Hell…or High Water ? October 24, 2009Posted by Mikael in Mikael's opinion.
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For a moment , lasting exactly three games, the ITTF Junior Circuit Finals 2009 was turning all Japanese. Jin Ueada had his way with Jean Lauric from Belgium on table one , and on table two the fast attacking right-hander Kohei Morimoto built a solid three games to nil lead against Omar Assar.
But fighting back with a spirit rarely seen with junior players, the tall Egyptian settled down, improved his service and changed the tactical set up to work his way back into the match. As many times before , good solid table tennis thinking prevailed as Omar Assar from Egypt tomorrow afternoon will challenge a clean Japanese sweep of the Junior category here in Tokyo.
” I think he played very fast in the first game taking the ball very early. It took time for me to find the correct distance to the table in order to work with my backhand” said a very happy Omar Assar following a dramatic finish that had the Egyptian burning two match points before sealing the deal 12-10 in the seventh game.
Team Mates Become Opponents and Then Team Mates Again October 24, 2009Posted by scotthouston23 in Uncategorized.
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Under the guidance of coaches Jarek Kolodziejczyk and Dana Weber and team manager Polona Cehovin Susin, Team Europe is well known to be the bench mark when it comes to team spirit and unity at the International Cadet Challenge. They achieve consistently outstanding results and their strong team bonding no doubt plays a major part in their success.
However, on the morning of Saturday 24 October two of Team Europe’s cadet girls found themselves at opposite ends of the table. Fourteen year old Bernadette Szocs of Romania had to face off against Yana Noskova, the fifteen year old Russian in the knock-out stage of the cadet girls singles event. Three days earlier they had been consoling each other after a gut-wrenching loss in the cadet team’s final against Team Asia, this morning they would have given anything to defeat each other.
This match had added importance given that the victorious player would still have a chance to secure one of the elusive four qualification places on offer for the 2010 Youth Olympic Games. For the loser, they would be left to find another qualification path at a later date.
In a thrilling match that was full of long topspin and counter hitting rallies, the two youngsters proved to be evenly matched all the way. After an epic six games duel, it was Bernadette Szocs who emerged victorious. The petite right hander always plays with passion and enthusiasm, and this was typified by her vocal cries after winning each point.
For Yana Noskova, she must have been bitterly disappointed with the outcome, as a golden opportunity had been missed. However, she did not let it show as she shook hands showing good sportsmanship. Surely this comes from the respect that Team Europe have for one another.
Less than two hours after their match had finished, it was back to being team mates again. Yana Noskova and Bernadette Szocs are also partners in the girl’s doubles event at the International Cadet Challenge, and they put their skills together to defeat the Pan American duo of Cristal Meneses from Chile and Maria Soto from Peru by three games to one. When it comes to the medal rounds, surely they will be in the mix.
Bernadette Szocs and Yana Noskova had gone from team mates, to opponents, and then back to team mates again over 3 different events. This is surely one of the beauties of table tennis and in particular the International Cadet Challenge. It also underlines the strong team spirit of Team Europe and the maturity of the young ladies concerned.
By Scott Houston, Oceania Development Officer and Team Oceania Manager
Dreams ended and dreams alive…. October 24, 2009Posted by glenntepper in Glenn's point of view !.
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There is a different intensity in the hall today, as the cadets enter the last 16 phase of the tournament with a place in the first ever Youth Olympic Games in Singapore 2010 for the taking.
Some players rise to the challenge, others feel the pressure.
What is normally a winning lead can be easily lost as thoughts of the Youth Olympic Games enter the mind.
Continental Team mates working closely together as team mates through competition and training camps suddenly become adversaries.
Some of the highlights of last 16 action:
- Bernadette Szocs[ROM] vs Yana Noskova[RUS] both of Team Europe and in fact room-mates played an extremely audible match as shouts of “chow” reverberated around the hall after most points. Szocs the winner in a tense 4-2 battle.
- Ariel Hsing[USA] vs Tsui Pao-Wen[TPE]. A classic attack vs defense match where Hsing lacked the power to finish rallies but worked her way to 3-2 and 10-8, but the 2 match points were soon gone and so was her chances in the match, as Tsui took a 10-5 lead. But wait…..the Chinese Taipei coach thinking the match was in hand moved on to another match involving a Chinese Taipei player. Suddenly the score was 10-8 and Tsui took a time-out and stood alone, looking lost. Fortunately for Tsui, Hsing made a relatively easy mistake to end the match.
- Hampus Soderlund[SWE] vs Alexander Yao[USA]. Yao, Still eligible for th Cadet Challenge next year has been slowly improving throughout the tournament and this was clearly his best match. The lead fluctuated as Soderlund sweated and grunted his way and won more through sheer determination than clever tactics.
- Hemmng Hu[AUS] vs Philipp Kuimov[RUS]. Hu, always looking dangerous throughout the tournament but lacking the tough match experience and finesse to finish the matches. This was again the case as Kuimov scraped through at 15-13 and 4-2.
- Omar Bedair[EGY] vs Lu Po-Hsien[TPE]. Bedair looking OK in the teams event without looking spectacular, raised the level, and showed great touch and compusure at the critical stages to come from 2-3 to win 4-3.
- For more and detailed results see http://www.ittf.com/competitions/competitions2.asp?Competition_ID=1886&category=GJP
While the dream is over for some in this years Cadet Challenge, the good news is that ITTF has setup multiple opportunities to qualify entitled “The Road to Singapore”.
- Continental Qualification-Europe and Asia 4 places[4 boys, 4 girls], PanAmerica-3, Africa-2 and Oceania-1
- World Ranking-The top4 boys and girls not already qualified on 31 December World Junior rankings
- Junior Circuit-One World Junior Circuit event in each continent, has been targeted to have an additional Youth Olympic Games qualification event with one boys and one girls position open at each event. Targeted events include the World Junior Circuit events of Egypt, Bahrain, Italy, New Zealand, Venezuela. Open to all.
- Host-Singapore as host has one boy and one girl allocated
Remember only players born 1994 and 1995 are eligible and each National Olympic committee can qualify only one boy and one girl.
The dream lives on……
Fourth Man In October 23, 2009Posted by Mikael in Mikael's opinion.
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It is Friday lunch at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
The group stage in the cadet singles is in full swing when a certain young man from the city of Koforidua in Ghana finally is seeing some action in the courts. So far Samuel Akayade has been caught in the number’s game as the fourth ranked player in the African Cadet Boys team . He did not play in the team event at all.
In his very first competition match here in Japan, Ghana’s contribution to the world of table tennis could have drawn an easier opponent. Instead it was Simon Gauzy, the top ranked French prospect that entered the same court early this morning. The score sheet from that match tells you 0-3 and a total of 13 points for our friend. He would however fight back just a few hours later with a much improved performance, loosing 1-3 against Chiu Chung Hei from Hong Kong.
Playing in his second ITTF Cadet Challenge, Samuel is coming to terms with the facts of international table tennis. The game is simply played differently at this level compared to Ghanaian standards. “Oh yes, against Simon I had such difficulties to see his service. Clearly I must try to improve my service returns in order to become stronger at this level” Samuel concludes.
In a country crazy for soccer (Fifa u 21 world champions) Table Tennis as a sport still plays a minor role in the sporting community. But who knows, maybe that will change with Samuel Akayade, who not only is a nice player but also a very mature and well-behaved young boy. As an athlete he is also starting to get some recognition in his country. “That’s true. The newspapers are starting to cover some of my results and I can feel that sports in general and table tennis are gaining popularity for sure. Many parents are starting to encourage sport participation and I like that. In fact if you ask me I like table tennis more than my books “Samuel explains.
What about daily practice I ask; “The best place for practice is now in Accra, two hours from where I live. There they have a venue with eight tables and a group of players practicing Samuel Akayade said. “In the beginning it was different. My father is working at a community center in Koforidua and I started to play in a club with only two tables. We used to go there to play each evening and still do. We also have a name ; the Juabeng Table Tennis club says the soft-spoken fifteen year old Ghanaian junior champion .
One thing strikes you pretty good as you spend time with the young athletes here in Japan. The ITTF Cadet Challenge has over the years turned out to be so much more than just an ordinary competition. Using the continental concept of participation and a smart set of rules the ITTF is able to reach out to places where seeds not only can be planted, but also grow strong in the best interest of our sport.
Something special…. October 23, 2009Posted by glenntepper in Glenn's point of view !.
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What is it about this event that makes it a favorite of ITTF staff, coaches, officials, parents and players?
The brainchild of Mikael Andersson, many thought the logistics of this event would be its downfall but here we are in 2009 with those involved having a stronger passion for its continuation and with evolving new directions making it even stronger.
So what makes this event special?
Cultural understanding and friendships are very strong.
Four players which share a common continent, but not always a common language, culture or religion must find a means of communication and work together as a team.
Friendships are formed. With this “IT Generation” where facebook and twitter are the norm, and laptops are seen everywhere between matches,developing worldwide friendships is a lot easier, and the motivation of seeing friends formed, the next year cannot be undervalued as a motivation for training also.
If there were more Cadet Challenges in the world there would be less wars.
Yes, a big statement, but when many wars are fought based on cultural or religious misunderstandings the impact of these types of events cannot be underestimated.
The Continental Team Managers are a critical link in the Cadet Challenge puzzle.
We have long serving front soldiers like Khaled El-Salhy of Team Africa and Liu Yi of Team Asia, combining this year with the ”new kids on the block”- Polona Susin of Team Europe, Dejan Papic of Team PanAmerica and Scott Houston of Team Oceania.
The “new kids” are however far from being inexperienced.
Polona is already a veteran of the ITTF Development Program having conducted courses in 10 countries across 4 of the 5 continents present.
Dejan is a much travelled journeyman with long stints in Qatar and Canada and last year was the Head Coach for the Cadet Challenge Training Camp.
Scott is a young man with a maturity beyond his years and has a clear vision of what this event epitomizes.
Their role cannot be underestimated in gelling and educating their teams both on and off the court.
Last night was the now traditional ITTF Team Managers dinner, a pleasant evening of sharing our ideas for the future, re-affirming decisions of the past and acknowledging the important role the managers play.
All Team Managers were united in their strong support of this event as a concept as well as the huge impact it has in motivating all concerned at both continental and national level.
COACHES and PLAYERS
Coaches are the floor leaders that must overcome the language barrier to bring the team together as one unit.
This doesnt happen automatically and doesnt happen just in the venue, but commences months before with communications, training camps and bonding and socialising activities that unite a team.
The coach is also the first one in the venue and the last one to leave with long hours the norm.
Hats off to this important group that are often criticised in defeat, rarely congratulated in victory, misunderstood by officials, and are happy to take the backseat to the players!
Of course we cannot forget the players, who put their energies and passion into this event, and unlike adults dont see skin color, race or religion, just new friends from new countries.
Joola, Butterfly and Stag are long time supporters of this event and the Global Junior Program.
All three also support World Title and Olympic events.
Butterfly and Stag however take this one step further with their support of developing countries where the chance of any financial return is negligible.
Stag supply their best tables to ITTF Development Program for less than the cost of the rubbers on the rackets of most players, and have provided large quantities of tables, rackets, shirts free of charge, most times without any prompting from ITTF side. The kind-hearted Kohli brothers, Vivek and Rakesh, will certainly have earned an exalted position in the next life if karma plays a part.
Butterfly at a friendly dinner 2 days ago hosted by Butterfly leader Mr Yamada, reaffirmed his company’s commitment of honoring the legacy of founding father Mr Tamusu Senior by supporting the “young Butterflies” around the world.
Special projects they have supported included: ITTF World Hopes Team; Butterfly Solidarity Scholarships; AfghanistanProject-providing large amounts of equipment when ITTF was the first International Sports Federation was the first to return post-war; Colombia Peace and Sport project targeting 3 disadvantaged areas in Colombia using table tennis as the vehicle for social change; Elite Rackets and Balls for each Continents Junior Championships; special project in South Africa’s working class regions and the list goes on…..
Maximum One Player per Country
Oceania led the way from the first Cadet Challenge by making an internal rule that players must be from 4 different countries despite the fact that they are at the lower end of the competition scale.
The development benefits and motivation generated in Oceania countries have been obvious to all and now recognised by ITTF Junior Commission by making this a rule for all.
Rabie Yousef, boys coach of Team Africa is a strong supporter of this concept and recognises the benefit of Africa as a whole, despite his home country Egypt missing out on extra places.
“There is a strong motivation at African Junior Championships to qualify for this event and it also activates previously inactive countries who now see the chance to be part of something special”
Dejan Papic, Manager of Team PanAmerica, said “Combining the teams means that players previously qualifying without much effort, now have to fight for positions. This can only help”
Having 6 teams[5 continental teams + host] instead of 8 teams[6 continental teams + host + wild card] has made the Cadet Challenge training camp more manageable and announced by all as the best ever.
ITTF Cadet Challenge-definetely something special…..
The Table Tennis Gods are Unkind October 21, 2009Posted by glenntepper in Glenn's point of view !.
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Spare a thought for the European boy’s team.
The table tennis gods, so kind in the 2007 and 2008 Cadet Challenge deserted them this year.
In the group matches, a 3-2 loss to Japan with a match point in the crucial third match unrewarded.
In the semi final crossover match against Team Asia the 3-0 score line to Asia did not do the team justice.
All 3 matches were lost 3-2 with the first two matches by the closest possible margin.
Simon Gauzy played a match of fluctuating fortunes against Team Asia’s Kim Dong Hyun finally losing 12-10 in the fifth, curtesy of an edge ball.
Team Europe work-horse Hampus Soderlund, fought back from 0-2 in games to be cruelly beaten at 11-9 in the fifth following a long exchange with a spectacular finish.
So, no gold medals this year, but great to see them fighting hard for the 3rd place against Africa despite their earlier disappointment.
Hits and Misses from Day One in Japan. October 21, 2009Posted by glenntepper in Glenn's point of view !.
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Hit Number One
Europe girls were the big winners from Day One, taking a thrilling 3-2 victory over Asia.
Since the Cadet Challenge commenced in 2002 Europe has been the benchmark with regards to working together as a team, and yesterday was no exception, as all 3 players contributed with one win each.
Hit Number Two
Koki Niwa of Japan and Yang Ha Eun, showed their class as two of the players to beat in the boy’s and girl’s event respectively. Koki taking 2 matches against Europe, in their 3-2 victory, including a demolition of the talented Simon Gauzy 8,4,4. Yang could do no more than winning her 2 matches, as they went down 2-3 to Team Europe.
Hit Number Three
Dina Meshref showed maturity after a disappointing start against Europe in the morning.
In the first match of the tournament she led 1-0 and 10-7 against Team Europe’s Bernadette Szocs, before going down 3-1 and then 3-0 against Petrissa Solja.
She managed to turn things around in the afternoon taking both matches against Asia including a come from behind victory in her last match against Suthasini Sawettabut of Thailand. Down 7-10 in the deciding game she took 5 straight points to take the Africa-Asia match to 2-2, something unheard of several years ago.
Near Miss Number One
Europe Boys Team…….in the crucial third match, 2-2 in games, and 10-9 Emilien Vanrossomme missed his chance agaisnt Yuto Muramatsu with Japan finally taking the match 3-2.
Near Miss Number Two
Hemming Hu, following up from a strong training camp performance, and some good practise match victories, found himself facing World No 1, Yin Hang[CHN] of Team Asia.
Being far from intimidated he led 1-0 and 10-9 in the second and 10-7 in the fourth before succumbing to the chinese might.
Near Miss Number Three
Team Africa! 3-2 losses in both boy’s and girl’s matches against Asia. While disappointing, this underlines the progress of Africa.
Miss Number One
Suthasini Sawettabut[THA] of Team Asia has impressed in previous ITTF and Asian events with her professional approach. Often seen meditating prior to matches, this didnt help yesterday. With her personal coach filming and deeply analysing each match, I am sure she was in for a long night last night, after losing 3/4 on Day one, including losses to Dina Meshref of Team Africa as Team Asia led 2-1 and Yana Noskova of Team Europe at 2-2.
I am sure we will see better from this talented young lady from Thailand as the tournament progresses.
Miss Number Two
Adem Hmam of Team Africa. Lots of progress in the last 12 months. Lots of opportunities offered through the ITTF “With the Future in Mind” Scholarship including extended stays of the “Close with Karlsson” project in Falkenberg, Sweden. But in Tokyo…..disappointing effort levels in the training camp, and disappointing match with Team Asia. While the team lost 3-2, his matches were both lost 3-0 without the fight expected of someone of high aspirations.
- “Balance”. We have young players training long hours, with the pressure of competing at a world event for cadets, but we must remember they are all born 1994, 1995 or 1996. They are children with high aspirations but they are still children. They must still have fun. They must enjoy playing. Jarek Kolodziejczyk, has been Team Europe coach since the Cadet Challenge inception, and for a very good reason. He has mastered the balance of having fun and enjoyment with the hard work required on and off the table. Fun, team bonding games, social outings, dining as a team, are all critical elements, just as much as long hours of training, video analysis and physical training. Many coaches and players will never smile during a training session-the tension and pressure is always there. You will regularly see Team Europe burst into what appears to be spontaneous laughter during a training session. In actual fact this is often a situation usually cleverly generated by Jarek to break the tension building due to a frustrating training sesion or for some other more private reason. Tension gone, players are then ready to re-focus. Team Europe winning the Cadet Challenge Boy’s Team title in the previous 2 years against [on paper] stronger Asian teams was no co-incidence……
- “Everything is Possible” Prior to the ITTF Global Junior Program and ITTF Development Program commencing the thoughts of Africa, Americas or Oceania challenging Asia or Europe were a distant dream. All three are now regularly threatening the powerhouses of Asia and Europe. ITTF is providing the opportunties. The challenge is for National Federations and players to make full use of these opportunities. For National Federations planning and taking some initiative themselves are key issues. For the players work hard, leave nothing on the table and believe that there is no player at the tournament they cant beat[and no player at the tournament they cant lose to against lesser opponents]
From a Speck in the Ocean to the Land of the Rising Sun October 20, 2009Posted by scotthouston23 in Uncategorized.
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The possibility of gaining the first qualification places for the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore is a major drawcard for the 2009 International Cadet Challenge. Those with the best technical, tactical, psychological and physical ability will rise to the top and justifiably steal the limelight in just a few days time.
However, the International Cadet Challenge is about much more than simply the results achieved on the table. Creating new friendships and rekindling old friendships, being able to visit another country and gaining new life experiences are all part of the complete package.
For one competitor in particular the experience of a lifetime is being carried out here in Tokyo, that player is Jamaneter George from Team Oceania. The young right hander is from the tiny island of Mangaia, which is the southernmost island of the Cook Islands situated in the South Pacific.
Mangaia has a population of just 1100 people and is very isolated, to the south the Pacific Ocean stretches thousands of empty kilometres to the South Pole, to the far east are the Austral Islands and Pitcairn, the Kingdom of Tonga is a world away to the west; only the north holds Mangaia’s Cook Islands neighbours. Mangaia also holds the distinction of being the oldest island in the Pacific, dating back some 18 million years.
For Jamaneter George, having the opportunity to come to Tokyo will surely create memories that will last forever. To experience the change in culture from the slow paced and care free culture of tiny Mangaia to the hustle and bustle of nearly 13 million people in Tokyo must surely be mind boggling. The shy young man, who has slowly been coming out of his shell since Team Oceania has been together, has been able to add something in his own unique way to the team.
In round one of the boy’s team event of competition Team Oceania was drawn to play against Team Asia, the number one seeds, where Jamaneter George had to face Lu Po-Hsien from Chinese-Taipei. Although he could not match it with his technical sound, more experienced and well grounded opponent, by simply having the chance to compete on the international arena was an achievement in itself.
The dream of competing at the Youth Olympic Games might seem to be a touch out of reach for the Cook Islands youngster, but the life experienced gained over this journey is something he will grow from as a person. He will certainly be able to return to Mangaia with a very different view of the world. This underlines that the International Cadet Challenge is about more than just table tennis.
By Scott Houston, Oceania Development Officer and Team Oceania Manager.