The new playing hall now avaliable for the organizers of the Safir International . We are missing the red flooring – but otherwise a first class addition to a fine event. One of the original tournaments included in the ITTF Junior Circuit back in 2003.
By now it is one fine ITTF GJP tradition to pay a visit to one of the original GJC organizers – the Safir Table Tennis Club in Örebro.
strong>Once you kind of hit mid February – the shivers start coming and like a letter in the mail the program-book arrives from the tournament director Lars Elwin and his crew. Nothing else to do – other than following the call of the mighty God of Table Tennis and book your trip to Örebro . For years that trip involved a lengthy trip overseas from Ottawa to Sweden . Not so any more . This morning I took the 1031 train from Halmstad with the arrival set four hours later . Easy ride had it not been for the fact that my laptop is taking a nap on my office desk – and here i am riding the train .
Good practice though to put away the computer and circulate among coaches and players on the floor for a few days . It is quite clear that the Safir event holds the fort quite well as one of the toughest tests on the junior circuit . To win here you need to be absolutely on top of your game – and walk the walk in the footprints of some great talents , once crowned winners in the Safir’s event and later to become world class athletes. Who can forget a young Kenta Matsudaira executing his axe-serve with perfection , hardly being able to see over the table surface or the tiny – yet brilliantly talented Jun Mizutani doing his tricks back in the early goings of the junior programme.
But all that is history . Reality is that since all the roads and rails in Sweden this time of the year lead to Idrottshuset in Örebro – even a simple , forgetful Senior Consultant will eventually found his way home .
Just a quick post this time. Article on Michael Maze comeback is now released through various platforms .. But here it is again.
Recommended listening for fans and supporters of the ITTF Global Junior Programme reading this post; Paul Carrack – Silent Running – Live
The message to those not succeeding here in Villa Nova De Gaia is simple enough ; Just keep on running !!. There are several more opportunities coming, both for the brave and the skilled. The ITTF is about to roll out the 2014 Road to Nanjing series as well as continental qualifications on top of the next step which actually involves the ITTF U 18 world ranking.
Technically speaking, following another exciting day of competition in Portugal, we now have eight junior players qualified for the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games. NOC approval needed of course – but I am sure it will be alright in the end. If not, we just have to get the ITTF Promotion Manager Matt Pound fired up. With his social media skills – a campaign of some sort might do the trick. Because these young players are for sure worth any support they can get in their quest to establish themselves as professionals in our sport.
So.. Here it is the ever so truth-seeking and at times dumbstruck Eleven Points Blog; “Star Appeal” rating for today’s winners.
Let’s go with the girls first;
+++++ FIVE PLUS – Championships material
DIACONU Adina ROU ; Labelled the best ever talent selected for the ITTF World Hopes Team by the master coach Dejan Papic , the fourteen year old pheanom from Romania continues to gain ground . She is now qualified for the Nanjing Games and will , mind you, still be fourteen years old when it comes around. Adina showed tremendous mental toughness in this competition battling back from severe deficits both in the sixth and seventh game against a well set up Natalia Bajor from Poland.
++++ FOUR PLUS – World Class (for many years to come)
DOO Hoi Kem HKG ; In her own words…; “I am bit of a cry baby. I can cry for anything and everything – But I am standing strong. I am a super woman “Well – well.. The Eleven Points Blog likes this young “made in Hong Kong” girl. She might lack some variation and a winning weapon or two.. But my god, she can play table tennis. My guess is that DOO will cut her world ranking (56) in half before this year is over. Medal contender in Nanjing.
+++ THREE PLUS – Good ! – But improvement needed
KATO Miyu JPN ; Nice young girl. Will have to battle plenty of good players in the Japanese system to be successful, I kind of doubt that she can do it… Solid worker – but far away from the necessary top talent level needed to win anything big.
+ ONE PLUS – Good luck in Nanjing – Not much more than that.
CHIU Ssu-Hua TPE; Long Pimples on the backhand side is what we are talking about here. I doubt – I doubt that this girl ever will please the fans of international table tennis… But of course the eleven points blog could be wrong once in a while..
+++ THREE PLUS – Strong getting stronger
ORT Kilian GER; This guy has very quietly advanced 200 places (from 530 to 340) on the ITTF World ranking in a little bit more than one year. Watch out – Killian is in the slightly slower (in terms of pushing through talented players) German system on his way to become a name to reckon with. I wouldn’t rule out a potential “Going for Gold in Nanjing” campaign coming from the Germans who does have a great chance in the special mixed team format. Pairing up with the super talented Nina MITTELHAM might be the perfect fit for Killian ORT and for Germany .
+++ THREE PLUS – Good! – But must be better..
SZUDI Adam HUN ; Here we have one of these European players that suddenly at the age of seventeen or so decides to start practicing. Adam has in the last sixth month developed into a very competitive top junior in Europe. Great, solid performance today when he defeated the highly touted Brazilian Hugo CALDERANO– mind you not in seven but rather five well executed games.
YANG Heng-Wei TPE; Close call it was for one of the top seeds in this tournament. Plenty of success on the ITTF JC in 2013 and has a well-rounded game to fall back on.. However I doubt that it will be enough to make it to the next level. That’s just a feeling that I have.
++ TWO PLUS – Positive Development – But a lot of work left to be done
REITSPIES David CZE; David has made great progress in the last six month, no doubt. Still we are speaking typical European style just a nudge to slow to become any threat to the Asian top players.. But here we are now – just keep running David – it is after all refreshing to see a Czech Player making an effort to establish himself internationally.
First day of YOG World Qualification action in Vila Nova De Gaia, Portugal. Thirty two players in total are now separated into those with the chance to qualify for the YOG , and those staring at one days rest before the ITTF JC finals get going on Friday.
We successfully split the field in half today. Out of the seeded players, all sixteen except for one , will be part of tomorrow’s make up of eight straight qualification finals with the winners clinching the spot for the Youth Olympic Games. The only one breaking in from the lower seeded group was the talented right-hander Anqi LUO from Toronto, Canada who defeated Nicola STEFCOVA from the Czech Republic in seven games.
The first day of action as a whole, had its moments of excitement no doubt about that. The group winners on the boy’s side all impressed. Killian ORT from Germany showcased a whole battery of shots that has made him to one of the big climbers on the ITTF World Ranking . Precisely one year ago Killian was ranked 530 in the world – now he is 340 and judging from the three wins in the group stage today he is still just warming up. Look out for this guy in the future – he surely has the power and the game-sense to start upsetting world class players. Hugo CALDERANO from Brazil is always interesting to watch. He negotiated the Portugoise hope Diogo CHEN in six games and also defeated Patryk ZATOWKA from Poland to finish on top of his group. Another European ; Adam SZUDI from Hungary also looked good pushing the top seeded Kim MINYEON from Korea to seven games in the second round and then having enough juice in the system to fend of Padask from Thailand late in the evening to clinch his spot in the playoff.
In the girls competition you have to believe that DOO Hoi Kem from Hong Kong will take one of the four spots up for grabs. However, she is facing the unpredictable and still very gifted Thai girl Tamowlan KHETKHUAN in her qualification final tomorrow morning – not an easy task by any means . Full credit should also go to Charlotte CAREY from Wales / Great Britain who still very much is in the race to earn a spot for Nanjing. In fact the good lord of Table Tennis seems to have a good eye for the Wales lefthander , who stated that she most of all wanted to avoid the top seeded DOO in her deciding match.. And you know what?! Her prayers were answered as she now will play CHIU Ssu-Hua TPE in a win and you are in match on Thursday.
The simple formula guiding us, was the old ITTF Education Department mantra; Passion + Vision + Activity = success. We also wanted to start early in order to capture those NOC; s potentially dribbling around with different sports in the selection process to try to fit into the much slimmer Youth Olympic Games costume.
From the outside looking in, the approach that we opted to go with, may have appeared slightly different and to some parts confusing. But , some coaches looking for success did learn quickly and overall it satisfied our goals. It has been a busy year for the juniors with plenty of action all around the globe. We are now about to finish, in fact here in Porto, Portugal, the 2013 Road to Nanjing series with an interesting world qualifier before the next three steps (world ranking – continental and the 2014 RTN series) will go to work and produce an exciting field of thirty two + thirty two players for the second Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing organized in August this year.
But first thing first. The first ever Youth Olympic World Qualification event is upon us. It will happen here in Porto, or to be more precise, in the municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia – the home for a lively table tennis community and among other things one of the ITTF Hot Spot training centers supposedly spreading the glory of the ITTF brand around the world.
The center itself – where the YOG qualifier and JC Finals will be held this week, is brand new, opened in September and has pretty good conditions for practice and accommodation. Let’s hope for success there as Portugal slowly is on its way to become a country to count on for the future – at least on the men’s side. Not only do they have a good core of experienced and still emerging top players – but also some young players making a mark for themselves.
The right handed Diego CHEN from the Sporting Portugal (Lisbon) club is clearly one of the coming guys in Portuguese Table Tennis. He will play in both events this week and I believe that we can see some fireworks from him. Looking at the field of the sixteen young men competing in the qualifier you feel drama almost creeping up your spine. We have full continental representation and some chances, in a very evenly matched field, for upsets. It’s all about grabbing the opportunity when it appears and to survive the nervy, shaky moments in the initial (groups of four with two advancing) stage.
In the end we will see four athletes + four athletes booking their tickets ( NOC approval needed) for the Youth Olympics. I have a hard time seeing the top seeds missing out – but with young players you never know of course. For those interested in new names and emerging countries this event should be a fiesta in itself. From the Peter Karlsson training group in Falkenberg, Sweden , arrives the left-handed Padasak TANVIRIYAVECHAKUL from Thailand . He should be on our watch list alongside with training buddy Brian AFANADOR. The youngest player in the boys field, only fourteen years old ; Kunal CHODRI from the USA is another interesting name. In fact he is one of three young players in the field previously selected for the ITTF World Hopes Team. Kunal will be in for a tough challenge this time whilst both Patryk ZATOWKA from Poland and Brian AFANADOR both stand with some chances to qualify.
The girl’s competition is equally hard to predict. However, with one of my all-time favorite European junior players Nina Mittelham from Germany throwing in the towel due to injury/sickness, I do see the top seeded DOO Hoi Kem from Hong Kong China as the shining light. This girl can play very well and is overall not far away from establishing herself as a top player in the world. DOO is currently ranked nr 53 in the world and second on the U 18 list. I say; World Class and for sure she should play in Tokyo and no doubt in Rio 2016 for her country.
The feel good story in the girl’s field has been written by Charlotte CAREY from Wales who has been travelling the world in a true and honest effort to eventually play in Nanjing. Her coach Ryan Jenkins – a true Table Tennis journey man has done a good job chasing down the opportunities offered by our qualification system. So, here comes crunch time for the duo from Wales – who will compete in both the world qualifier and in the European qualification coming up in the Czech republic early February.
Lord, forgive me for the rough and rowdy ways I have been travelling in the name of International Table Tennis. I have seen things. I know things. I have given it my best. I have developed the sport – gone the extra mile for young talents. I have touched the borders, often letting passion and vision take over.
This very evening. Deep down in Dubai at the GAC World Tour Finals – The New Guidelines for Development of the Sport was presented at a gala style dinner by the ITTF President Adham Sharara. Let’s drop to our knees and pray that those very same guidelines recognize the changes happening in our sport and also take into account the problems out there. We need , more than ever , solid investments in the youth to come along with firm and direct ITTF Development initiatives.
It is not an easy puzzle to finish – The development of a sport that has done a lot of things right the last few years when professional staff was empowered to make changes – to adjust and to seek progress on a daily basis. It will be interesting to see also if the new guidelines touch on the screaming needs to re-model our professional tournament structure to give young emerging players a clearer pathway to success. This is desperately needed as the current pro model only seems to cater to the already rich…
What was it .. ? .. 1 million dollar investment from the ITTF ? Doing just the simple math it seems like we will send around 500,000 of that money to the Chinese Table Tennis Association …and then they dropped the doubles and the U21 events completely..
We have been told to focus on, and to make TT , one of the top five sports in the Olympic Game We can do it. But predictability and the current competitive imbalance is our nr one enemy. We need to find a suitable and dynamic model to drive young emerging talents to excellence and stardom – not by doing all the work ourselves as an international table tennis federation of course – but by connecting development initiatives with a pro tournament model that engages, motivates and rewards emerging talents..
But hey – an evening like this.. I don’t know – but my thoughts goes to the priceless and ever so accurate Seinfeld show and Frank Costanza announcing that Festivus is Back..!
Here comes a Friday evening entertainment clip – as good as it gets.. Festivus for the Rest of Us..
And .. Why not add a play list of good quality – just to pump up the volume . A lot of life. A lot of unknown pieces. But overall – a bluesy festivus for the rest of us…
Happy Festivus – I will now walk my dog..in the rain !