By Neha Aggarwal
This year’s edition of the Safir and Swedish Junior and Cadet Open is home to a record number of countries, for the first time in the 15 year history of the tournament. A total of 38 nations will compete in the ITTF World Junior Circuit events and 43 nations will be a part of the the elite class championship.
Welcoming Azerbaijan with open hands, Sweden is definitely a home for some intense competition this week.
Azerbaijan may not be the name that would come to your mind if you talk about table tennis, but the nation is all set to change the trend. A couple of young Chinese players migrated to Baku, the capital city of Ajerbaijan in the last few years. The results of their action were immediate- in 2015 they attended the Jordan Junior and Cadet Open, which was their very first appearance on the ITTF World Junior Circuit.
“This is actually the second year we are participating in the ITTF World Junior Circuit tournament. In 2016 we played in Cadet Boys in France and this year we have played France, Czech and now Sweden,” said one of the players.
In the junior boys’ side Wang Chenxi, Yang Xinyu, Allahverdiyev Vazir are on duty whilst Ning Jing, Deng Simeng and Chen Xingtai are present in the junior girls’ section.
While Ning Jing was directly qualified for the main draw, Deng Simeng successfully qualified to follow her to the main event in the Junior Girls Singles. Among the boys Wang Chenxi and Yang Xinyu made it to the main draw.
“Our young players practice six days a week about three to four hours a day. The train two months in Baku and then they go for trainingin two months in China,” says Farhad Ismayilov, former international player from Azerbaijan who competed in five World Championships.
Ismayilov, together with Mikhail Timofeyev, the head coach of the team is aiming to win medals at the Islamic Solitary Games scheduled from 12-22 May 2017 in Baku. “I hope we can win gold in both Cadet boys and Girls,” says Farhad Ismayilov.
In a longer run, they look forward to 2017 World Table Tennis Championships in Düsseldorf, and hopefully in Halmstad, Sweden next year.