Table tennis has been played in Australia for more than 100 years, and there’s one young woman at Glencore’s Bulga Coal operation who doesn’t just play it for fun in her spare time. Danica Alburo is that talented, she made her debut at the 2023 National Championships in July.
Danica started playing table tennis when she was in primary school in the Philippines.
“I started when I was 10 years old in public school. There were older kids who would play table tennis during lunch break and they seemed to be having a lot of fun.
“I joined in one day and I had so much fun I kept playing with them. During the table tennis season, I got selected to represent the school’s girls team and got lucky winning gold.”
Danica continued to play throughout her teenage years at school, finding coaches who were willing to take her on board to train.
When she entered university, she secured an elite athlete scholarship that gave her free tuition, accommodation, food, allowances, medicine and sporting goods while she was doing her chemical engineering degree full-time.
Juggling a full-time degree and a professional sporting career didn’t come easy at first.
“I lost most of my games in multiple competitions but that served as my motivation to train more and acknowledge what I need to improve. These were hard times and it felt like there were constant challenges coming my way.
“But you have to accept the challenge and turn it into a strength by reminding yourself that you can do more and improve and not give up.”
Danica practiced after school, went to social games, and trained every weekend not only playing the sport itself but extra physical conditioning training.
“I participated in inter-school and national competitions and started winning some of them. I was given an opportunity to represent the Philippines in international competitions as well.”
Danica moved to Australia in 2020 but couldn’t play table tennis at the time due to the pandemic. When the pandemic eased, she was able to go back to playing with the Bairnsdale Table Tennis club in Victoria.
Last year Danica moved to the Hunter Valley and started playing for Newcastle.
When Danica trains, it’s not just a matter of practicing hitting a ball across a table; there’s a reason she’s a professional.
She stretches, does table drills to train consistent strokes and for more intense training she uses multiple balls to learn different strategies and techniques in attack, defence, spinning and chopping.
“After practicing and gaining consistency on techniques, we would apply that to a friendly match. We normally add some excitement to the games by having the loser crawl under the table or do some pushups or something, which then helps you strive to get better and win!”
Danica was selected to compete at the recent 2023 Australian National Championship in July.
“I felt blessed to have been selected to play at Nationals. Working full-time and playing professional sports may seem hard for some, but I am very grateful to have the support of my team at Bulga that makes it possible for me.
“Although I didn’t win any medals on my National debut, the experience was a good reminder on the areas I need to improve on and what techniques I need to learn to level up my game.”
Danica is part of the 2023 Glencore Coal Graduate program and is currently on rotation at Bulga coal mine. She loves the job.
“I get thrown in the deep end and have the opportunity to get out there and do meaningful work. It is such a wonderful environment surrounded by people who help me out and coach me when I have any queries.
“Another thing that I love about Glencore is the strong environment of people coming up with solutions. Senior management listen to the ideas you put forward and it is not hard to get things done in an environment that is open and very supportive, so I just feel really blessed to be a part of it.”