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.
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.
Firing on all cylinders ! November 3, 2008Posted by Mikael in Mikael's opinion.
Tags: ittf GJP, Koki NIWA Japan
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The ITTF Cadet Challenge & Junior Circuit Finals is over for this time. The last day produced winners in all individual categories and when the ITTF Competition Manager Raul Calin released the final point standing it was once again Europe’s time to celebrate.
As said before in this blog a strong team concept does pay dividend at such a young age. Why? Because we are dealing with a situation that requires constant quality – not only from the young players – but also from management and coaches. Experience in preparation and execution from courtside is tremendously important. This was more than evident this morning when Marcelo Aguirre never got his nerves nor his tactical sense under control against Simon Gauzy from Europe in what was to be the young Paraguayans’ last bid for a gold medal in the challenge. Aguirre instead had to settle for Bronze despite posting a fantastic record of FIFTEEN to ONE in terms of wins and losses in individual matches.
The Boy’s singles instead developed into an all French affair. Romain Lorentz ,born 1993, grabbed the opportunity when his team mate – the very promising Simon Gauzy hesitated in the final. Both the French boys are talented individuals and very competitive for their age.
A young girl by the name of Ayuka Tanioka from Japan won the girls title. She defeated Li Ching Wan a fairly strong defensive player from Hong Kong in five games. Three Asians reached the semifinal stage in singles whilst Japan dominated the girl’s doubles event.
There are, as always , many impressions to be told and conclusions to be drawn from the Cadet Challenge concept. The ITTF will have to look at a few changes for the 2009 Cadet Challenge, an event that will kick of the qualification for the 2010 Youth Olympic Games. I am thinking much more status – tougher competitions for sure and we should be aware that the level will be pushed up another notch.
That was more than evident for those who happened to watch the Junior Boys singles final. The winner – following in many ways a perfect series of matches was Koki NIWA from Japan – born in… and now take deep breath - 1994.. which makes him eligible for the ITTF CC next year and the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.
During the three days of competition in Helsingborg the young Japanese left-hander fired on all cylinders and simply marched through a field consisting of fairly competitive junior boys. The final against the vastly improved Omar Assar was entertaining and well played. Will be interesting to see what kind of noise NIWA can do in Madrid one month from now.. I would not rule out more success at this point. His hand to eye coordination and timing is indeed something else.
Must give credit to Omar Assar for his improvement. One month with Peter Karlsson in Falkenberg has done wonders for this wild horse of a player. With just a little bit more sensitivity and tactical coolness we might have an African going all the way to the top pretty quickly.
Expect Greatness October 31, 2008Posted by Mikael in Mikael's opinion.
Tags: ittf GJP, ittf junior circuit finals
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Friday morning in Idrottens Hus and it is time for the juniors to take the floor. Twelve boys and twelve girls – two groups of six and three from each group advancing , an interesting formula that should appeal to both the top ranked players and at the same time give the lower seeds plenty of opportunities for an upset or two.
We discussed the quality of the two fields yesterday evening - the ITTF CM Raul Calin , point man for the ITTF Junior Circuit and myself. Clearly much higher ranked players has opted to go for the girls title. The top seeds Ma Wenting from Norway and Yuki Fujii are both close to top ten in the world. Look at the boys event and you will find that the majority of the top twenty juniors in the world have dropped the task of qualifying for the circuit finals this year. Although the scope for this event always will remain centred around the development of junior table tennis, it is not a good trend. We should be able to attract also the best players for a yearly showdown. Great challenge it is for the ITTF to reinstate the high status – make investments and attract good fields. The dynamics , such as planning , organization and promotion of the circuit are important and ideas must flow. Never ending task actually to try to lift the values of junior investments around the world.
On the other hand we have here in Helsingborg an open race in both categories . I had a long talk with the Egyptian shooting star Omar Assar the other day as he was preparing to give it a go. Very well prepared from over a month of different preparations in China and in Sweden, Omar Assar now faces the difficult challenge of knowing what to expect from himself. He needs to be aware of the possibilities to have ultimate success and win the tournament and at the same time try to balance his own expectations. I said ; NO FEAR , just GO for IT – but we will see. The abilities to prepare well and execute when you need it the most are not easy to find.
In the girls event I just love the fourteen year old Yang Ha Eun from Korea. Had the pleasure to see her practice in the camp Friday to Sunday and called her in a small evaluation the nr one prospect on site in Helsingborg. She has the look of a champion. Remember the name.
A question of preparation October 29, 2008Posted by Mikael in Mikael's opinion.
Tags: ITTF cadet challenge 2008, ittf GJP
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Just watching the 2008 Team finals in Idrottens Hus.
Team Europe, is in both finals and i am not surprised. The boys team defeated the Swedes this morning in very convincing style and the girls fended off the young North American girls without too much trouble.
The Europeans have from the very beginning embraced the ITTF Cadet Challenge and made it a priority. Zita Pidl the Team manager added fire and heart to the project from the very beginning and the coaches Gundars Rusis and Jarek Kolodziejczyk have really done a solid work with the players that have passed through over the years.
Personally i like how they – Zita and the coaches have paid attention to details. By putting clear guidelines and strong emphasis on preparation and a special training camp in Brondby , Denmark – it is a well prepared team showing in Helsingborg. They have, when the 2008 Challenge reaches the final day, been together for fourteen days in practice and competition. Good work my friends and thank you to Mrs Zita Pidl for taking the Cadet Challenge idea to another level.
Team finals going on right now and you gotta love the French boy Simon Gauzy who must be the biggest European talent in more than ten years..
Simon Gauzy – Team Europe and France – One of the most promising players in Europe for the moment.
Boys; Europe vs Asia 3-0
Gauzy def Kim (KOR) 3-2, Lorentz def Shin 3-0, Gavin Evans def Pang 3-1
Girls ; Europe vs Japan 1-3
Kusinska vs (POL) lost Miyu Maeda (born 96 !!) 2-3, Madarasz def Sato 3-1, Szocs lost Tanioka 0-3, Madarasz lost Maeda 1-3….
Japan (girls) and Team Europe (boys) takes the team events.
A Fine Family October 28, 2008Posted by Mikael in Mikael's opinion.
Tags: ITTF cadet challenge 2008, ittf GJP
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Spent a few minutes this morning chatting with the Soderlund family on site to back young Hampus Soderlund , by many touted to become “the next one” in Sweden. Born 1994 and with another year to go in the cadet age Hampus will reach the top sooner rather than later . Steeped in the Peter Karlsson mode – with great work ethics and a very special bright approach to table tennis , this young boy really stood out during the training camp , firing on all cylinders.
Much of the same strong work ethic i remember that his father Magnus Soderlund brought to the table when I for one season , more than twenty years !! ago , had the honour to coach him in Falkenberg . Magnus was practicing under the supervision of Bo Persson and had together with a number of other promising players special school arrangements in order to play two times a day. One of the top student in the class was Peter Karlsson who already had a foot in with the Swedish National Team at the time . Today Peter works as a special adviser to young Hampus who actually, despite his young age , has played a few matches for his club Mariedal in the Swedish Elite league this season posting an impressive 3-1 record.
There are tons of simularities between coach – father – and player in this case. All three of them come from the same district in Sweden - Västergötland and possesses a hard to describe bright , refreshing and honest view on life and sports . We will see a lot of Hampus Soderlund during this event and each of the matches he will be playing in Helsingborg has a great learning value. Ask me and i would in a heart beat exchange fifty competitive matches in Sweden against the few matches he played the opening day of the 2008 ITTF Cadet Challenge. To learn to handle pressure and expectations is what its all about. Hampus came out full of energy but nervous and tense today. Will be better i am sure as the week in Helsingborg comes along.. and for the future this is a great learning experience for him and i guess the family as well.. With Mother Soderlund also playing a crucial role in the success so far it was a proud and i have to say very fine family cheering in the stands today.
I am by the way a firm believer in the value of MANAGMENT skills as an important tool for Elite coaches.
The Australian Chef.. October 27, 2008Posted by Mikael in Mikael's opinion.
Tags: ITTF cadet challenge 2008
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Beleive it or not ?… The opening dinner for the 2008 ITTF Cadet Challenge took place in the city hall of Helsingborg this evening.. Everything went according to plans – and the food was actually extremely good. We were treated to Chicken with a hint of Thai spices and rice with salad and good bread.
Now to my point; The Mayor of Helsingborg sitting beside me was quite proud of their serving and admitted that as they did not have a proper kitchen in the building they had to use a catering firm…
The company delivering the food ; “The Australian Chef”located in Helsingborg.
Couldn’t believe it and when i then over heared my dear blog’in colleague Mr Tepper telling each and everyone around his table that he usually “cooks exactly the same dish” it felt unreal for sure. Teppers plate was by the way completely cleaned in less than two minutes tonight.. something of a record i am sure.
Good news for Team Africa who will face Sweden in the most interesting match in the boys team competition tommorrow morning ; The Red Chili was back on the table. Young Adem Hman, the Tunisian wonder boy, didnt forget to bring it this time either and all the Africans hade some of the red spread on their bred this evening.. By the way so did many on the honorary guests as well.. The taste was VERY good.
The scene is set. The 2008 ITTF Cadet Challenge is ready to roll. It will be a good one and it wouldnt surprise me a bit if North America comes down with their first medal in the history of this event; Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang are as good as anyone of the girls competing here.
Walking on Water October 25, 2008Posted by Mikael in Mikael's opinion.
Tags: ITTF cadet challenge 2008
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There were days when i firmly believed that i could walk on water..Not literally – but surely from a coaching point of view. Checking in for my sixth ITTF Cadet Challenge, my hotel room in Helsingborg is just beside the very same ferry terminal that used to be such a breaking point of my life.. Twenty five minutes, took me either to work, as the national coach in Denmark, or coming the other way brought me home to my family. I must have made the trip over or back some 1000 times over the seven years i worked in Denmark between 1988 and 1995. Emotional it is.. In my white Saab 9000 – standing right here in line outside my window i did do some thinking – that’s for sure.
I was young – hot and ambitious. I thought i could move players forward - make them think differently – become better and all of that. The year was 1988 and i started to commute from my home in Halmstad , Sweden to the training center in Denmark. Remember writing a long article following the decision to get out and break my contract after the seven years. The text is still in fresh memory and the titles sums up the years i spent in Denmark ; Seven Years as the General and Front-soldier. With my players we digged in – worked hard – had disappointments , but more importantly paved the way for some young talented Danes to move in when we eventually left the scene.
Back to the walking on water… The ITTF has done marvellous things for young players and really shown them – their coaches and their associations a possible way forward. Sometimes and more so lately i get the feeling that the players we support are swimming more and more alone. Its obvious that the national and the continetal assocations desperatly needs to get their act in order to give the young striving athletes the proper support and managment.
I hate to see the ITTF stand alone – owning suddenly the 100 % repsonbsibiliteis for young supported players. We cannot walk on water and we cannot become the driver of the bus.
On site in Sweden are some very intersting young players.. Adem HMAM – the young tunisian still looks like a round million if you look at this stroke technique alone. Ariel HSING- the hard working and eager girl from Northern California practised well today. Also look for the fifteen year old young girls Nadeen El Dewlatly from Egypt to become something fresh and interesting in the very near future. There are , as i am always pointing out - no shortage of talents out there.
The ITTF Cadet Challenge is a great event. Idrottens HUS – here in Helsingborg is the perfect arena with the stone walls breathing great table tennis. One of the very first international events held in this building was the Scandinavian Open – SOC in 1960. Some of the key voulonteers with BTK Rekord still remember those days. From my pint of view i remember coaching one of the best matches i have ever seen with a ninteen year old Jorgen Persson defeating Jan Ove Waldner in five games in the 1984 Swedish Championships.
When the Wind Blows Hard.. October 27, 2007Posted by Mikael in Mikael's opinion.
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.. You still need to be able to steer the ship to shore.
Plenty of tired cadet age athletes in the Good Hope Center today . This particular event is a true test of mental character and physical conditioning.
Some of the youngsters came up flat today . The promising Paraguayan Marcello Aguirre was one of them, playing the complete day as he would have something to loose. Marcelo was in deep trouble with Khaled Assar from Egypt in the round of sixteen but managed to squeeze out a win. Apparently this was not enough to generate self confidence and belief, instead his performance in the quarterfinal followed the same footprints , as he fell in five games against the much more aggressive Tomas Le Breton from France.
The Latin American team in general have come up short in this event. They are less prepared and lack confidence and drive in important moments.
On the PLUS side of things we witnessed another solid day of high level performance from the Korean girl Yang Ha Eun. She is solid as a rock and has been unbelievable consistent from day one in the training camp. Yang , a right handed shake-hand player is born in 1994 leaving her with another two years to go in Cadet events all over the world…
Three good junior matches in front of our eyes today;
Andy Pereira the crowd-favourite here in Cape Town failed to convert on a 7-2 advantage in the sixth game vs the Japanese defender Muchi, who played well , but in this case got the victory handed to him by a suddenly quiet and passive Cuban boy.
Paul Drinkhall lost two matches in his group and was clearly defeated by the left-handed Korean SEO Hyun Deok , a positive surprise with his clean and explosive techniques.
Elizabeta Samara squeezed out the narrowest of victories against the Japanese Wakamiya in the best junior girls match so far.
ITTF World Junior Championships 2012 in Cape Town ? October 27, 2007Posted by Mikael in Mikael's opinion.
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The interest for the ITTF World Junior Championships is continuing to grow all around the world. As it stands now the next in line could be the South African Table Tennis Board , who are getting ready to present a bid for the 2012 or 2013 World Juniors.
This morning ITTF staff and officials were invited to inspect the Grand Hall located in the Grand Hotel Casino Resort. Huge place – 240 room capacity , twelve full flight restaurants catering to all the cousins of the world , complete ice rink, bowling alley and just all entertainment you could imagine. The Grand Hall is a completely new venue with a capacity of 6000 spectators opening all kind of options for the organizers.
“We are definitely interested to bid for the World Juniors in 2012 or 2013 and i hope that the event this week have provided the ITTF with enough confidence for future adventoures said Ganief Faatar the President of the SATTB.
No worries there Ganief – we are more than HAPPY.
So… Great opportunities in the Grand Hall – But also excellent possibilities in the Good Hope Center..Anyway as i said before i have a feeling that the ITTF will come back here sooner rather than later..