Table tennis is what it's all about for Alfie
Alfie Linn is practicing his footwork. His coach has him side-stepping back and forth along the end of the table tennis table, moving balls between two egg cartons.
There is a hum of activity around him at Stoke Stadium, where a social table tennis session is under way, but the 17-year-old has his eye firmly on the ball.
"He's always loved anything to do with a ball," said Alfie's mum, Jane.
"Before he could walk or talk, he'd be tracking a ball across the room."
Alfie, who has Down Syndrome, is training for the INAS Global Games in Brisbane this October. He'll be one of 1000 competitors attending the largest global games for athletes with an intellectual impairment.
The family has a table tennis table at their home in Mapua. For a long time, Alfie never played, preferring to watch his mum and older brother sparring across the table. But one day, he picked up a bat, and a passion was born.
Alfie has coaching sessions twice a week and plays in the local league on a Thursday evening. Last year, he played in the Tasman Schools Sport event for his school team.
"He did really well," Jane said. "The good thing about Alfie is that kids that don't often come across someone with a disability, they get a bit cocky.
"They'll laugh about playing him, and then he beats them. It's a humbling experience for them and he gets a huge amount of respect.
"It's good to see the change of mindset in people."
In November, Alfie went to his first big table tennis competition, the National Paralympic Games in Auckland, where his performance earned him three bronze medals.
Alfie, who said he's "sports mad", also plays basketball, cricket and swims. At college, he is studying photography, and some of his photos appear on greeting cards at the Tessa Maes gift shop in Mapua.
Alfie's interests help foster independence, while challenging people's ideas of what he's capable of, Jane said.
"He's changing peoples's perception of what people with disabilities can do and achieve."
Jane and Alfie are raising the $7000 it will cost to attend the games through quiz nights, games nights, and a Givealittle campaign.
The Nelson Mail