Sunday 5th March 2017
Today the 1st Annual SMART Junior Ranking table tennis tournament was held. Players competed in three categories Under 12, 15 and 18 for first, second and third place titles.
The tournament saw a high level of play among our juniors, yet another demonstration of the rewards that come with a strong youth focus.
In the under 12 category Taye Parkinson defeated Gabrielle Gabourel in the finals to take the title while Daniel Turton and Sarai Paguaga shared third place.
The under 15 title saw a dramatic duel between Rohit Pagarani and Devesh Hukmani, with Pararani holding firm with strong defense and counter attack shots to gain the title. Third place finishers in this category were Amiri Hoare and Terry Su.
The under 18 stage was set in the finals between Taye Parkinson and Latrell Solis. Both players have the honor of being players of the year in 2015 and 2014 respectively. Latrell used this tournament to make a comeback from a brief layoff, but Parkinson’s game was too much and Taye won convincingly in 4 straight sets. Devesh Hukmani and Kevin Chen both came in third for this prestigious category.
The Belize Table Tennis Association (BTTA) thanks SMART for their continued support for table tennis in Belize especially for their commitment to our youth.
From the 8th to the 11th of February, the Central American U15, U18 Junior Championships was hosted in Guatemala City, Guatemala. The Belize Table Tennis Association in partnership with the Belize Olympic Committee sent a delegation to participate in both age categories. Events included Singles, Doubles, Team, and Mixed Doubles. 8 countries were in participation including Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama.
While only being able to match the results of our previous year, the improvement that the Belizean junior athletes have made was quite noticeable. While most of the players who participate in these events from the other countries begin their career at very young ages and have been playing for over 5 or 6 years, our athletes have only been training for just under two years. Despite this our players have proven to be quite resilient, and were able to hold their own against some of the big shot players, like Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
This was evident from the very beginning when our very own 12 year old Taye Parkinson played Alfredo Sanchez, 2016 Central American U13 Championships Bronze Medalist, and won two sets off of him. This startled the Costa Rica Team, forcing them into some tough situations. Like a seasoned player however, Alfredo Sanchez was able to bounce back, and with some close calls on edge and net balls, was able to secure the win over our young fighter, winning 4-2 in the end. After this match, Taye Parkinson gained some much deserved respect from his Costa Rican peers who would surely continue to keep an eye on him over the competition and years to come.
Another country who took notice of our players’ improvements was El Salvador. Known to be one of the best in the region, second only to Mexico, El Salvador usually find themselves quite comfortable when competing against their neighbors, especially Belize who just recently arrived on the scene. Not this time however, they soon realized that they were playing against a much more formidable team. Their top player Enzo Leiva played against our own, Devesh Hukmani, and struggled to secure each game. Devesh fought hard staying in the counter rallies with the much more experienced Enzo, winning many points. Devesh contested each game rather closely, 11-9, 11-9, 12-10, with the win eventually going to Enzo. Each game Enzo would serve out the match pulling off some great serves which proved too much for Devesh. Enzo knew he could lose the match had Devesh received a bit better. He gave a big hug to Devesh at the close of the game. In a similar fashion, Rohit Pagarani, and Taye Parkinson played members of the El Salvador Team. Rohit Pagarani played Mateo Martinez, with similar scores 12-10, 11-6, 11-8. And Taye Parkinson played Kelvin Perez, winning two sets off of him. The final results were 13-11, 6-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-6, (3 games to 2 in favor of El Salvador). At this point El Salvador knew that future matches against our players would not be easy. They’d tread with caution going forward.
Belize’s greatest victories were against Honduras. Both our U15 team (Taye Parkinson, Devesh Hukmani, Rohit Pagarani) and our U18 team (Kevin Chen, Manuel Castellanos, Amiri Hoare) won in convincing fashion 3-0, and 3-1 respectively over the Honduras teams. Both these matches were later in the evening, which gave Belize enough time to prepare going into the matches. The U18 team, despite going against much more experienced players, still managed to play at a very high level. Most notable was Kevin Chen who secured the majority of wins for Belize in the U18 division, with Amiri Hoare coming in a close second. This is much improvement over last year where the U18 team did not fare of very well, losing most matches. The rate with which team Belize has developed over the past two years is quite encouraging, especially too since this is only the second time the U18 team has played this event.
Other noticeable wins during the event included Rohit’s and Devesh’s win over Guatemalan duo Andy Muscoso and Ricardo Gatica. Tied with El Salvador, Guatemala is the second best team in the region. They, like El Salvador, are confident in their domination over the other countries. Their domination would end with this match however, as Rohit and Devesh pulled off a great win against their doubles team with very close matches, winning the first game 11-9, losing the second 11-7, winning the third 11-8, but losing the fourth 12-10. Much controversy surrounded this game as in this set Belize was down 10-11. Andy Muscoso was to serve. He served, Devesh received and the umpire called the match to Guatemala. He said Rohit was to receive and so Belize lost that game. It was quite controversial as umpires are to check before the start of serve that the order is correct. In our view, he withheld this information to himself and waited for the serve to be executed, and then awarded the point to Guatemala. This is not to say however, that the Belizean pair should have checked themselves, but incidences like these are rather strange as umpires regularly enforce correct order of serve and receiving before the rally and even during rally without penalty to any team. It was clear at least in the Belize’s team view that the umpire was trying to give an edge to the Guatemalan team, the umpire being a Guatemalan himself. Rohit and Devesh were quite upset over this during the changeover, but their coach, Gabriel Guerrero, reiterated that the next game was more important and that their focus during that game would be paramount. The duo regrouped and played an excellent fifth game winning over Guatemala 11-9, 3 games to 2. This game put the Belizean duo into the top 8. They lost this quarterfinal match, however, to Costa Rican Doubles Team Alfredo Sanchez and Ricardo Azofeia, the same two players who they could not overcome in the singles of team event.
On a whole Belize won many individual games and matches as a team, but could not secure a spot on the main draw for the final day of singles competition. The draws were rather tough on our athletes, being in groups with the top players from Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Each of our athletes placed third in their groups but needed a first or second to move on. Kelly Liu, first time female athlete representing Belize at the games, did remarkably well both in her singles and mixed doubles games with Rohit Pagarani. While not able to secure any matches, she fought quite valiantly. Her nerves definitely got the best of her this time around, but her progress is encouraging as noted by several coaches from various countries. Her technical skill level is quite good for her age, but she would need more control of her psyche in order to secure wins in the future.
All in all, Belize’s performance highlights great progress, and gives us great encouragement moving forward. This is the second time most of these athletes are participating in these games and they are finally beginning to hone in on what it takes to compete internationally. They are operating like a team, assisting each other out in every way they can. They are focused and determined, and much better able to execute game strategy and deliver outcomes. Coach Gabriel Guerrero marvels over the prospects for the upcoming years. He explains that they have been working together for only about a year, and they have grown quite exponentially in such a short time. He noted that the next few years will be very exciting for Belize table tennis. This is great News!
A big thanks goes out to the Belize Olympic Committee who is one of our most devoted sponsors for this event, the Belize Bank, Atlantic Bank, Atlantic Insurance, Loans 2 Go, the Board of Directors of the BTTA, coaches, parents, family, friends, and all other supporters of the team. This would not be possible without everyone's contribution.
The Energy of High School Table Tennis
Saturday 4th February 2017
The 5th Annual St. John’s College (SJC) Table Tennis tournament kicked off in high gear with some thirty-two players participating in two categories the entry and advanced levels.
In the entry level section of the tournament the air was filled with fun, excitement and brotherhood. Players were placed in groups of five to battle things out on a table. After the dust settled on each table the best two advanced to a knockout round. And as the sun was setting four players emerged in the semi finals where Alain Gonzalez defeated Jonah Chebat and Sergio Glori defeated Edward Matus. In the finals it was Alain with his strong defense and under spin serve that allowed him to edge past Sergio in a 3-1 final score.
In the advanced level - Terry Su, Amiri Hoare, Kevin Chen and Luis Bardales emerged. Terry had to fight off Luis to challenge Kevin for a shot at the title. However, Kevin proved too much and edged out the first former 3-2 in sets to move up for a chance of becoming SJC’s best player for 2017.
In the finals both Amiri Hoare and Kevin Chen fought hard, but in the end it was the impenetrable iron wall of Amiri’s game that wore down Kevin’s attack. Amiri Hoare was victorious and declared the new SJC champ!
This tournament comes on the heels of the Central American Table Tennis Championships to be held this week in Guatemala. Three of the players on Team Belize comes from SJC - Amiri Hoare, Kevin Chen and Manuel Castellanos.
Special thanks to the Belize Table Tennis Association (BTTA) for their collaboration with our school in the annual event. This partnership is what moves the sport forward.