Topping my Spotify play list for the eleventh World Junior Championships is a folk/roots/rock group called plain and simple; US Rails. Definitely a hidden gem that you need to find rather than them finding you. Rootsy rock music, soulful, bold and just American is how I find them.
Just listen to this catching phrase from the US Rails song; “Lucky Stars” . As such, perfectly suited to be played each and every morning for us, the ITTF officials and staff, seeing the world in the name of Table Tennis.
Does anybody know how lucky we are? Just banging on drums, strumming on guitars, in the morning when I wake up I thank my lucky star…
I bring it up this morning very much due to the fact that in front of my eyes at this very moment I have the courts set up for the eleventh edition of the ITTF World Junior Championships in Rabat , Morocco . You can rest assure that the master of the ceremonies here in Morocco – ITTF Competition manager Raul Calin , together with his crew , a mixture of local heroes , African table tennis officials and other professionals, all brought in to complete this event, has done his tricks once again.
We are ready to go with a jam-packed field of ninety six + ninety six eager and talented young players. It is actually very possible that this event is the best ever World Junior Championships – at least on paper. The most interesting part is that we have a crop of players growing up with the ITTF Global Junior Programme and kind of entering the championships with whole new set of expectations.
So, here we go; The Top Ten Reasons for this possibly being the best ever WJTTC, from a pure Table Tennis development point of view.
1. The Full Field Scenario
For the first time ever we have a complete lineup at the World Juniors. Clearly we now have an established event with a strong set up also for the athletes coming only for the individual part – singles and doubles. Sure, to travel to Morocco from Europe. is cheap as well as relatively speaking interesting. But we have to love that all the Africans are here as well, including an interesting team from Nigeria.
2. The Noble art of Preparation
With this I will dig deeper – go younger. Down to the valleys of the much debated – but extremely successful ITTF Hopes programme. It seems to me that the learning – the deep teaching done by chief evaluator Dejan Papic and the management of Zita Pidl with good staff support from the ITTF Education Director Polona Cehovin Susin is coming through extremely well. Two Hopes graduates ; Kanak JHA from the USA and Adriana DIAZ , Puerto Rico, both born in the year of 2000, are not only two of the most talented players here in Rabat , but the fact that both of them already with five more World Juniors to go spent considerable time and efforts to prepare well is fantastic . Kanak spent time in Sweden whilst Adriana opted for China. Doesn’t matter where or what – the Just Do It mentality counts in my books.
3. Giving it a GO
Some individual athletes are back in the fold with ambitions to leave an impression. In the Team USA junior girls team Ariel HSING will play again after holding off last year in India. Tristan FLORE from France is back from a long period of injuries and is for sure not coming here just for some kind of holiday. Hugo Calderano from Brazil is another good junior athlete making a push after battling injuries for the first three month of this year. And we could make this list much longer…
4. Front-page Stuff
Hugo CALDERANO – The Brazilian nr one junior player is on the official poster for the 2013 WJTTC. Good stuff – a true victory for the ITTF Global Junior Programme and hard-nosed ITTF Development work..
5. The Healer
With his hybrid style , combining the traditional defensive style of techniques with lethal high powered top spin attacks Yuto MURAMATSU from Japan could easily be the most fun player to watch in the world of table tennis today.. Clearly a medal candidate here in Rabat.
6. Korea Republic back on track again?
On paper, repeat on paper, the former powerhouse of junior table tennis Korea Republic seems to have a better group of athletes deployed here in Morocco. Jang Woojin – the winner of ITTF World Cadet Challenge in India 2010 is competing again for the Boys team and so does the safe defender KANG Minho.
7. Good Morning Nigeria!
Like I said to my dear friend and long-time ITTF Board of Director member Oladapo Olabanji from Nigeria: You have been a sleep for the last fifteen years… Finally two Nigerian teams in the World Junior Championships. On top of that the most interesting player in this selection of athletes is only twelve years old; Esther ORIBAMISE. Here we are talking a nice left-hander with tremendous touch… Long Live the ITTF Hopes Programme !
8. Getting Better
How important is it not to “buy” an extra two to three years of playing time for any country wishing to improve their performance at the world juniors. For the first time in many years Australia – seems to be on track with a young, competitive junior boys’ team. The youngest overall team in the Boys team competition ever more interesting; Team USA
9. The Family Affair
The name is DIAZ and the country Puerto Rico. Father Bladi the coach, the daughters Melanie and Adriana playing. Even more positive is that they will be there for several years to come. Another thing not to forget! World Junior Table Tennis Championships 2018 to San Juan , Puerto Rico !.. Just a simple thought from a friend of logic.
10. Good Soldiers taking care of Business