Yellowknife 8-year-old steps up to the table at AWG

He’s small, he’s fast and he’s ready to win.

Young AWG table tennis player excited to play, does not expect the podium

Table tennis phenom Zachary Mathison training for the 2018 Arctic Winter Games. He is among the youngest competitors in games history. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

He's small, he's fast and he's ready to win — not a medal, but a game of table tennis at the Arctic Winter Games.

At 4-11" tall and 65 pounds, Zachary Mathison is bigger than many of his Grade 3 peers in Yellowknife.

But he'll be considerably smaller than his teenaged competitors from Greenland and Russia — two circumpolar countries that consistently sends players who win gold and silver.

Zachary's hopes are high but his expectations are low.

"I doubt I'd get a medal … I'd just like to win a game," Zachary said with a grin.

Zachary Mathison keeps his eye on the ball. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

Sport North could not confirm if Zachary is the youngest player in AWG's 48-year history.

But executive director Doug Rentmeister confirmed Zachary is one of the youngest. Typically, athletes range in age from 13 to 18.

Games a family affair

Mathison's 12-year-old sister, Tamara Mathison, also qualified for the table tennis team this year.

His brother Christopher Mathison, 14, qualified for volleyball.

Zachary Mathison, 8, and his sister Tamara, 12, who also qualified for the table tennis team. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

Their Dad, Mike Mathison, is a longtime Yellowknifer who competed in four games between 1986 and 1984: basketball, volleyball and twice for badminton.

Mike said he is proud, but cautious about Zachary's young age.

"There's a  little bit of concern for him being on his own at the night times but the coach will be there and his teammates and I'll be in town [Fort Smith]," he said

How it all began

Mike said his youngest son was noticeably coordinated at an early age.

Zachary's love of table tennis began after his grandparents set up a table in their Yellowknife home.

Since he started playing competitively, Zachary has won every tournament he's entered, despite being almost a decade younger than some of his competitors.

Table tennis phenom Zachary Mathison training for the Arctic Winter Games. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

His love of the sport is so great, Zachary saved birthday and Christmas money to buy a special racquet. He did so hoping he'd make the team, which he did in late January

Mike describes his son as quiet but a determined athlete.

"He definitely wants to win but he's quiet. Not a man of many of words but he's definitely competitive," Mike said.

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