by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Cape Town plays host from Wednesday 30th November to Wednesday 7th December. A total of some 96 boys and 96 girls plus coaches, officials and whoever will descend on the South African city noted as the most popular holiday destination not only in the country but in the whole of the continent.
It is a popular not only owing to its climate; also for its geographical setting which is most apt for table tennis. Cape Town lies in the shadow of the world famous Table Mountain.
One wonders who will climb the mountain this year, which player will scale the heights in the Grand West venue and possibly progress to even greater heights in the Olympic Games of 2024 or 2028?
Several names who competed in the recent Rio 2016 Olympic Games were present in the Mapoto Stadium, a former railway station in 2003; they started their career on the right lines.
Notably for one in particular it was the first and last; Santiago in 2003 was when we first set eyes of Li Xiaoxia, Rio de Janeiro in 2016 was when she announced her retirement from international play.
She was present in Santiago alongside two further Rio 2016 Olympic Gold medallists; Chinese national team colleagues Ma Long and Zhang Jike both competed.
However, they are not the only Rio medallists who played in Santiago 13 years ago; Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov alongside Japan’s Jun Mizutani and Ai Fukuhara were on duty.
No medals but present in both Santiago and Rio de Janeiro were Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia and Marcos Freitas, as were the Brazilians Cazuo Matsumoto and Gustavo Tsuboi.
Similarly, Romania’s Daniela Monteiro-Dodean and Elizabeta Samara were on present in both cities; likewise, it was the same scenario for Chinese Taipei’s Chiang Hung-Chieh, the Czech Republic’s Iveta Vacenovska and Spain’s Galia Dvorak.
Additionally, you can add to the list Carole Grundisch of France; accepted she did not play in Rio de Janeiro but she did qualify, injury prevented her competing.
Is there a future Olympic Games gold medallist on the Cape Town entry list?
Looking back to 2003, they have a hard act to follow.