Becoming an EcoAthletes Champion is a natural progression for the Cameroonian table tennis player, attorney (she practices in France), and activist Sarah Hanffou. The 2010 African Champion and Olympian — Hanffou competed at London 2012 and has qualified for Tokyo 2021 — has long used her platform on behalf a variety of causes, including climate change.

“My interest in making a difference on climate change came through travels, meetings and reading,” shared Hanffou. “Seeing natural disasters, extreme weather, and poor air quality in cities, made me wonder and wanted to try to understand what was going on. So, I gradually began to wonder about all these questions and what my individual responsibility was to try to turn things around.”

Sarah Hanffou (Photo credit: Sarah Hanffou)

Hanffou has taken on climate issues through her nonprofit, Ping Sans Frontieres.

“We build handcrafted tables in Cameroon rather than buying them abroad so that we can reduce the carbon footprint,” Hanffou noted. “And we collect used table tennis equipment in clubs to give them a second life and donate them to those who can’t afford them. Working on these projects have raised my interest and willingness to be part of a mindset change about climate change.”

The International Table Tennis Federation ambassador says climate change and other environmental issues have increasingly became topics of discussion among her competitors. But those conversations come with questions.

“We discuss it frequently, particularly with regard to our ecological footprint resulting from our trips to compete but also the use of plastic water bottles during competitions,” said Hanffou. “The problem is sometimes we have the feeling that given the magnitude of the task, we do not know where to start. It is not easy to express oneself on subjects like climate change which are complex, sometimes technical. That is why I was glad to find EcoAthletes.”

To EcoAthletes founder Lew Blaustein, the feeling is definitely mutual.

“Sarah Hanffou is going to be a terrific EcoAthletes Champion,” Blaustein said. “She has a great combination of charisma and commitment. And she’ll bring a new cadre of fans to our movement as she is our first table tennis player.”

Hanffou is excited to connect and work with her fellow EcoAthletes Champions to spur the #ClimateComeback.

“I think it is really great to have a community of athletes who are interested in climate change and are willing to take action,” offered Hanffou. “EcoAthletes is a wonderful way of sharing information, asking questions, discussing solutions, and diving into acton. I do know that speaking about it is one of the most important things people can do to spread interest in climate change, but what is very important tome it that speeches must be followed by actions. I will do my very best to try to work with EcoAthletes to implement tangible actions.” 

Sarah Hanffou gives a table tennis clinic in Takoradi, Ghana in January 2020 (Photo credit: Ishmael Abraham)

You can follow Sarah Hanffou on Instagram

Photo at top: Sarah Hanffou (Photo credit: Remy Gros)