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Akata Sabasa thought she would never participate in sport before she discovered table tennis through the Smash Down Barriers program / Fiji Table Tennis Association
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"A star in my community"

In 2017, Akata Sabusa started playing table tennis when a friend invited her to try. “I like table tennis because it is fun to play and is good exercise for my hand. Before playing table tennis, mentally all I could think was ‘no way, I can’t play that’! I thought because physically I did not have enough movement from my hip, making it difficult for me to move my body quickly, to stretch and move from side-to-side, that I could not play. But all that changed when I started playing the game. I loved it because it made me physically strong, healthy, energetic and happy,” explained Sabusa.
 
“Before I started playing table tennis my family and friends, especially my able-bodied friends, did not believe that I could play any kind of sport. I had never tried before, but when I started telling them about table tennis and that I was practising, they started to change their minds. I invited them to watch me practise and, after that, everything changed. 

“Personally, I believe if there is a will and you feel safe, you can achieve a lot in life. I used to think I was in a different world when I was around everyone, keeping quiet and feeling ashamed because of my disability. I felt like people were always looking at me. It is a very common feeling for people with a disability, people act and treat us differently. After I started taking part in table tennis it seriously changed my life. People started approaching me, knowing me, and I started to open myself up, making friends and becoming a better person,” Sabusa said.
 
She explained that members of her community now look up to her because of her participation in the Team Up-supported Smash Down Barriers program, which is delivered by Fiji Table Tennis Association in partnership with International Table Tennis Federation - Oceania. 

“Since joining the program I have become a star in my community. People approach me to talk and share my table tennis experience. My family is more supportive, I have more friends and I feel welcomed everywhere I go. But the most important changes I have seen in myself since starting table tennis are changes to my health and the way people act towards me.”

The Smash Down Barriers program brings together participants of all abilities / Fiji Table Tennis Association

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