World Cadets and International Juniors Astound All in Cape Town
Never let it be said that junior table tennis play is dull, boring and lacklustre. The recently held World Cadet Challenge and Junior Circuit Finals showed that junior table tennis players need not stand back for no one.
For us lowly South African table tennis enthusiasts, the international stroke play on display was nothing short of amazing. Here were 15 year old executing smashes, loops and services that left one gasping for breath. And when the Juniors arrived, play was elevated once again.
As tournaments go, the whole event did experience some hiccups along the way (including a broken air-conditioning unit,) but these were managed effectively to a tempo that kept players and spectators oblivious to the behind the scenes headaches. From the opening ceremony to the closing letting-down-of–hair party, events just happened.
The tournament kicked off on Tuesday morning the 23rd October with the Cadet Team events. Here, teams of energised youngster battled it out for the honour of representing their team at the finals on Wednesday afternoon. In the Cadet Girls Team finals, Asia walk away with the laurels when the beat Japan. In the Cadet Boys Team finals, the underdogs Europe, claimed a hard fought top honours over their rivals Asia; much to the visible glee of the attending European Coach. The finals were televised by SABC 2; an experience that made the whole affair that more exciting and tense – more so for the nominated Umpires.
Thursday was declared an off-day. Most participants made use of this welcome break to undertake various excursions around the beautiful Cape peninsula: even the ever changing Cape weather played along nicely. And from the amount of trinkets on display by the returning masses, the day was well enjoyed.
Friday and Saturday proved to be the longest (and warmest) playing days of the whole tournament; twelve hours each. This unfortunately stemmed from the fact that two tournaments were being played simultaneously: the WCC singles and doubles, and the Junior Circuit playoffs. A situation that tested the endurance and resolve of all the attending Umpires and Referees who were visible exhausted at conclusion of play on both days.
Sunday morning was another hectic day with all the Cadet semi-finals and Junior playoffs being played to conclusion. The 6 finals on Sunday afternoon – Cadets Boys and Girls doubles, Cadet Girls singles finals, Cadet Boys singles finals, Junior Girl finals and Junior Boy finals - proved to be an exciting affair (these were again televised) specially so when the ‘Kaap se Klopse’ put in an unexpected but welcome appearance. Their upbeat music quickly elevated the tired spirits of all participants and officials alike. Here, the Asian players cleaned up nicely.
As experiences go, this was one that will be remembered for a long time to come by the whole of the South African contingency. The various international ITTF Officials in attendance were verbally joyful with the performance and execution of the tournament.
Talk on the street has it that 2009 is being diarised as the next date for the hosting of an international table tennis event in SA.
Bring it on!