Czech That Gold !

IMG-20130716-00259Good morning writing. Good morning Blog.  I know I have neglected you for a while now.  There was even a time this spring when I thought that I finally lost my ability to string some meaningful words together. Stress –insecurity – the unknown?  You take your pick – but it has been a rough emotional ride in my life the last six months.

Sorry for that. However this very morning I will entertain you with some good thoughts from the wonderful, but rather messy world of European Table Tennis, as I am attending the 56 Th European Youth Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

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This is by the way my third time visiting (if my memory serves me correctly) this city.  Twenty-six years ago , attending one of the infamous International Open championships , I  was sitting together with a group of coaches waiting for the draw at 0300 am in the morning just to be told by a very stressed Referee that the team event “had to start 0700am “due to the many participants.

We played – we lost and everybody (the coaches overall) was upset with the organization of international open events.  Action was called for eventually resulting in us forming the European Coaches Association. In 1993 we reached some sort of peak with fifty-three members from twenty plus countries joining. Don Parker was our president. My guess is that the action plan for the period 1995 to now is comfortably resting  in some of Don Parker’s drawers.

In the very same championships all of the participants found themselves spending a good Monday at the Ostrava airport. The fog that morning was as thick as anything you can imagine and when the Ilyushin Czech Airlines aircraft carrying half the TT world finally took off   it smashed into a group of birds and had to return emergency landing. The day after however, a few hundred kronas short after battling a sleeve of bad cards with  the Danish Men’s national team around then table ,   we  could all return to what we at the time thought was the true freedom – The Western world.

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Second time in the region , I believe it was in 1994 – the very same (vastly improved )Danish national team was blown out 4-0  in the European League semi-final  return leg versus a very aggressive  Czech National team in a small city near Ostrava. Lucky for us we had won with the exact same score at home in surprising upset and hanged on to win the encounter with one single game to our advantage. A win is a win  I said in my thank you speech at the banquet following the match  but also thanked  our competitors for the  good lesson thought that night  “on  aggressive free flowing”  table tennis signed by  Petr Korbel and his Czech friends .

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That was the past – now the present ; The 56th European Youth Championships is well underway with some 500 + young players from 41 countries battling for glory during ten days of hard competition.

Last night the four team finals were on display and when the dust settled , Romania scored both the girls titles in convincing fashion.  In the Junior Girls final the Eastern European female powerhouse defeated Germany three matches to one and in the Cadet Girls Romania defeated France 3-2.

The emotional leader for the Romanian Junior Girls – well decorated (in all possible and impossible ways) Bernadette Szocs scored her two points in the final match,  but failed in a way to impress the always truth-seeking Eleven point Blog.  It is time for Bernie to shape up and develop her techniques. No way you can do anything in the senior ranks and not to even think about challenging any Asian girls with the  trade mark ;   safe slow – blocking table tennis.

No, the two shining lights in Europe, speaking about female table tennis, both presented themselves in the cadet girls final; Marie MIGOT from France born 1998 and Adina DIACONU from Romania born 1999. Both girls,  previously selected for the ITTF World Hopes team,  is on their, way to something. I do have some worries however that Marie MIGOT  , as many French players in the past , both  female and male have done , is  settling in to a “mentally –comfortable- slightly below her true level-  performance curve”   . This is such a talent, with so many qualities in her game that the bar quickly has to be set very high by coaches and people around. Last night’s 0-3 loss in the crucial opening match versus DIACUNA was not a great showing and completely decided the outcome in the match.

Adina DIACONU - the matchwinner for Romania

Adina DIACONU – the matchwinner for Romania

At the same time – full credit to Adina DIACUNA who played an excellent match. This young girl is the real deal for so many reasons ; Light on her feet’s – athletic style , mature for her age, very coachable and  Table Tennis smart. On top of that she impressed the ITTF World Hopes team coaches in Guam – World Cadet Challenge last year to such an extent that words like “The best ever ITTF Hopes player “was uttered by the head coach Dejan Papic – a man and experienced coach not known for spreading spontaneous positive remarks that easily. No doubt Adina DIACUNA can be a dominate force in Europe very quickly, and if it is desired also challenge the best Asian players (Chinese girls included) throughout her junior years.   On the other hand to do that – proper management and education has to creep into the Romanian system quicker than quick.

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On the boys side of things the favorites fell hard. Italy took the Junior Boys title breaking the five year dominance of the French Association whilst the Czech Republic won a gold medal in the Cadet Boys team much to the delight of a spirited home-crowd. It was by the way the first gold medal for the Czech’s in the European Youth since 2004.

Behind the home team success was another player carrying the ITTF Hopes ID mark of a “talent in the making “. Tomas Polansky was the king of the courts last night winning two singles matches with a strong showing. Good hand, sharp over the table with his backhand, Polansky could emerge as a good player if the physical shortcomings as well as other planning issues around him are addressed. The general level of the boys’ team finals however was – as one good colleague expressed “Nothing that would scare any Asian observers”

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Final thought goes out to the French Association who very well could be “Crying Wolf” today. Alexander Cassain was lifted out of the Cadet team (who then failed to defend the title) and instead inserted into the Junior Boys squad. In the team final against the spirited Italian’s he was the only player in the French team who reached his top level.

 I am sure that the French coaches were banking on Alexander ROBINOT to carry the load better than he eventually ended up doing. ROBINOT, who this year alone advanced almost 200 spots on the ITTF World ranking never, reached his peak performance in the team event – and just like that the door opened for a first class sensation and the first ever gold medal for Italy in the European Youth Championships team event.

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