by Dora Jeler, High Performance & Development Operations Manager
Under the direction of Massimo Costantini, the ITTF High Performance Manager, the respective boys’ and girls’ head coaches were Liu Jiayi and Jing Jun Hong.
Jing Jun Hong enjoyed notable success at Commonwealth events, Liu Jiayi is perhaps better known for his many years as the England national coach, guiding the boys’ team to both cadet and junior success at European Youth Championships.
Jordan’s Mohamed Atoum, now based in Oman, alongside Adnan Fwakhergi fulfilled the role of the principal assistant coaches.
“When JJ and Jiayi were appointed as head coaches for the ITTF World Hopes Week and Challenge I thought we were well covered. However, they exceeded our expectations, showing multiple and flexible skills, when either they had to deal with players or coaches. A big applause to them.” Massimo Costantini
Venue for the proceedings was the training hall at the Sultan Qaboos Youth Complex, the Oman Table Tennis Federation paying attention to every detail, making all most welcome. Notably on the free afternoon a visit was organised to the local Salalah festival, players and coaches being able to savour the culture of the region.
All responded to the efforts made, the coaches being no exception, the seminars in the evening were well-received. Jing Jun Hong commenced matters by addressing the subject of basic techniques, stressing the importance of the service. Later, Malaysia’s Cindy Lim, who had submitted the best on-line coach education presentation, explained the approach adopted by her club, Star Elite Table Tennis, in the development of players from complete beginners to international prospects.
Similarly, local expert, Musallam Salim Ahmed Alawaid addressed the topic of nutrition; his contribution, as with all others prompting a host of questions from thirsty for knowledge coaches.
Coaching and coach education complete, the Challenge tournament, organised in two stages, groups followed by knock-out, witnessed success for Africa; the first time ever in the history of the initiative.
In the boys’ event Nigeria’s Usman Okamlawon finished in first place ahead of Kazakhstan’s Alan Kurmangaliyev, Romania’s Luca Oprea and Nikon Shutov of Belarus.
“Usman Okamlawon displayed unexpected abilities in conducting the matches: footwork, a sense of position, a backhand serve followed by a terrific forehand attack; these are the key things that we like to see in this talent identification programme. We also witnessed other great talents. Daniel Tran of the United States and Alan Kurmangaliyev from Kazakhstan amongst others.” Massimo Costantini
Success for Nigeria, in the girls’ singles competition it was success for their traditional continental rivals. Egypt’s Hana Goda emerged the winner, Romania’s Bianca Mei Rosu concluded play the runner up ahead of Lemonia Gaintantzi of Greece and India’s Sayani Panda.
“In general the quality in both training and competition was really good. Hana Goda from Egypt showed what it means to be a complete player. Winning is never easy but her strong determination, serve, creativeness in serve and return enabled her to manage against all her peers. Overall, I have witnessed a group of talented kids playing very well, I am sure our paths will cross again in the very near future.” Massimo Costantini
Farewell to Oman but for the Hopes, the journey continues. The coaching team will now evaluate and select six to eight players to be invited to at least one further training camp. Based on performance and progress throughout the Hopes activities, the 2020 Hopes Team will be selected next year.
Grateful thanks are extended to the Oman Table Tennis Federation, who went beyond the call of duty to prove perfect hosts. Also thanks are extended to equipment partner Butterfly for their continued support, as they are to the head coaches, the assistant coaches, all participating coaches and the most important of all, the players.
2019 ITTF World Hopes Challenge: Full Results