by Dao Zhu
Overall, in a venue that housed 60 table tennis tables on the same floor, a total of 18 members of the ITTF Hopes project attended. The national associations represented were: Australia, Belarus, Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Maldives, Nigeria, Romania, Singapore and the United States.
Endorsed by the Chinese Table Tennis Association, one of the highlights of the named “Magic Camp” was the opportunity to practise with junior members of QG Sports; the common goal of motivating and fast-tracking being the policy to create positive outcomes.
It was a chance for young players from different countries to learn from each other, build and enhance friendships, improve training levels and compare capabilities.
Throughout the whole initiative the reaction from all concerned was most positive. Daniel Tran from the United States, present alongside his mentor Chen Jian a former Chinese national team coach, underlined the value of the gathering. A young man who idolises Ma Long and Jan-Ove Waldner, he revelled in the situation; he learnt quickly and made friends with everyone, especially Alan Kurmangaliyev from Kazakhstan.
All Hopes players at the training camp each had a Chinese player every day against whom they could practise. Everyone reflected that although they were tired, they learnt a lot of new techniques and made many good friends.
The initiative in Ningbo was the first and only such project in 2019; five such training camps are envisaged in 2020.
Polona Cehovin Susin, ITTF Director High Performance and Development
“My first impression was simply fabulous. There were 60 tables in the training base and almost 100 Chinese and foreign players training at the same time. The impassioned training atmosphere made everyone feel greatly heartened.
Immediately upon arrival I saw the amazing conditions for table tennis in this three-story training base and the amazing opportunity it offered these talented young players. Every player must have been very tired and exhausted after a full day of training but they still kept working hard.
Such a camp is very important for players under 12 year of age, as they are the future of table tennis. Maybe in 15 or 20 years, these children will become World and Olympic champions. The ITTF plans to host at least five such activities in 2020 and hopes that more talented junior table tennis players can join in high-level training camps.
The atmosphere at the camp in Ningbo was fantastic. Every player took the training very seriously. The feedback from coaches and players on the camp was excellent.
Actually, everyone was tired every day but the time of two hours and 40 minutes or three hours of training flew by. There was no choice. The aim of the camp was to make everyone understand table tennis deeply; for the coaches to teach the players of the next generation.
All experts, no matter their country of origin, they all have a common goal, which is to make table tennis stronger. I believe that through this kind of co-operation, China is also sending a message to the world.
They not only play table tennis to the highest level but also are aware of the responsibility to help other countries. We are accelerating co-operation at the same speed as China’s high-speed railway train. We are making progress together in this exciting journey. The world of table tennis needs China and China, although already in the driving seat, will certainly also benefit from our co-operation as the sport will continue to grow, so I think this is a win-win situation.”
Massimo Costantini, ITTF High Performance Elite Coach
“To be become a world class player you must learn from those who have the most knowledge about the sport. If you want to learn basketball, you must go to study in America. If you want to learn football, you should go to Spain and Italy. Therefore, if you want to learn table tennis, you must go to China.
We have several criteria for selection, which are based on the technique of the player, their attitude at the table, their attitude towards competition, the quality of every stroke, the quality of serve and return, the speed of the ball and so on. There are eight different criteria. We have competitions throughout the training process. The players must demonstrate their abilities and prove that they are ready to succeed. They must set goals.”
Zhong Jinyong, QG Sports, former Chinese national team coach
“I prepared a teaching scheme from two aspects. First, how to combine the three elements of power, speed and spin. European players are relatively good at spin and power, so how could we make best of their advantages and offset their weakness.
Second, we needed to focus on the relationship of technical movement and structural consistency, which meant we needed to use short strokes to link attack and defence. From my point of view, it is more important to train the coaches. As the level of coaches improves, the level of the sport in the country will improve accordingly.”
Daniel Tran, talented young player from the United States
“The Chinese are so fast, I must try my best to catch up with them! I have learnt many new techniques here and have become good friends with everyone here.”
Chen Jian, United States Coach
“The camp held by ITTF is fabulous, as everyone is learning the Chinese training ways and exercises. It is really good to train two times a day with games.
The only pity is that the time is so limited. The effect would be much better if the time of the camp could be expanded to two more weeks or 20 days and the movements of children could also be finalised.
Children abroad have more individual classes, so they don’t have so many opponents and the training plan is not so systematic as here. In addition, the atmosphere of training is fantastic as there are 60 tables. Usually there are about five or six tables overseas; ten tables very good.
I hope that the ITTF can hold such training camps several times a year.”