These two sets of twins are the latest generation in the Green family to make their mark at table tennis.

 

Writer: Raelee Tuckerman – Photographer: David Field

 

When the Green siblings pick up their ping pong bats and prepare to play, officials and onlookers often can’t help but do a double take.
Not only do identical sisters Hannah and Olivia, 11, and fraternal brothers Isaac and Xavier, 15, share birth dates and similar looks, they possess a talent for table tennis that turns heads.
The two sets of twins all represented Victoria at last year’s Australian junior championships, and also have that special connection common among children paired from before birth.
“It’s like they have this intuition and know where each other is going to hit the ball,” explains dad Paul, recounting games where one twin is pitted against the other. “They’re often right there, ready and waiting for it, so you get long rallies when they play each other.”
When the Green girls battled for the bronze medal at the national under-11 Hope Cup tournament in January, they were locked level on two games apiece, with scores 9-9 in the decider, before Olivia finally triumphed.
“You can’t get any closer than that,” laughs mum Amanda. “That is often the way it goes – they are so close in ability that it can go either way and it’s incredible to watch because they play such good games. One wins one week, and the other will win next time.”
Just weeks later at the Victorian Closed Championship, Hannah turned the table on her sister to claim the under-11 singles title, before the two teamed up to take out the doubles crown.
Xavier and Isaac have also amassed an impressive list of achievements, including winning last year’s Sandhurst schools title with their Girton team, and bringing home a Country Week division two plaque playing with their dad and another local lad. Xavier was the Bendigo District Table Tennis Association junior club champion in both 2014 and 2015.
Twins run in Amanda’s family, but it was a shock when she first learned she was expecting two babies and an even bigger surprise second time around – “a very nice surprise though”.
The thought of facing twins across the table tennis net in a doubles game prompts me to ponder whether the children are ever tempted to use their situation to trick their opponents?
“The girls could, but they wouldn’t,” grins Paul. “The umpires usually can’t tell them apart, so if they didn’t switch over after their serve, they wouldn’t know. They’ve started to wear different shoes and have their names on their shirts now. Even their coach gets them mixed up, and tells them to turn around so he can see the name on the top!”
Table tennis is a true family pastime for the Greens.
Paul has played on and off at club level for three decades and is a level one coach; he was introduced to the sport by his father, who is still hitting the ping pong ball around at 86.
“Like many families, we had a table at home and our boys had bats and balls and enjoyed having a hit when they were young,” Paul says. “They started playing junior competition when they were nine. I think they wanted to do what Dad was doing.”
The girls followed at about the same age.
“They liked it because it is a non-contact sport and you need athleticism and good hand-eye co-ordination and all four of them have that. Some kids struggle because the bat surface is not very big and the tiny ball moves at very rapid speed and they just can’t connect. But our kids just seemed to take to it.”
The Green twins play senior pennant in Bendigo (the girls in B-Grade, the boys in A-grade), train locally several nights a week and travel to Melbourne every Saturday for specialist coaching under the Health Wellness and Table Tennis elite program and across the state for regular tournaments.
“It’s a big commitment, but you can see it paying off because they have come such a long way and they’re enjoying it,” says Amanda, a non-player but chief supporter. “Making the state team and going to nationals last year was a definite highlight and such an achievement just to get there.
“They all used to swim and play basketball, but they’re dedicating all their time to table tennis now. That’s where their passion lies and they have decided to follow it.”
With such a busy schedule, one might think the Green kids would be keen to snatch a few restful moments away from table tennis when the chance arises. Or not.
“You get home from a tournament thinking they’ll be exhausted, but you turn around and they are on the table hitting again,” says Amanda. “You just can’t believe it sometimes, but it’s good that they love it so much. I think we might have a few years of this ahead of us!”
The Bendigo District Table Tennis Association operates two seasons year-round for juniors, adults and seniors, as well as social matches. Junior coaching and competition is on Friday nights, catering from all skill levels and ages 7-18.
“We’d like to see more people involved in the sport,” says Paul, who instructs and supervises the junior grade. “It is quite under-represented out of all the sports locally. The boys are in a sporting excellence program at school and when other kids were asking what sport everyone played, some were surprised to hear table tennis was an elite sport.
“But it is definitely an elite sport – it is an Olympic sport.”
One international study ranks table tennis as the world’s third most-played sport, with 300 million participants. Bendigo got a glimpse of its international appeal when the city hosted the 2016 Oceania championships and Olympic qualifying tournament at Ulumbarra Theatre in March.
The Greens agree the sport has enriched their lives.
“We’re all in this together,” says Paul. “We go to events together, talk tactics and strategies together and it has given our family a common sporting purpose.”
That united front is evident when the children are asked about their table tennis aspirations.
“Initially, to get into the under-18 Victorian team to compete in the nationals,” says Xavier, before adding the identical response of his three siblings.
“To represent Australia in the Olympics.”
For more information on table tennis in Bendigo, visit www.insports.com.au/ttp/bdtta