Naples para table tennis player reaches career high ranking ahead of Paralympics

Writer: Sylvie Sparks
Published: Updated:

Table tennis is not just a sport for para player Jenson Van Emburgh.

“It’s my life, Van Emburgh said. “It’s my job. I’m not doing anything else right now. I feel like at my age I need to give this 100 percent.”

The 24-year-old has been in a wheelchair since birth because of a spinal cord injury and since age nine he’s been playing para table tennis.

Now with a career high ranking of third in the world he’s going for gold at the Paris 2024 Summer Paralympic Games.

Van Emburgh spends everyday at Naples Pong training for the summer games.

The 24-year-old has come a long way since he first picked up a paddle 15 years ago.

“I really enjoyed it and I told my mom to get a table and we got one in our garage and I started just to play with my brother for fun,” Van Emburgh said.

He spent his teenage years traveling the country training before winning bronze at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

“I was kind of an underdog,” Van Emburgh said. “I was the 11 seed and I felt like I was just hunting everybody above me.”

This time around it’s a different story for the third ranked player in the world.

The rising star won his first gold medal at the Parapan American Games in November automatically qualifying him for Paris.

“Now I feel everybody wants to get me so it’s a different type of pressure,” Van Emburgh said.

Fresh off two spring tourney wins, Van Emburgh is happy with his game.

As is his coach Jeff Yamada, a former Brazilian national team player who told WINK News one of Van Emburgh’s best qualities is his grit.

“He has this internal strength which is very important when you are especially going to be a top player because facing these adversities really makes you a better player and a better person too,” Yamada said.

Van Emburgh’s competitive spirit means he obviously wants to win in Paris, but win or lose he’s grateful for his experiences so far.

“I’m very lucky to be able to travel around the world meeting different people, different cultures, different languages,” Van Emburgh said. “I am very happy to be able to play this sport and also represent my country at such a high level.”

Van Emburgh leaves for Paris mid-August and hopes to come back in September a Paralympic gold medalist.

His message to anyone with a disability or facing adversity is to find something you love and give it all you got.

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