For the moment I have the American singer/songwriter Justin Townes Earle firmly parked at the top of my personal playlist. Discovered him shortly before Christmas and still enjoying (very much) a nice selection of soul-searching songs often touching on a somehow troubled life.
The best song, in my opinion, is the last one coming at you on the terrific disc called “Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel about Me Now “. The laid back, bluesy piece is called “Movin On” and “discusses“ the daily grind of waking up each day and not knowing what will come next. It’s about searching the meaning of life, trying to live up to expectations and stand up to yourself and your thoughts. “I am trying to move on – trying to move on “ Justin Townes Earle tells us. All in all it is four minutes and forty two seconds of very well produced music – a nice reflection on the thing we call “living”.
I have no idea if my new friend Mr. Earle ever been to Guatemala City . But what I do know, is that some thirty-two young promising table tennis athletes will be there soon enough to compete for honor – pride and smaller chunk of cash in the ITTF Junior Circuit finals. Most of them, and here comes the connection with the art of Earle’s music, are trying to Move On, to reach the next level and not get lost in the often difficult transition between life as a successful junior player and the hard grind just to survive a day or two in the professional ranks.
Judging on the level of the young junior players getting ready for action down in Central America, there might be some hard living around the corner for almost all of them. Until now, very few of these juniors, have proven themselves as the winner against – let’s say top 100 players in the world – which would be the first benchmark to look for in a successful professional career.. But then again, as we all know, the future and the future alone is harbouring the answers to the question-s ; Who will make it and Who will break it?!.
In my mind however the opportunity is what eventually will make the player. Most of the players in this year’s field are not separated by that much from a technical or tactical point of view. The main difference is instead spelled CONFIDENCE ( please use BIG Letters) and the ability to prepare , and I don’t mean necessary tough and long training camps, but also the crucial happenings when you are on the clock and in competition.
The selection of youngsters in the lineup have earned their spots in the finals by picking up points on the steadily growing ITTF Junior Circuit. For some reason or the other, many of the top ten junior players in the world – not all of them – but some (coaches too) – does not seem to feel that playing on the circuit is the right thing to do for their development. In most cases these players are setting their sights on the ITTF World Tour or other Pro events offered by the ITTF. I understand the thoughts behind and I do understand also the fundamental reasoning by coaches and national associations.. But I want to say this – never underestimate the importance of winning something. The bare facts are clear enough in my mind; The most important factor for developing young athletes is self-confidence. All in all it makes me believe that it is good to play and it is good to try to win whatever is thrown at you as a young emerging athlete.
The 2012 ITTF Junior Circuit Finals (played in 2013) marks the first time ever that this event is standing alone on the calendar. I remember when we held the first final in Sweden 2002, attached to the Pro Tour finals and I remember when we decided to merge with the ITTF World Cadet Challenge, which happened the year after 2003 in Genting, Malaysia.
Many – many excellent players have passed through over the years. Purely from a personal point of view I enjoyed the event in 2005 held in Santo Domingo – Dominican Republic when Jun MIZUTANI took one of his first major title and Elizabeta SAMARA surprisingly came through to win the Junior girls singles. Etched in memory is Jun MIZUTANI relaxing on then hotel beach – a stone throw away from the loud farewell party. He was well stretched out on one of the beach chairs, quietly enjoying the moment of victory, just looking at the many stars above. I remember even writing a piece about it for the ITTF website – a star was born in that event and we all knew it.
Having the junior final presented as an attractive standalone event– both to organize well and to have the best juniors compete, will be a true challenge for the ITTF competition department. We will however get a very good feeling from the event in Guatemala as experience counts more than anything. I am pretty convinced that the Guatemala Table Tennis Association and the other supporting bodies will treat the players – coaches and officials with the outmost of respect and dignity. And, how can It really go wrong with Jorge Herrera as the go to guy and with our own organizational wizard; ITTF Competition Director Raul Calin at the helm ?
Let’s just go back to the movers and the shakers for a quick moment. I do find the junior girls’ competition from a quality point of view a bit stronger than the Boys singles with a solid entry from some key juniors. Both Singaporeans ; ZHOU Yihan bagging three wins on the circuit this year and the defensive LI Isabelle Siyun should stand good chances to compete for the win with the Japanese Rika SUZUKI and the always “entertaining to watch” Bernadette SZOCS from Romania checking in as the two outsiders. From a development point of view it will also be extremely interesting to watch both Dina MESHREF from Egypt and Carolyn CORDERO from Puerto Rico take a run at the better players in Guatemala City , both players are certainly capable enough to pull an upset or two out of the hat.
The Boys event seems wide open. It would not surprise me however if the JC title also this time is snapped up by an athlete from the Chinese Taipei association. The left-handed LEE Chia-Sheng is in that case the player to look out for, but we will have challenges thrown from many players in the field. One of them is most certainly the gifted defender from Korea KANG Minho and others include the youngest player in the boys field ; HUNG Ka TaK from Hong Kong who is competing stronger than ever in his very young junior career.. In fact Hung Ka Tak is born 1998 which gives him plenty of time to make a strong move in the future .
That’s pretty much it ; I say next stop ; Guatemala City. We shall ENJOY – we shall EVALUATE and we shall CELBRATE.
With the Future in Mind