22 May 2023

Brian Afanador defeats World No.6 Hugo Calderano

A major upset concluded the exciting first weekend of the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals Durban 2023, highlighting the exceptional performances by players who have benefited from the ITTF Hopes Programme from various parts of the world.  

26-year-old Brian Afanador, a member of the inaugural Hopes team, delivered one of the most remarkable upsets during the second day of the tournament. Despite being ranked 74th in the world, Afanador emerged victorious against World No.6, Brazilian player Hugo Calderano, in a thrilling 4-2 win.  

Reflecting on his stunning achievement, Afanador expressed, “Being part of the first group of the Hopes programme has developed my game a lot. It has not only helped me gain invaluable experience but also provided numerous opportunities to participate in competitive events and training camps. We put in a lot of hard work together and we are just like family. This group represents more than just table tennis, it is about growing as a human.” 

Coached by his father, table tennis runs in the blood of the Puerto Rican Afanador-Diaz family. His cousin Adriana Diaz, ranked 11th in the world, also found her way into table tennis through the Hopes Programme. As an 8-year-old, she accompanied Brian to a training camp and was captivated by the sport, eventually becoming a Hopes Programme participant herself. She once again showcased her skills on the global stage after defeating her first opponent.

Speaking about her journey, Diaz acknowledged the Hopes Programme’s contribution, stating, “You know how when you’re little and are chosen as one of the best kids in the world, it’s an amazing feeling. The programme really allows you to experience incredible things and they give you hope. The experience gained has been invaluable, and I am thrilled to be part of the World Championships today.” 

The Hopes Programme is the ITTF High Performance department’s talent identification programme, which unites players and coaches from across the globe. It continues to be the building block of the ITTF High Performance pathway, which targets Global Reach and Overall Growth of Table Tennis.  

Against the backdrop of the vibrant spirit displayed by the spectators and hospitality of the city, these individuals from the programme have showcased their skills to the world. 

Another of the top players to go through the Hopes Programme, Africa’s own Hana Goda from Egypt, prevailed in an enthralling encounter to proceed to the next round. She said, “There were a lot of expectations for me, and playing at my first World Championships made it nerve racking for me. But I am very happy with my win, and I will continue to play my best at the tournament and fight for each point.”  

Egyptian player Hana Goda

Truls Moregard, a former Hopes Programme participant, displayed his prowess on the table with impressive victories in both the Men’s Singles and Mixed Doubles categories to progress to the next rounds.  

Aiming to follow in the footsteps of Moregard is rising Singaporean star Izaac Quek, also a member of the Hopes Programme. In his opening match, he displayed grit and tenacity in coming from behind twice to stand 2-2 against an opponent ranked 59 places above him, before eventually succumbing to world number 9 Lin Yun-Ju from the Chinese Taipei. It was a performance that encapsulated great fighting spirit, which Quek attributed in part to having come through the Hopes Programme. 

He said, “The training camps provided me with the chance to interact with talented players from around the world and to learn from them, which has helped to improve my skills. The Hopes Programme also allowed me the opportunity to play in my first ever tournament when I was young, and it has inspired me ever since then.” 

In a similar vein, Tom Jarvis from England held his own against Sathiyan Gnanasekaran despite being ranked 151 places below him in the world rankings. Jarvis showed great determination in managing to claw back from 1-3 down to 3-3, and although the outcome was a defeat, his performance highlighted the never-say-die attitude that endears athletes to fans.  

The Hopes Programme has also nurtured talent from the South American continent, demonstrated by the performance of Brazilian Bruna Takahashi, who progressed to the round of 32 in the Women’s Doubles. She emphasised the importance of the Hopes Programme in her journey, stating, “The Hopes Programme allowed me to play in many tournaments and training camps, which have helped me gain a lot of exposure to high-level competitions to allow me to improve my game.”  

Afanador, Diaz, Moregard, Goda and Quek are currently still supported by the With the Future in Mind Scholarship programme, which is a joint program of Olympic Solidarity (OS) and the ITTF. Since its inception, it has been a core component of the Athletes Development Model, supporting athletes the world over in the pursuit of their Olympic Dream. 

In addition to the outstanding performances by these talented players, the first two days of the tournament have also showcased the vibrant South African soul that both players and fans have enjoyed. The lively atmosphere, filled with music, dance, and cultural exhibitions, has created an unforgettable experience for everyone involved. The fusion of sports and culture has certainly added an extra dimension to the championships, making it a celebration of both talent and the rich heritage of the host continent. 

As the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships in Durban progresses, fans can anticipate more enthralling matches and displays of exceptional talent. With each victory, they will be an inspiration for the next generation of table tennis enthusiasts, leaving a legacy on the sport. 

General News ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals 2023

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