Igor Botkin prepares to compete in the Mike Dempsey Memorial Tournament
Photo By: Richard Xue
Wherever you travel you meet those who are besotted with the table tennis; simply they eat, drink and sleep every second of the sport.
If a global ranking list was produced of aficionados, very high on that list would be Igor Botkin; table tennis is his life.
Only 19 years old, he absorbs facts and figures on table tennis like a sponge; furthermore, he seizes every opportunity to play his favourite sport and now is moving to a new level.
He is competing in the Mike Dempsey Memorial Tournament which is being staged in San Diego, on the west coast of the United States, from Thursday 29th November to Saturday 1st December 2012.
It is not only his first international appearance, it is also his first official Para Table Tennis tournament and he has been classified to compete in Class 6.
Ready for Challenge
Most certainly he is ready for the challenge.
The four day Training Camp concluded at lunchtime on Tuesday 27th November, Igor Botkin needed to meet the classifiers to determine his status; as soon as that was completed he was back in the hall to practise.
He suffers from Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency which affects the pelvis and femur.
“I was born in Khabarovsk in Russia, it’s about 30 kilometres north east of China”, explained Igor Botkin, whose birth name was Kozuta, but later changed following adoption.
Deformity Caused in Pregnancy
“My mother was taking medication during pregnancy; that caused the deformity, I have no femur”, added Igor Botkin who stands about 140 centimetres tall (4 feet 7 inches).
Igor Botkin suffers from a severe case of Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency and when only five years old, doctors advised that it was not practical for his mother to care for him.
He was taken by doctors to Nizhny Lomov, near Moscow in 1998; he has lost total contact with his parents.
“I think the journey took about three weeks; that’s the time it takes to travel by rail from Vladivostok to Moscow”, reminisced Igor Botkin. “The train keeps stopping at so many stations, about one hour in each case.”
Moved to United States
Eventually he arrived in Nizhny Lomov, where he attended an orphanage before, organised by the Texas based group Guardian Angels, he moved to Rockford in Illinois in the United States.
He was 13 years old at the time; soon after he transferred to Greenville in South Carolina, where he underwent surgery.
“They amputated my left leg at the ankle to help me walk better”, said Igor Botkin. “I now have prosthesis.”
Later he moved to Anderson in California where he was adopted. There were some difficulties and with his visa expiring, a return to Russia was imminent.
However, a family in Chicago came to his help and with his new foster parents he has been able to stay in the United States.
A Book for a Racket
“I was seven years old when I first started to play table tennis”, reflected Igor Botkin. “I was at the orphanage in Nizhny Lomov and I found a table tennis ball on the floor, it was cracked; I picked up a book and started to hit the ball with the book.”
Now just over 11 years later an international competition beckons for the young man who speaks fluent English, with a rich American accent; you would never know he hails from the far east of Russia.
“It took me about five or six months to be able to speak English”, said Igor Botkin. “In addition to Russian I can also speak Ukrainian and some Chinese.”
He can speak Chinese well enough to be able to have had a conversation with one of the World’s great players of the modern era.
“In September this year Killerspin staged the Chicago International; they have really helped me, they sponsor me”, enthused Igor Botkin. “At that tournament I was able to speak to Wang Liqin!”
Meeting Wang Liqin was very much a highlight of not only his table tennis career but his life.
“I’m always following table tennis; I have learned a lot in the past eleven years”, concluded Igor Botkin. “I’m always visiting the ITTF website!”
Visit now Igor! You are the man, the star man!