by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Funded by the Agitos Foundation, the development arm of the International Paralympic Committee, ITTF-Oceania and the Smash Down Barriers Programme, 28 players from eight countries in the continent participated; the countries in question being Australia, Fiji, Guam, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu.
The Coaches Course was led by Christian Holtz, the ITTF-Oceania Para Development Officer; a notable fact being that a high number of course members suffered from a disability.
“Seven out of 10 participants in the coaching course had a disability. In fact, they’re some of the very best Para table tennis players in Oceania”, Christian Holtz
Undoubtedly, Norby Ocampo was the student to attract the attention. He travelled more than 25 hours from Guam and relished the opportunity to learn new ideas; he departed Auckland highly motivated and most determined to promote the cause of Para table tennis in Guam.
“The Smash Down Barriers manual is a fantastic idea, because it’s six simple and fun lessons that coaches can use to introduce people with disabilities to table tennis”, Norby Ocampo
A successful course completed, next on the agenda was the three day Training Camp; Australia’s Alois Rosario, the man who had guided compatriot Samuel Von Einem to silver in Men’s Singles Class 11 at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, being the man at the helm of proceedings.
“Everyone here is so excited and passionate about table tennis; we’re supposed to take an hour for lunch but within 30 minutes everyone is back on the tables playing again”, Alois Rosario
Devising training programmes to meet individual needs was the underlying theme; the camp not only providing an opportunity for players to hone their skills, it was also a chance for the course members to put theory into practice.
“I’ve never experienced a camp like this before. All the players and coaches bonded like a family”, Christian Holtz
Players shared experiences; there was a common bond, a feeling of harmony and understanding which created unity. Iakoba Taberanibou from Fiji, the focal point in the film from Shame to Fame, was just one member who endorsed the view.
“In Fiji, people with disability are often ashamed and afraid of being neglected”, Iakoba Taberanibou
The aim of the Training Camp was to boost to the development of Para Table Tennis in Oceania. Notably, greater numbers competing in Oceania Para Championships in 2017 and 2019 is a major objective; the more long-term goal being to increase the region’s representation in Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Additionally the 2017 Mini Pacific Games and 2019 Pacific Games both include Para Table Tennis events on the programme.
“Without the support of Agitos Foundation and the ITTF this camp would be just an idea. Similarly, the support provided by the hosts Table Tennis New Zealand and the Manurewa Table Tennis Club was significant. Everyone made us feel welcome, from the Chief Executive Officer of Table Tennis New Zealand, Mr John Lea, who spent two days getting to know the players, to the volunteers who cooked our meals and drove us back and forth to the venue”, Christian Holtz
Also, there was an added bonus. Stag International reached an agreement with ITTF-Oceania to sponsor one regional Para Table Tennis camp per year until 2020.
Thus once again the Stag International underlined its commitment to Oceania and especially the development of para table tennis in the region; another step forward had been made, a most significant step.
2016 New Zealand Para Championships: Roll of Honour