Simple Idea – Good Action

carey_13_09_13_LargeNo army in the world can beat a good idea!  When we first started to discuss the Youth Olympic Games much of the focus was on creating a dynamic and promotionally strong qualification model.

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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.

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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.

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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.

chen_11_09_13_LargeThe 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.

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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.

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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.

 

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