The Great Sphinx - a guardian angel for the 2006 World Junior Championships in Cairo ?
I wouldn’t be surprised if my dear old friend the Great Sphinx, standing guard in front of those mighty Pyramids for more than 4,000 years, is already licking his lips thinking about the upcoming ITTF World Junior Championships, scheduled to start in less than a month at the Cairo Stadium.
I would also make a sure bet that never in his lifetime has the Sphinx seen such a talented group of young table tennis players travel to his city in the quest of World titles.
When one of hottest commodities in the ITTF is coming to the African continent for the first time, the response from the rest of the table tennis world has simply been magnificent.
With the entries now closed and sealed the ITTF Global Junior Programme management is proud to announce that a total of 192 athletes representing 44 countries will participate in the 2006 World Junior Table Tennis Championships.
That is, my friends, nothing short of a full house!
In the Junior Boys' Team event several countries are sure to make the journey to Egypt with winning ambitions in mind.
Top seeds China, compete once again with a relatively inexperienced team, at least if you apply an international perspective.
Japan on the other hand, in their title defence will lean on one of the hottest young players in the world at this moment, 18 year old right-hander, Taku Takakiwa.
Other contenders are Germany, anchored by Dmitrij Ovtcharov, Chinese Taipei, ready to make a pitch for the podium should Chiang Hung-Chieh continue his fine form and Korea Republic, the winner of the team title at the Asian Junior Championships earlier in the year.
Totally dominating the Junior Girls' competition in the ITTF World Junior Championships so far, with an impeccable record of nine out of nine titles, China is of course once again the big favorite in Cairo.
Japan, trying to rebound from last year's flat performance may be a team to consider and with Daniela Dodean making her last start as a junior athlete, it is now or never for the feisty Romanians to come together as a team and live up to their own and others expectations.
But the good story so far about the 4th ITTF World Junior Championships is the growing interest and ambition to participate. Noticed not only by the local organizing committee, headed by Mr. Khaled El Salhy, but also the ITTF Competition Manger in charge, Mr. Raul Calin.
“The interest has no doubt picked up in comparison to previous years; I think our member associations are getting used to the qualification system resulting in a much quicker entry process", said Raul Calin. "For the first time ever we can announce a full quota of ninety-six boys and girls participating in the individual events; we are definitely prepared to present an exciting and well organized World Junior Championships."
Also from Cairo and Egypt comes a clear voice of satisfaction from a busy but very happy Tournament Director, Mr. Khaled El Salhy.
“Great news, on behalf of the entire local organizing committee I wish each and every one welcome to Cairo and the 4th ITTF World Junior Championships", he said. "I would also like to take this opportunity to guarantee anyone concerned a smooth VISA process upon arrival in Egypt; the Egyptian government is giving its’ full support for the ITTF World Junior Championships and we are looking forward to assuming the hosting of this event."