An overlooked sport

Kevin Curley
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Technical director talks table tennis

When one thinks of the Winter Games, table tennis may not be the first sport to jump to mind.

The Clarenville host table tennis team. Front row from left to right, Ben Peddle, Emily Fleming and Alex Evans. Back row from left to right, Olivia Barrett, Cassie Barrett, Stacey Frost, Isaac Avery, Tyler Green and coach Fred Davis.

But Adam LeDrew, technical chairperson for the Winter Games, says there is a lot more skill involved than most people realize.

"Foot speed is really important, what we use here is a smaller court, but what you would see at the Olympics would be the size of a tennis court. Here in Canada you would see the same size as a badminton court," says LeDrew.

LeDrew says a lot of people think of basement table tennis where the competitors don't move a lot, but that changes at higher levels.

He says playing the sport requires exceptional speed, hand-eye coordination and agility.

"Spin is a huge factor. Spin is what makes table tennis so hard, the ball is coming at you at upwards of 130 km/h and when you factor in backspin, topspin and sidespin it makes it really tricky," he says.

Table tennis is also a sport mostly dominated by Newfoundland's smaller communities.

"It does really well in the smaller communities. The team sports can't do as well because there is less population to pick from. Springdale and Triton are really strong; their players from both communities are representing Central this weekend," he says.

Fred Davis is the coach for the host team, he started a club here in town four years ago, but the players he is coaching started less than two months ago.

He wasn't sure who would be available for the games and it was difficult to get athletes into table tennis because athletes can compete just in one sport.

"The gym teachers identified some players for us and we were fortunate. They are good athletes and a bunch of good kids to work with. They are doing quite well so we are pleased," says Davis.

Davis says some of his players are raw beginners with the boys having only played a bit of basement Ping-Pong. It was the first time playing in a competition for all of his players.

"Coaching is not easy, we've got eight players and everyone has got different needs and everyone has got a different skill level. It's very much fly by the seat of your pants," he says.

Geographic location: Canada, Newfoundland

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