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.
Born Igor Kozuta in the city of Khabarovsk in Russia, only 19 years old, he absorbs facts and figures on table tennis like a sponge; he was one of the competitors in the Mike Dempsey Memorial Tournament staged in San Diego from Thursday 29th November to Saturday 1st December 2012.
It was his first official Para Table Tennis tournament and he was classified to compete in Class 6; he was present thanks to the support afforded by Killerspin, a fact he was quick to acknowledge and greatly appreciated.
Prior to the tournament he took part in the four day Training Camp led by Sweden’s Stellan Bengtsson, the winner of the Men’s Singles title at the 1971 World Championships in Nagoya. He revelled in every split second.
Igor Botkin suffers from Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency which affects the pelvis and femur; during pregnancy his mother was taking medicine; he has no femur and stands 140 centimetres tall (4 feet 7 inches).
Most of his life in Russia he spent in orphanages, travelling by train from Vladivostok to Moscow; it took three weeks!
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; his left leg was amputated at the ankle to help him walk better, he has a 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.
It was in Chicago that he came in contact with Killerspin; it is a meeting that has changed the life of a young man who first discovered table tennis in a Russian orphanage in Nizhny Lomov when seven years old. He found a table tennis ball on the floor, it was cracked; he picked up a book and started to hit the ball with the book.
Now just over 11 years later he speaks fluent English, with a rich American accent; you would never know he hails from the far east of Russia. It took him some five or six months to learn English and in addition to his native Russian he can also speak Ukrainian and some Chinese.
Some Chinese; he can speak well enough to be able to have had a conversation with one of the World’s great players of the modern era; at the Killerspin Tournament in Chicago in September 2012, he was able to hold a conversation with Wang Liqin.
It was for Igor Botkin a special moment; it was made possible thanks to the support of his sponsor, a special sponsor; Killerspin take a bow.