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The Dream Starts in San Diego, Search for the Opportunity then Seize the Chance
By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

The Mike Dempsey Para Tournament proved a memorable experience for Igor Botkin  Photo By: Richard Xue


An abundance of enthusiasm, like a sponge he absorbs ever trinket of information when the subject of table tennis is in question and if an opportunity arises to further his skills he is the first in line.

Igor Botkin was one of the competitors at the Mike Dempsey Memorial Para Table Tennis Tournament staged in late November 2012 in the west coast American city of San Diego.

Competing in his first ever international tournament; understandably he left with no medals to his credit but in his opinion he was the richest. He revelled in the experience and he had been given an irreplaceable prize, the chance to represent his adopted country, the greatest honour of all.

No Complacency
He writes:

Every dream, every road to success has to start somewhere. You can't sit around waiting for the opportunity, you have to go and get it yourself.

Fortunately enough for me, opportunity showed itself sooner than I expected. I had the opportunity to participate at the Mike Dempsey Memorial Tournament that was held in the memory of a Para legend Mike Dempsey, in San Diego, California at the end of November.

From what I have heard, international tournaments are not very big in the USA, so this really was a huge opportunity for me to get as much experience as I could. Being the newcomer, I didn't know what to expect going into it. To be honest, it was a miracle that I was able to participate in this tourney, but with the amazing help of my coach Ed Hogshead, and the US National Para coach Sean O'Neill I was able to get in in the last minute.

As soon as I got off the plane, nearly right away I was picked up by some volunteers and was taken straight to the hotel...well a hotel where anything and everything that you needed was within walking distance. Restaurants, and the Convention Center where the playing area was, all of it was right there next to you.

Training Camp
The tournament started with a training camp for all the juniors in advance to prepare each one of the juniors for the completion. The camp was ran by one of the Swedish legends Stellan Bengtsson, Stellan's wife Angie, also a US national team member all throughout the 70s, US National junior cadet coach Keith Evans, and some volunteers from the San Diego area.

The camp was run perfectly and was a huge help to my game, especially having the privilege to get some help from 1971 World Champion Stellan Bengtsson. The camp was held twice a day, early in the morning at 9.30 am to about 12.00 noon and the afternoon session which was held from 2.30 pm to about 5.00 pm. Each session was amazing and really prepared for the actual competition.

Stellan Bengtsson whose advise was greatly appreciated by all concerned
Photo by Richard Xue

The competition started on Thursday so we had one day rest due to a lot of training, which was very nice. Once the competition started, it ran very smoothly. Ten minutes before your event started you had to be in the hall to wait for your umpire to take you to your table. There was never a time where my match was held late, everything ran on time and in perfect conditions.

The conditions of the Convention Center were in perfect shape. Lightning, air conditioning, the environment that I was playing in, everything was just perfect for a tournament to be successfully run.

Personally I really enjoyed my experience playing internationally, but also representing my country in home soil. Even though I didn't win anything, I got a very clear and a very good idea of where I need to be to compete with some of the best Paralympians in the world. Having amazing conditions to play in really helped my experience to be that much better.

an Amazing Job
I can say that André Scott, Tournament Director, did an amazing job putting on the event, that was a true success together. Having the opportunity to be able to be a part of it, but also meet all kinds of people, have fun, and get amazing experience was very worth it.

I really hope that next year, this particular event grows bigger and gets much more attention. As I said, it is amazing experience, good weather, awesome environment and just a great event to be a part of.

I want to thank everyone that was a part of this event. You made it a success!

Hails from Russia
Igor Botkin, born Igor Kozuta, hails from Khabarovsk in Russia, he suffers from Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency which affects the pelvis and femur and stands just 140 centimetres tall (4 feet 7 inches).

After being moved from one orphanage to another he eventually arrived in Greenville, South Carolina, where his left leg was amputated at the ankle to allow him to walk better; he now lives with a family in Chicago and is most certainly a bright young man.

A Linguist
In addition to his native Russian, he can converse in Chinese and in less than six months he learned English.

André Scott whose efforts in organising the tournament gained the respect of all
Photo by Richard Xue



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