by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Impressively, at the beginning of the month, Maki Shiomi won in the Czech Republic but more recently she was beaten in the final in France; she experienced defeat at the hands of Azerbaijan’s Ning Jing.
In Örebrö, Ning Jing is the third highest rated girl on duty; sandwiched in between is Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz; she makes her first appearance of the year on the ITTF World Junior Circuit having last year won in the Slovak Republic and in Poland.
Fourth on the list is Russia’s Kristina Kazantseva, who like Adrian Diaz is making her initial excursion of 2017; she is pursued immediately by the Hong Kong pairing of Wong Ching Yau and Lee Ka Yee. Germany’s Luisa Saeger and the host nation’s Christina Källberg complete the top eight names.
They travel from far and wide, but what makes players travel such distances to play in Örebrö. What makes Adriana Diaz travel from Puerto Rico where the locals consider 24 degrees Celcius to be freezing, to a city where 20 degrees is a veritable heatwave?
Simply because the tournament is part of the Safirs International; to describe the event as a tournament does not pay the well-stablished competition justice. It is an institution and does it not set an example that others may be advised to follow?
There is wide range of events in which young players may compete.
Following the ITTF World Junior Circuit event, the Safir International Elite tournament is staged on Friday 24th February. An event that has been won by some of the greatest names of all; first held in 1972, the host nation’s Stellan Bengtsson, Jan-Ove Waldner, Jörgen Persson and Erik Lind have all won the Men’s Singles title, whilst Sweden’s Marie Svensson, the 1994 European champion, has been crowned Women’s Singles Champion no less than five times.
Next on the agenda on Saturday 25th February there are Under 21, Cadet and Mini-Cadet events, before matters close on Sunday 26th February with competitions in the Under 18 and Under 15 age groups.
Simply for young players the tournament provides high value, young players want to play, they want to test themselves, Safirs achieves that goal.