The Other Side
Brad and Brandon Belle stood side by side in NBC's "Today" show studios, nervously looking into the surrounding cameras. National TV appearances weren't on the identical twins' agenda when they emigrated from the South American country of Guyana three years ago and started playing table tennis.
But that's exactly what they were doing in May, playing ping-pong against "Today" personalities Al Roker and Hoda Kotb.
"It was kind of funny because they said they were going to beat us," Brad says. "We weren't playing for real and we beat them. But they're beginners and we're experts."
It hasn't taken long for the Boys & Girls (Brooklyn, N.Y.) freshmen to become world-class table tennis players and national sensations. After just three years of playing, Brad and Brandon were rated among the top 10 15-year-olds in New York by USA Table Tennis.
"They can get as good as they want," says professional table tennis player Wally Green, who coaches the twins at SPiN New York. "Can they make the Olympic team? It's possible."
Brad and Brandon are determined to make the 2012 Games either as individuals or as a doubles team, but the road won't be easy. Although Puma sponsors them for clothing, the twins haven't found sponsors to help cover the costs associated with traveling to national tournaments. The tourneys are crucial for rankings, but their parents can't afford all the travel without help.
"I think we can make the Olympics, but we have to play more tournaments and we have to get the exposure," Brandon says. "The more exposure we get, the better players we will be."
Hopefully "Today" was just a start.
Brian A. Giuffra covers high school sports for ESPN RISE Magazine.
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