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Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Cuba in Impressive Form as they Capture Men’s Team Title in Colombia
General
Runners up in the Women’s Team event in the early evening of Tuesday 24th July 2006, Cuba went one step higher in the counterpart male event; they won the title beating Mexico three-nil at the final hurdle.

In the semi-finals and quarter-finals they had been in equally impressive form, overcoming first Barbados and then Venezuela by the same three-nil margin. The trio of Dimey Gongora, Pavel Oxamendy and Andy Pereira were irrepressible in Cartagena da Indias.
Andy Pereira at home at senior international level and a vital member of the Cuban team
Meanwhile, Mexico had been involved in two titanic struggles at the quarter and semi-final stages; in the quarters they had beaten Guatemala three-two whilst in the semi-finals they recovered from a two matches to nil deficit against the hosts Colombia to emerge victorious.

Final
The final saw Dimey Gongora give Cuba the perfect start with a four games win over Marcos Madrid, Pavel Oxamedy followed suit by beating Gullermo Muñoz in straight games and Andy Pereira ended proceedings in similar vein overcoming Rafael Meandez.

Sacrifices
“We have had to make a lot of sacrifices in the past year”, said coach, Rodolfo Valdes Acosia. “We have suffered from a lack of equipment, bat rubbers and such things.”

Considering this latter fact the success in Cartegena da Indias is quite remarkable but clearly they had a definite goal in mind for the tournament and that goal was achieved and achieved in impressive style.

Preparation
“We have been preparing for the past year”, continued Rodolfo Valdes Acosia. “Every match is a challenge, everyone is hard, we know the level of our opponents and we knew what to expect.”

The preparation was clearly very thorough. “It is a great credit to everyone concerned”, continued Rodilfo Valdes Acosia. “Players, coaches, officials, it’s been a true team effort.”

Talent
Cuba has a team of players all possess good techniques and clearly attention has been paid to detail in the training sessions. Furthermore, in Andy Pereira they have a prodigious talent, in the senior arena he was very much at home.

“It’s the first time I’ve played in the Central American and Caribbean Games”, said Pereira. “I pleased with how I’ve played; I think it’s been one of my best tournaments.” Furthermore, he had shown no adverse reaction to being the youngest player in the team; he was not overawed by senior colleagues or adversaries.

“I think the fact that I was one of the youngest players was an advantage, I didn’t feel under pressure at all”, continued Pereira. “I felt confident and I think I’ve improved in the last four months, my concentration is better and I think the quality of my strokes are better.”

Delighted
Meanwhile for both Dimey Gongora and Pavel Oxamendy they were delighted to be champions. “It’s good to win, that’s definite, we knew the players we had to play”, said Gongora. “I prepared well and I think I maintained a good level throughout all the matches.”

Similarly, Oxamemdy had enjoyed the experience. “The support from all the team was excellent”, he said. “We all helped each other and that was important in the semi-finals against Venezuela, they were a tough team.”

Looking Forward
Success for Cuba, coach Rodilfo Valdes Acosia is now looking forward to the Pan American Games next year and no doubt his team will be strong contenders for honours but on Tuesday 24th July 2006 they can reflect with pride on two days of effort that finished with a well deserved reward.

They are the Men’s Team champions, Central American and Caribbean Games 2006.


The successful Cuban Men's Team after the success in Cartagena da Indias

Photo by Francisco Gonzalez Ensuncho

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