The table was set. A folded piece of card stock displayed Krishnan’s name. A white cap with a Team IMPACT logo sat next to it. An unsigned contract that would make him an honorary member of North Carolina’s cross country team lay on the table.
This was a big moment for an 8-year-old from Cary.
Krishnan has biallelic mismatch repair deficiency syndrome — a condition that makes children more susceptible to various forms of cancer. Tuesday was about him and his perseverance. At least, that was the plan.
When everything was supposed to be about Krishnan, he was only focused on others.
He found head coach Mark VanAlstyne to ensure his cousins could join the photo shoot after his signing. As he signed his contract, his mother and father sat beside him. In a statement, he thanked his younger sister, whom he called his inspiration.
“Yash, who do you think will win NBA MVP?” someone asked during his press conference.
He thought for a moment.
“Russell Westbrook,” he answered. “But who do you think will win?”
Krishnan is not one to talk about himself. But that is what a press conference is for.
His favorite athlete is Michael Jordan, and he is a fan of “Space Jam.” He has Vince Carter beating Jordan in a dunk contest, though. If he had to be a UNC men’s basketball player, he would be Joel Berry — but only because Justin Jackson is leaving.
The Sport Clips MVP is his go-to haircut. When it comes to food, nothing beats Italian. For dessert, he will take cake — with Skittles on it, if possible. His favorite drink is a root beer float.
“Raise your hand if you like root beer floats,” he said.
He scanned the room. Most people — including VanAlstyne and assistant coach Logan Roberts — raised their hands. Krishnan gave a nod of approval.
As the team gathered around him for a picture, Krishnan held up his hand to stop the cameras. He beckoned his cousins to come sit next to him — just like VanAlstyne had promised.
“I feel like every time he doesn’t come to practice or we don’t see him for a while, there’s a member of our team missing,” first-year runner Mady Clahane said. “He just brings so much light and happiness into our lives.”
After the press conference, Krishnan darted from person to person, his energy and charisma overflowing. He was working the room like no other 8-year-old could.
“He has an amazing passion for sports and learning,” VanAlstyne said. “I’ve never met anyone his age who knows so much about the NBA, the NFL — he’s teaching me things every minute.”
Krishnan led the team in its traditional post-practice breakdown, then a celebratory jog around the Eddie Smith Field House track. Leading a group of young adults, he was in command.
As the crowd filtered out, Krishnan finished up a final on-camera interview. One of his cousins stood next to him as he answered questions. His cousin’s father made desperate pushing motions with his arms toward his son. He wanted him out of the shot — this was an interview with Krishnan, not his son.
Krishnan saw his worried uncle, calmly excused himself from a question, raised his hand in the air and smiled, as his cousin stood close to him.
“It’s OK, Uncle,” he said. “I told him I wanted him here.”