GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WUSA) -- As the world has their eyes set on the London Olympics, Timmy La is focused on something else - the 2016 Paralympics.
"Making it to the Paralympics would mean the world; it would be a big accomplishment for me."
The Maryland Table Tennis Center (MDTTC) is filled with the sound of ping pong balls being fiercely hit back and forth on the table and sneakers screeching - most are not amateur players but professionals in training.
"In 2010 people started telling me about the Paralympics so now I started my training more intense."
But in order to achieve his goal Timmy, who was born without a finger on both hands, will have to play catch up as he recently discovered his love for the sport. Many Olympic hopefuls begin training before their teenage years.
In 2009, at the age of 16 he picked up his first paddle while playing table tennis with his father. That summer he registered for camp at MDTTC.
"[When summer camp first started] out of the 30 or so students I would say Timmy would have ranked last in his potential to eventually be playing for medals," Coach Larry Hodges said. "But Timmy started training really hard, hour after hour, day after day and now I think he secretly gets great pleasure from beating those who used to beat him 11-0."
And the quality of training he receives has also helped him progress.
Players of all ages and levels train at MDTTC, one of the largest and renowned table tennis clubs in the United States. The club is also home to world-class coaches like Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang. Both are former Chinese National Team members and former U.S. Olympic players.
"In the beginning Timmy didn't have much strength in his grip and the paddle would flop around in his hand. But I think he's done a lot of weight training to build up his hand and finger muscles so he's able to hold it more tightly and [his grip] has gotten firmer and firmer," Coach Hodges said.
In his short time practicing the sport the Gaithersburg teen has already won a national tournament.
"The next step is the Paralympics," Timmy said.
Training for such an event will be demanding but his coaches are sure he can pull it off.
"If he is able to keep up the training the way he's doing now until the trails of the 2016 Paralympics, let's just say I feel sorry for those other players," Coach Hodges said.
Story by: Jackie B. Diaz