After a stellar tournament, table tennis has its sights on Cayman’s youth.
Youngsters were in the spotlight at the Cayman Islands Table Tennis Association’s recent BDO/C.I. Table Tennis Open at Mary Miller Hall. With a significant amount of Under-18 talent on display, association vice president Donovan Nelson said the next step is nurturing players in school.
“Goign forward, we’re definitely spending time getting clubs going,” Nelson said. “We’re definitely looking toward setting up competitions in the schools. Some schools have been interested, I know a few who are quite keen to be involved. We’re trying to get the sport going from the grassroots level.
“Presently, every Friday we work with students in West Bay Primary and those in the high school after-school program. We’ve been involved with John Gray and Clifton Hunter in the past and in the near future, we hope to work something out with all of the schools.”
The school initiatives would supplement the practice sessions curently being held at John Gray High School’s assembly hall on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30 p.m. and at the old John Gray hall from 5pm.
Leading the way at this month’s tournament would be Calum Lindsay, who won the 12 and Under and 15 and Under categories, ahead of Liam Henry and Edward Akers, respectively. Javdon Nelson claimed the 18 and Under crown, besting Akers in the final. David Pitcairn and Ayodeji Oremule were semi-finalists in the 12U group, Adebayo Oremule and David Franco advanced to the semis of the 15U segment and Adebayo Oremule claimed bronze in the 18U category.
There was also a substantial adult segment that attracted the likes of squash stalwart Jody Jervis, tennis star Mica Koll and darts player Norrin Stewart. Donovan Nelson beat Peter Smith to claim the men’s 45 and over section, with John Cameron and Paul Samuels reaching the semis. Ansel Tempral won the men’s singles group and the tournament’s overall crown by besting Filipino talent Eric Serva in the final, with Donovan Nelson and Michael Ricketts reaching the semis.
Maria Kharitidi of Russia won the women’s segment, besting Sharon Collins. Janet Sairsingh finished in third place.
Association president Robert Sairsingh spoke glowlingly about those youngsters and said the goal now is for table tennis to appeal to all ages.
“David Pitcairn is keen and present at practices,” Sairsingh said. “The Oremule brothers approach the game in a studious way, they have not been around the sport long. David Franco is very keen and practices very hard. Now that the tournament is done, it has generated interest and the motivation within the players is very strong.
“We’re looking for all-around talent. We’re focused on developing leagues for all ages and getting clubs set up.”
Talk of school leagues and club competitions is the latest step made by an association under new leadership. Aside from Donovan Nelson and Sairsingh, Asko Rasinen is general secretary, Tempral handles treasurer duties and Ricketts is listed as public relations officer. Rasinen served as the tournament director this month.
Sairsingh has previously said that there are long-term goals of forming a national team to participate in regional events, Caribbean championships, Commonwealth Games and eventually, the world championships. Cayman has an obligation to keep the sport going here, as it receives support from the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee as an Olympic sport and has been a member of the international federation since 2008. The global governing body has donated equipment to local players in the past.