TEENAGE table tennis champion Holly Nicolas believes the mental side of her game needs work as she strives for Commonwealth Games selection.
But from an outsider’s perspective, it’s difficult to comprehend how the Carramar resident’s mental resolve could become any stronger than it already is.
Nicolas (17) dominates table tennis tournaments nationally and overseas, despite the taxing effects of cystic fibrosis on her lungs.
As the most successful junior player in WA history, she juggles training six days a week around physio appointments to treat the chronic condition.
Interstate and international travel for competition also abounds.
She has her final year of school to worry about too.
But the workload does not faze her.
With that in mind, surely she can’t question her mental strength.
Apparently, she can.
It’s the first aspect of training Nicolas mentions when asked what she is looking to improve upon.
“I’m working on my mental game,” she said.
“Handling it better coming to the end of a game.”
It’s an ominous prospect for her opponents, given she is already renowned for her resilience. She has played major tournaments with low lung function when she should have been in hospital.
Doctors permitted her to compete, then put her on intravenous treatment afterwards.
Such are the challenges Nicolas faces, but she does not allow it to cloud her approach.
“When you’re playing, you try not to notice it because you’re really focused,” she said. “You just find a way around it.”
The right-hander returned from the International Table Tennis Federation’s Oceania Junior Championships in Fiji this month with four gold medals from four under-18 events, defending the singles title she won last year.
She is ranked the best junior in the country and competed above her age group to take silver in the under-21 final of the most recent Australian championships.
There is little more Nicolas can achieve nationally so the Commonwealth Games presents the biggest challenge of her career.
She is optimistic about making the team for the Gold Coast meet, with trials to begin early next year.
“It’s going to be really hard because I am still really young,” she said.
“But I am hoping to make third or fourth place and be the lower-ranked top woman.”
Nicolas is a nominee in the Community Newspaper Group’s Local Sports Stars awards.
Know a talented sporting junior? Enter them for consideration here.