had reached just under $4200, including $500 from the Greater Dandenong Council.
Greater Dandenong councillor Lana Formoso praised Connie for her “magnificent achievement” but lamented that a GoFundMe page was needed for her to realise her dreams.
Cr Formoso said the lack of funding and sponsorship for table-tennis meant that the athletes had to pay for their own flights, accommodation and entry fees to represent Australia.
“It’s sad when we’re trying to encourage sport and they’re not sure if they can go because of the cost,” she said
“She’s got a huge, huge future. She’s so focused, she’s such a hard worker and this is just one step in her career.
“To have two girls from Dandenong selected for world championships is phenomenal.”
Ranked fifth in the world for her age group, Psihogios has been consistently competing above her age level and will do so again in Portugal when she enters the under 15s competition.
Lazarevic said that Psihogios is already dominating open age tournaments at Dandenong.
“She’s only 12 but she’s one of the best players in the club, and I’m talking top senior grade mens and womens combined,” Lazarevic said.
“One of her biggest successes was qualifying for final stage of Olympic qualifiers at end of 2019. The final stage of qualifying was in January 2020 and she was only 11-years-old, and next youngest was 18.”
Her coach, Michael Mastromonaco said that the tournament will be a terrific experience for Psihogios as it will mark the first time she has competed overseas.
“She’ll get to see what the top players are really like,” Mastromonaco said.
“She’s got the ability to play more a spinning game than the locals.”
“If she gets a good draw she might make it through but she’s competing against 15-year-olds when she’s only 12.”
To donate to the page head to gofundme.com/f/help-connie-get-to-portugal