Dora Jeler, ITTF High Performance and Development Operations Manager
Matters started with a three-day training camp. In addition to the continental teams from Asia, Europe, Japan, Latin America, North America and Oceania, alongside the Hopes Team, local players from Tottori attended.
During this initial period, the local host, the Japan Table Tennis Association, organised two educational sessions for coaches and athletes: the first focusing on nutrition, the second presenting the responsibilities of athletes within anti-doping procedures.
The nutritional session challenged the athletes to identify foods beneficial to sports performance within a training programme or during competition. Points were given for correct answers or a well prepared nutritional plans. Europe and North America emerged the most nutritionally savvy when the final tally was calculated.
Hosted by the Japanese Anti-Doping Agency (JADA), the role fulfilled by athletes in their fight against doping was the main subject matter. The importance of each athlete taking responsibility for their actions was stressed in order to avoid contact with prohibited substances. Also, they also invited the players to share what sport means to them with their fellow athletes and coaches; every team picking a representative with the most emboldened vision.
Training completed, the teams assembled for the draw. Now a tradition at the World Cadet Challenge, the Mixed Doubles competition created a great deal of interest. The first player of each team is drawn at random by the officials who then draw their partner, who must be from a different team. The team, singles and doubles draws were met with muted enthusiasm, the Mixed Doubles was decidedly more animated!
In addition, there was a reception organised by the Japan Table Tennis Association alongside the Organising Committee. The teams were welcomed by Maehara Masahiro, ITTF Executive Vice President and Vice President of the Japan Table Tennis Association; a banquet followed.
Meanwhile, the Cultural Day on Friday 26th October gave time to explore the famous Sand Dunes of Tottori, a visit to the Sand Museum and the Watanabe collection of Japanese antique artefacts. At the Sand Museum, teams had to apply their architectural and artistic skills by building a sand sculpture as impressive as those on display within the museum. Team Oceania scored the first victory of the Cadet Challenge by winning first prize for their sand sculpture.
Many thanks to the local organizers and Japan Table Tennis Association for the brilliant excursion to the sand dunes and many thanks for the overall administration, an experience that will last for a lifetime.