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Focus on Youth, Grand Rapids Hosts Successful United States Para Training Camp
By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Keth Evans gives advice at the Training Camp  Photo By: Courtesy of Jasna Rather


Situated the state of Michigan, Grand Rapids was the recent home for a United States Para Table Tennis Training Camp from Tuesday 27th to Friday 30th June.

Organised in liaison with ITTF Development Programme, the venue for the four days of coaching was the DeVos Performance Hall; accommodation was organised at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

Coaches on duty were Keith Evans (Expert Coach – USA Table Tennis Para Coach) and Angelita Bengtsson (USA Table Tennis Para Consultant).

A total of five young men attended: Jenson Van Emburgh (Class 3), Eric Pattison (Class 5), Hunter McAloose (Class 7), Daniel Rosenfeld (Class 7) and Benjamin Hadden (Class 11)

Tahl Leibovitz, Men’s Class 9 and currently listed in his category at no.9 on the World Rankings, attended in the role of practice partner as did Keneth Lin, a defensive player and Claudia Ikeizumi, a former Brazilian international player.

Training sessions were held from 9.00am to 11.30pm and from 3.00pm to 5.00pm.

An Opportunity
“It was an opportunity for young Para athletes to get high level coaching and to play against high level sparring partners”, said Jasna Rather. “The time spent in the camp was very useful to participants; a special thanks to always very supportive parents.”

Jasna Rather may not be a name known to many outside the United States but she is well known; in 1988, as Jasna Fazlic when representing the then Yugoslavia, she won Women’s Doubles bronze at the Seoul Olympic Games.

Currently she is the USA Table Tennis Para Programme Director.

Time Flies
Equally the name Bengtsson is one celebrated in table tennis circles; Angelita is of course the wife of Stellan Bengtsson, the 1970 European Youth champion and three years later, the World champion.

“US athletes need more camps as one in Grand Rapids, since training under high level coaches brings another level of training which most of them do not have at home clubs”, added Jasna Rather, who like both Keith Evans and Angelita Bengtsson are highly motivated by the efforts of Para athletes.

Good Results
“Most of the US young athletes already had a taste of ITTF Para competition this year in ITTF Para Open tournaments and some of them even brought medals back to the US”, continued Jasna Rather. “After the camp in Grand Rapids, athletes had an opportunity to compete in multiple events at the US Open and our young athletes did some great results.”

The United States Open was also held in Grand Rapids. Eric Pattison, 19 years old, and Jenson Van Emburgh, who celebrated his 14th birthday on Wednesday 28th May, played in final of the Wheelchair Open event.

Benjamin Hadden, also 19 years old and Hunter McAloose, 16 years old, finished third and fourth respectively in the Para Standing event; a very creditable performance. The event was won by Tahl Leibovitz with Lim Ming Chui, a Class 8 player, in runners up spot.

Extending Co-Operation
“USATT is looking forward for the future co-operation with the ITTF on developmental programmes”, concluded Jasna Rather.

Such a move is to be applauded.

Players and coaches at what proved a highly successful venture
Photo courtesy of Jasna Rather



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