Island Games: Table tennis stars ready for Gibraltar

Cayman’s table tennis team, coached by Oral Wiltshire, at right, has been working hard and improving at a rapid pace ahead of the Island Games. – PHOTO: Spencer Fordin

Cayman is looking to run the table at the Island Games.

The table tennis team, which consists of six players, has been working overtime in recent months under the tutelage of coach Oral Wiltshire, an internationally accredited instructor.

Wiltshire earned a diploma in table tennis from Leipzig, Germany, and he’s been running Cayman’s teams through their paces for months. Cayman’s players have been practicing twice a week for three hours since February, and they are ready to make a quantum leap in their game in Gibraltar.

“Tactics don’t start when you’re playing,” said Wiltshire of the practice regime. “You train it. You cultivate it. After, you put it all together. By the time you play the game, it’s second nature.”

Cayman did not medal at the last Island Games, and the six players on the team have been working hard towards this year’s Island Games. Wiltshire has structured practice to the point where everybody knows what’s expected of them from the moment they walk in the door.

The team drills in service, reception, topspin and backspin and change of placement, and they mix in running to make sure they are both physically and mentally sharp when they hit the table.

Cayman will be in a group with Gotland, Shetlands and Gibraltar at the Island Games, and Wiltshire hopes they will be able to get off to a fast start thanks to their diligence over the last few months.

Leigh Hipkins of the table tennis team practices his serve in the weeks before the Island Games. PHOTO: Spencer Fordin

“These practices are meant to acclimatize and give them a taste of what’s to come,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a leisure attitude. It should be professional so they can compete anywhere.”

Donovan Nelson returns as the team’s captain and elder statesman, and Wiltshire said he’s been integral in helping his younger teammates know what to expect on a big stage.

Eventually, said Wiltshire, the hope is to get more Cayman youth involved in the game. He dreams of initiating school competitions and to create a junior national championship for Cayman.

Wiltshire, who teaches at Triple C School, is excited to see how his players perform. He’s seen them make large strides over the last five months, but the proof will be in the competition.

“Once they stick to the task, I expect them to do well,” he said of the Island Games. “Our short-term goal is to position better, and by the next Island Games we want to dominate.”

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