Table tennis served well

Table tennis is eager to claim its place on the local sports scene.

Having just been properly organized less than two years ago the sport is anxious to nab more players of all ages and skills.

Proof of that could be seen last Saturday at the George Hicks high school campus.

A fun day was put on by the Cayman Islands Table Tennis Association that looked to give all comers a taste of the sport.

Some 20 people came out on the day as they played numerous matches and received tips from some of the more established players.

Numerous playing tables were made available and a special ball dispenser was set up to allow kids to build their reflexes returning balls.

Among the notable faces present on the day were table tennis association President Peter Smith and local player Ronnie Roach.

Smith showed he was a pretty good player in his own right as he flashed great concentration and strong wrists that allowed him to drive the ball past many opponents.

Roach is normally associated with local cricket on Cayman. He teaches the game to government school kids and his son Ricardo is a national player.

However he states he is also a powerful figure in table tennis.

‘I’ve been playing table tennis for four years now in Cayman. I first got into it when I was a boy at around 15/16 years old.

‘Back home in Barbados I almost made it to the Barbadian national table tennis team.’

Roach though is quick to admit he plays the sport at a more relaxed level now.

‘I play it recreationally now though I’m still not bad. To me table tennis is like any other skill you have to develop.’

Judging from his performance on the day Roach did not look like he lost a step. He smashed balls with great power and was quick to lunge at balls.

Yet Roach says his style of play is more technical than brash.

‘I’m more of a defensive player because my play is based on the ‘chop’. I force offensive and aggressive players into errors. I like to call myself a ‘chopper’ because I can ‘chop’ at the ball with my forehand or backhand and put a lot of spin on it.’

Many experienced players, like Byron Fuller, have a deep passion for the sport.

‘Even though we play intense table tennis is a fun thing for me. It’s a great means of socializing and exercise. I been playing from when I was in Jamaica and I just have a genuine love for it. I may be 49 but age is not a factor.

‘What I also enjoy about table tennis is the people who come out to play. From Filipinos and Americans to Jamaicans and Caymanians there is a nice mix of people who come out.’

On the other hand a number of relatively new faces came out for Saturday’s event. Among them was 40 year-old Jamaican Michael Ricketts.

Ricketts has been in Cayman four years and only discovered the sport a year ago. Though he played a little back in high school, he took it up recently as a way to safely stay in shape.

‘You find that once you have the knack for something you can start doing it again and get back in form. That’s the case for me with table tennis.

‘To be honest I’m more into football and I used to play that at the Annex. But table tennis is the right sport for me because you can’t injure yourself, you stay in shape and it has become a social event as well for me.’

One of the things Ricketts hopes fun days and other events can do is pump more young blood into the sport.

‘The sport needs more women and children. From there Cayman can have some serious games and maybe more sponsors.’

Michael Montaque is another new face on the scene. He’s so fresh to table tennis that he just got his first taste of the sport this weekend.

‘To me it was a fun day and a fun little sport. I just heard about it in the media so I decided I would come out and see what it was all about.

‘I used to be active with it in the 80s but because of this I’ll buy a racket and come back out.’

Table tennis is constantly ongoing during the year. Games are played Saturdays from 10am to 2pm at George Hicks.

One of the faces people can expect to find at those games is Donovan Nelson. During the day he spends his time as a supervisor of the press room at Cayman Free Press. However on the weekend he turns into a table tennis warrior.

‘Table tennis is my sport,’ Nelson says. ‘I’m a straight attacking player who loves loop driving and smashing the ball. The guys I play with have to be careful not to hit the ball too high/low or I’ll crush it.

‘What I love about table tennis is that the nature of the game is indoors. It can be raining or whatever outside but you can still go inside and play.’

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