With the ITTF Hopes Program a continuous resounding success, its popularity and growth have meant that a restructure of the format was needed that would see talents identified earlier and supported for longer, resulting in even better opportunities for even more players. Within the scope of the new two-year cycle, National and Regional Hopes activities are taking center stage this year and will be followed by the Continental and Global stages, most of which will begin next year. The Hopes activities also offer an opportunity for beneficiaries of this year’s “My Gender. My Strength” project to shine on the regional stage. This year’s project aims to enhance and advance women’s participation in table tennis by supporting ambitious and active female coaches in pursuing their coaching career to the next level and thus contribute to table tennis development in their Member Associations. The Hopes Program, as an athlete and coach-focused development activity, offers the perfect environment for gaining theoretical knowledge, and practical experience and advancing their leadership and management skills as intended under the MGMS vision, and five women were actively involved in their regions.
Action for the Regional Hopes kicked off in May in Paraguay with the South America Hopes Week & Challenge, conducted by ITTF High Performance Elite Coach Massimo Costantini. 8 girls and 9 boys from 4 Member Associations (Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Paraguay) trained together for a week which culminated in the challenge tournament played as a Giant Round Robin, an exciting event for all involved. Three players per gender progressed to the Continental stage of the Hopes from the Regional Hopes, with a fourth place going to the winner of the U11 South American Championships.
“By having this new longer-term format of the ITTF Hopes, Member Associations will have more time to work with their players to prepare them for the next stage of the player development pathway, building a strong backbone of new generation players. In this way, they can invest in their player with a clear goal ahead. It motivates associations, coaches, players, and parents to have a clear plan on how to progress further. It also facilitates a consistent follow-up and longer monitoring period, ensuring well-rounded talent development from our side.” – Massimo Costantini, ITTF High Performance Elite Coach
Two months later, Massimo traveled to Charleston, WV (USA) for the North America Hopes Week & Challenge, held in conjunction with the PanAm Youth Championships and a WTT Youth Contender. Running in the same week of the PanAm Youth Championships, in a different hall of the same venue, the North American Hopes hosted 5 girls and 6 boys from Canada and the USA. After a full week of training and Challenge, three boys and three girls qualified for the Continental stage. Luba Sadovska from Canada, MGMS beneficiary, participated in the Hopes Week, assisting Massimo and advancing her skills.
She said: “Being part of Regional Hopes in Charleston and working alongside ITTF High Performance Elite Coach Massimo Costantini, was an experience of a lifetime for me. It opened doors to a whole new level of education and experiences for me. I learned a valuable skill of evaluations and gained experience in testing athletes in different ways to identify and recognize talents. This year’s ITTF MGMS Program edition and Coach Max gave me tools to do that so I can continue learning and improving. In this way, he taught me the crucial role coaches play in various aspects of an athlete’s development.”
August and early September were a whirlwind of activity for Regional Hopes activities, with 7 more taking place across Africa and the Americas, paving the way for the Continental Stage of the Hopes Road.
The Caribbean Hopes Week was conducted by Rafael Armendariz (ECU), assisted by Aleena Edwards (TTO), another beneficiary of the MGMS project. From 13-18 August, Parque del Este Table Tennis Pavilion in Santo Domingo (DOM) hosted 15 talented players (8 boys and 7 girls) from the Caribbean region for an intense week of training and one day of Challenge competition.
“This camp had very good vibes and the Caribbean atmosphere is unmatched. The children were wonderful, and I was very happy to participate in this camp”. Rafael Armendariz (ECU)
Hidayah Mohamed (TTO), at 9 years old the youngest player in the event said: “I was very happy and excited when I heard the news. On my first day here I was a little scared but anxious to learn. As the days went by I saw my game improving and really enjoyed this program. I made a lot of friends from the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. I think this was a great experience because I learned a lot not only about tennis and the importance of exercise but also about different cultures”.
At the same time in Honduras, the Central America Hopes were training and competing just as hard. From 14-19 August, Tegucigalpa hosted 9 boys and 6 girls from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico along with their coaches.
During the two daily training sessions, ITTF Expert Milton Catalan witnessed the enthusiasm and zeal of the players to demonstrate their abilities and work on technical aspects as well as on their physical preparation. Alicia Sánchez from Mexico represented the MGMS project at this activity, fully participating and advancing her skills.
Jose Garcia, a coach from Guatemala was impressed: “I found the camp exceptional and very dynamic, above all there was no monotony at all, every day that went by it became more interesting.”
“I really liked the camp, and I will bring a lot of experience back to my country to put into practice to be able to go very far.” Melvin Muños, player from El Salvador
Meanwhile in Africa, West Africa was the first region to stage their Hopes Week. The association of Cote d’Ivoire welcomed 13 players (7 boys and 6 girls) from 4 Member Association (Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Guinea) for six days of training and competition from 10-15 August, where several promising players showed up their technical potential, promising to make great strides in the future.
During the week, all the players and coaches were highly motivated and had enormous energy. The importance of this activity for both the region and the Ivorian federation was underlined by a visit from officials from the Ministry of Youth and Sport and the Olympic Committee during the opening of the event.
The North Africa region followed promptly with their activity, taking place from 13-18 August in Tunis (TUN), once again conducted by Massimo Costantini. 9 boys and 9 girls from 3 associations (Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria) took part, with Tunisia and Egypt qualifying players to the Continental stage. The region is very consistent in producing good players in this age group, and despite not progressing to the Continental stage at this point, Algeria stood out, especially in the progress that their girl players have made. Raja Lograibi, a table tennis legacy, who will only be turning 8 on 5 October this year, prompted Massimo to give his first 10 ever in one of her evaluation attributes, her kinaesthetic sense. Two female coaches, Meriem Rahali from Algeria and Feryel Garci from Tunisia attended the Hopes Week in Tunisia as beneficiaries of the MGMS project.
Meriem said: “The Hopes activity took place in good conditions on all fronts. I was honored to work with the expert from whom I gained knowledge and many tips that will support my coaching career and develop the level of my players. As a coach, I had experience working with this age group and worked at several camps in the past but this time, being very close to the International Expert and players, I found it very beneficial.”
From 2-7 September 2023 in Kigali City (RWA) in the National Statistics of Rwanda Sport Center, 6 boys and 6 girls from Rwanda and Uganda joined the East Africa Regional Hopes, training twice daily for five days followed by a one-day Challenge. As an MGMS beneficiary, Ruth Mengsteab from Eritrea assisted ITTF Expert Pacinthe Osman (EGY).
Rwanda has made significant strides in various sports recently, including table tennis, as sports participation has been utilized as a means of promoting physical fitness, social interaction, and youth development in the country. Rwanda’s table tennis scene has been steadily improving as the association has worked to develop its players and promote the sport at the grassroots level. There has been a focus on youth development programs to nurture talent and improve the standard of play.
“I would you to thank everyone who took part in the camp, as it helped me make new friends. The Hopes Week also helped to better my game, as I improved on my footwork and some strokes. And for this, I thank Coach Pacinthe for every help she rendered to me. I also thank my coach, Coach Alvin, as well as other coaches of Rwanda who always helped day by day. Lastly, I enjoyed the good atmosphere in Rwanda, the good food, and welcoming people. I would love to attend such camps to improve more and more”. Patience Anyango, player (UGA)
“I want to thank the organizers, that is the Rwanda Table Tennis Federation for being welcoming, catering, and caring for us in terms of transportation, feeding, and accommodation. we really loved the atmosphere there and we wish to go back there very soon. I also want to thank Coach Pacinthe for organizing a good camp for the children and helping them to improve on their strokes and footwork every other day, as well as helping them improve in game situations.” Coach Alvin (UGA)
In October, the West, Central, South and South East regions of Asia will be welcoming their talents to Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Nepal, and Thailand respectively, followed later in the year by the Southern Africa region hosted by Namibia, while Oceania will hold a Hopes Week without a Challenge, taking place in Darwin (AUS).
For all players who participated in the Regional Hopes, the journey is not finished. Those who qualified through the Regional Hopes will meet their counterparts from other regions at the Continental stage. However, for anyone who missed out on a spot, there will be further chances along the road to qualify for the prestigious World Hopes Week & Challenge. Continuous training, competition, and improvement are on the agenda for all Hopes players, and expanded monitoring will ensure that more talents than ever will have the opportunity to shine along the Hopes road.
QUALIFIERS CONTINENTAL STAGE AMERICAS:
- Dixsany SILVERIO (DOM)*
- Milena VALLE (PUR)
- Brianna RODRIGUEZ (PUR)
- Sosa Ana (DOM)
- Angel MELENDEZ (PUR)
- Edwin VENTURA (DOM)*
- Jose RIVERA (PUR)
- Yasminky SOSA (DOM)
- Alicia Carolina ZAMORA VIZCARRA (PER)*
- Sara Reyes (ECU)
- Ivanna MEDRANDA (ECU)
- Julie Benedikt WESTWERKAM TOBARU (PER)
- Boris Nestor VILLAVINENCIO (ECU)*
- Artur Jacob LEITE (BRA)
- Josue PEREZ (ECU)
- Henrique OSAKA (BRA)
- Tiana PIYADASA (USA)
- Abigail YU (USA)
- Amber LIN (CAN)
- Zhangyan ZHU (USA)
- Andrew HUANG (USA)
- Jesse YIN (CAN)
- Ximena CHAVEZ (HON)
- Marta Alejandra SALAZAR GARCIA (GUA)
- Camila Alessandra LINARES HERNANDEZ (GUA)
- Jaydelinne BAKER (CRC)*
- Jose Joaquin MENDEZ ARRIOLA (GUA)
- Joseph Paolo RUIZ MOSCOSO (GUA)*
- Melvin Javier MUÑOZ TRIGUEROS (ESA)
- Ismael Alejandro VALDIVA AYALA (MEX)
*qualifies as U11 Championship Winner
QUALIFIERS CONTINENTAL STAGE AFRICA:
- Eve N’DAH (CIV)
- Christ Secthme AMADJI (BEN)
- Sia CAMARA (GUI)
- Samuel N’DATCHI (CIV)
- Mael Axel Yohann KOUAME (CIV)
- Komlan Daniel AGBAKPETI (TOG)
- Malak ZAKI (EGY)
- Joumana ABDELSHAKOUR (EGY)
- Salma LAMTI CHARGUI (TUN)
- Eyad HUSSIEN (EGY)
- Fares ESSID (TUN)
- Moemen SGHAIER (TUN)
- Patience ANYANGO (UGA)
- Patra NASIRUMBI (UGA)
- Kamikazi ELISABETH (RWD)
- Joseph Francis SEBATINDIRA (UGA)
- Sharif NSEREKO (UGA)
- Ebongo SHUKURU (RWA)