Olympic Solidarity. During my years in international sport I have never really thought about what the correct definition could be . Instead we have been fully occupied with managing progress and development at both the grassroots level, with Mr Glenn Tepper’s award-winning Development Program pulling the weight, and the fast expanding ITTF Global Junior Programme . The ITTF With the Future in Mind project has been in operation since 2003 with a steady contribution of US 120,000 to 150,000 towards talented young athletes all over the world. No time to think about such trivialities.
But in the past few days , walking the floor at the National University , coordinating the ITTF Youth Olympic Games Training Camp, in itself an innovative and nice development initiative, I came to realize what Olympic Solidarity really is. In the spotlight of the rings, with the olympic flame burning down at the Marina Plaza downtown Singapore you find yourself not only thinking the Olympic thoughts but also realizing the positive force of youth sports.
I am talking about the good moments happening each and every day at an event like this. Moments that we can track back to a start somewhere – someone getting involved and recognized. The spirit of the young players that we as staff – Mr Tepper – Mr Calin and myself have learnt to know personally. To see them grow up is as exciting as it is frightening..( the last part more related to your own age – do you hear the clock ticking..?)
Well – anyway . The ITTF had a very good Youth Olympic Training Camp for three days.. We gave it our best shots and got a few instant rewards in the True Spirit of Olympic Solidarity proudly presented in this Blog Report;
The FORMAL Stuff ; Almost full cooperation from the involved NOC;s and National Associations. Out of the forty-six countries represented with athletes only two national associations opted NOT to participate. Korea Republic for scheduling reasons – arrival only 18 AUG and China for reasons unknown to the ITTF. Around 70 % of the athletes took all the six organized sessions and the other 30 % rested the odd session here and there. Great result if you ask me. The Japanese Top players – Koki Niwa and Ayuka Tanioka , the German selection with Wagner and Solja and the French team consisting of Simon Gauzy and Celine Pang pulled the practice train in a very nice way …
- The YOG Role model ; Jean Phillippe Gatien led the morning sessions – 2×2 hours for the three days with various coaching options in play for the afternoon sessions.
- The camp featured six sessions per gender , on a rolling schedule, using sixteen tables at the National University of Singapore Hall 5. Good training conditions.
And now.. The FUN Stuff – in the shape of a TOP TEN list , True Olympic Solidarity Moments during the three days.. Of course 110 % subjective – But hey – It is after all my Blog !! Countdown format in play..10 to 1..
10. World Class volunteering ; In Singapore you follow instructions – that is clear. On top of that you meet and greet with great interest all your guests.. Super class – YOG enthusiasm and i dare to say already now – a hard to beat YOG organizational concept. A great honor it is to be working alongside with this group of volunteers and their pro coordinator the soft-spoken and friendly competition manager Mr Joseph Lau.
9. CORDERO Carelyn , Puerto Rico ; The perfect story related to our innovative qualification system designed to embrace the YOG and the development of our sport. She missed out on the two first qualification opportunities – but clinched her spot in dramatic fashion in El Salvador in February this year. With her great demeanour and her perfect focus she can easily become the new poster girl for Latin American Table Tennis. The future looks bright ! Next Stop Europe !
8. GALIC Alex , Slovenia ; From nothing to something. What a great story . “One year ago i was around 150 on the European Ranking list – now i am ranked 57.. I have gone from nothing to at least something” she said when i asked her about recent progress. Soft spoken young girl – with a great smile and plenty of eagerness to learn.
7. PHILOU and his words of wisdom ; I don’t know how they do it – the French ?! . But they always come up cool, classy and collected. Jean Phillippe Gatien delivered words of wisdom each and every morning during the camp , pushed for the Olympic Values and simply did a great job inspiring the young players and their coaches.. What was it again ; FRIENDSHIP – EXCELLENCE and RESPECT !
6. Finally – a glint of ORANGE at the far horizon ; Dutch Table Tennis is finally starting to move some players after taking – I don’t know a ten-year development break or so in the backwaters of some great profiles like Bettine Vriesekopf, Trinko Keen and Danny Heister . Britt EERLAND was the surprising winner of the European Junior Girls title this summer and the best cadet boy – a young gentleman by the name of Koen HAGERAATS is also playing in the YOG. Both players are in need of a serious dose physical conditioning and strength , but does on the other hand have a few qualities that might push them through to a higher level.. I do like the way young HAGERAATS uses his backhand side.. Reminds me of a TT artist by the name of Jorgen Persson…
5. SASHIRANGA Hasintha , Sri Lanka ; Some five or six years ago i was suddenly starting to receive emails from a small young player in Sri Lanka. Hello Sir – I am a good table tennis player – please help out , kind of thing… We arranged for Hasintha to participate in the Safir International meet in Orebro – believe in 2004. He did well and when travel alone was more a possibility he started to train in Koping, Sweden last year. Now we are talking one of the most talented players among the selected here in Singapore. Very good technique and good flow in his game..Will be interesting to follow his progress for sure..
4. A trip to the Table Tennis Circus ; Solidarity it was ! When given the opportunity two of the strongest contenders in the Boys singles event – Koki NIWA from Japan and Simon GAUZY from France picked each other for a fun two hours . There were some drills chosen – but also a couple of games played. To watch the shot-making and all the spectacular rallies on display was more like going to the circus to see all the Elephants – The Tigers and the clowns as well.. Both these players will have a long successful carrier in Table Tennis .. Did anyone mention RIO 2016 ?
3. The Kiwi Pick Up ; Kevin WU from New Zealand is a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Much improved following some month in China he had a good camp for his standard. The last 40 minutes of training , comfortably seated for a break, he was suddenly asked by Koki Niwa – who lacked a partner to have a go.. Fun time for Kevin who suddenly appeared a bit sharper mentally.. Something he now needs to translate into match situations..
2. KIM Song I , PRK Korea ; Suddenly she appeared from out of the blue.. Constantly arriving 20 or 30 minutes late – but eager to play. Right-handed defensive player with a good smile and at least some basic understanding of the english language. Even better, she displayed a wonderful personality sharing table time with anyone who came her way. Sport is great fun – the perfect tool for peace and understanding as well. Kim had a long session with Ariel Hsing from the USA. She also took charge of the warm up for one session.. Sensational is only the first name..
1. One Sport – One World ; For years now the ITTF has poured money into development and junior activities. Results are perhaps not yet visible in the actual result-lists of medal tallies at major events. But we can see it with our own eyes – Mr Tepper – Mr Calin and myself. Young players – regardless of the nationality – ready to have a go at a long career in Table Tennis. We can see the improvements – the small progress towards a more level playing field. We can see the bright future ahead. The introduction of the Youth Olympic Games will change the dynamics of international sport and we (The ITTF) are in a good position to benefit.
For the Love of our Sport and the Olympic movement !
Mikael Andersson , ITTF Executive Director Education and Training