The temptation was great to talk about it. To evoke the future "so British" and royal meeting. But, until the end, the yet so loquacious and disert Jean-Claude Molet respected the confidentiality agreement and secrecy. 57 years after exchanging a few words with Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin - the first man to fly into space - during a tour with the table tennis France team, he was able to share a few moments with King Charles III, Queen Camilla and Brigitte Macron on Thursday during their visit to Saint-Denis.
An "honor", a "privilege", that the president of the tennis section of Saint-Denis owes to his young player phenomenon Prithika Pavade, 19 years old. Already present at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, the world number 40 is well on her way to qualifying for those in Paris next summer.
"The British Embassy asked the mayor of Saint-Denis, Mr. Hanotin, a few days ago to propose that young athletes from the city be present during the visit of the King and Queen," says Jean-Claude Molet. There were boxing, rugby and table tennis workshops inside the Legion of Honor room and then a football workshop with the PSG Foundation outside. He immediately thought of Prithika for table tennis. She has been at the club for 9 years, she won everything in the youth categories in France and she is a very appreciated local personality. »
🏓 Event Royal 👸
Prithika PAVADE, nugget of the France 🏓🇫🇷 team and recent 🥉 at the European Championships, exchanges a few balls 🏓🇫🇷 with the Queen of England.
➡️ PING a royal 👸 sporting activity@ffttofficiel @HavasPlay_FR @wcie @MathieuHanotin pic.twitter.com/PzBF8IHqxL
— ERB Gilles (@erb_gilles) September 21, 2023
If the strong man of the ping in Saint-Denis gives his agreement, he does not dare to talk to the main interested. "She is playing the Euro in Sweden, I didn't want to disturb her," he said. The British embassy regularly called me back but I didn't want to disturb them. The president will wait until the end of the competition last Saturday (September 16) to send a message to his player. He then congratulated her on her journey - concluded with a bronze medal - and explained the request. "She was very happy," says Molet. We were lucky because for months she has been multiplying tournaments all over the world - Peru, Brazil, Kazakhstan ... - but this week she was in France. »
Arriving early at the room, after passing the multiple - and strict - security checks put in place, Prithika Pavade first exchanged a few balls with college students present before the arrival of the Royal couple. "They arrived around 12:05 p.m. and left at 12:45 p.m.," Molet recalls. Prithika first exchanged a few balls with the Queen, who likes table tennis, then she left her place and gave her racket to Mrs. Macron. Captured by the media cameras on site, the footage has since gone around the world. "I haven't stopped receiving messages ever since," says Molet.
The player was then able to chat with the king. "He asked her about her preparation for the Paris Olympics and wished her good luck. He even told him that he would follow his course during the Games, "says the emblematic president of the club.
Prithika Pavade last June in competition. Photo Icon sport Newspix / Icon Sport
Jean-Claude Molet, too, does not miss anything of this "historic moment" and immortalizes the scene with his mobile phone. "I could hear what they were saying, I was very close," he smiles. A little too much for the taste of the photographers present for the event who ask him to back off. The president of Saint-Denis will even have the right to greet Queen Camilla before the departure of the delegation. "It's a beautiful memory that Prithika will remember for a long time," says Jean-Claude Molet. This is probably the only time in your life that you have the opportunity to rub shoulders and discuss with such personalities. It is also an honour for our discipline and our city. »
After this enchanted interlude, Prithika Pavade resumed the course of her season with daily training at Insep, the school of champions of French sport. She will be back in Saint-Denis this Sunday... to compete in the start of the team France championship.