Salvidor Uribe (left) and Yadira Silva (right), proud Mexicans in Guadalajara
Photo By: Raul Calin
It was hot, very hot; that is the abiding memory of the first Latin American Championships to be prefixed by the initials of the International Table Tennis Federation; the complete programme of events, which included qualification for the Pan American Games, coming to a close on Tuesday 31st May 2011.
The heat, it came in two dimensions.
There was the intense heat in terms of temperature, with the Mexican city of Guadalajara realising temperatures that had not been witnessed in the present century and there was the heat of competition.
Tooth and Nail
Fighting tooth and nail for Latin American glory and an appearance in the prestigious Pan American Games was the order of the day; litres of perspiration dripped from the tired body of the patriotic athletes.
A Class Above
The Dominican Republicís Lin Ju and Wu Xue emerged as the Menís and Womenís Singles champions; no adversary was really able to come to terms with the heavy backspin play of Lin Ju, he was never in deep crisis.
Equally, Wu Xue responded when crucial stages loomed; their upbringing in China, the difference; in their formative years, they had been well taught, their coaches had been thorough, attention to detail had been paid.
Now, perhaps, therein lays a message for the whole of Latin America and perhaps for the whole of the table tennis world outside China; make sure every minute detail is addressed and the effect is great.
It is just as true for the players as it is for the organisers.
I looked at some of the players, in some cases those who had travelled to play in Europe, I did not see noticeable progress and I saw technical deficiencies: I did not see that in Lin Ju and Wu Xue.
When crisis loomed which was a rarity, their techniques stood firm.
Certainly from Brazil, Ligia Silva and Jessica Yamada impressed; they did make Wu Xue dig deep and from the younger fraternity Peru must be delighted in qualifying for the Pan American Games, especially with a team of two 16 years and 14 years old Francesca Vargas, a young lady who is very impressive and in the right hands, surely has immense possibilities.
Equally for the men, Eric Mancini, who since finishing junior days in 2007 has been in wilderness, came good but found Lin Ju too safe and secure. It was the same for Cubaís Andy Pereira, it seemed he could beat anyone but against the backspin play of Lin Ju, he experienced great problems. Against all others he looked the favourite.
Most Impressive Puerto Rican
However, if there was one young man who impressed it was Puerto Ricoís 14 year old Brian Afanador; neat, compact, fine attitude, he looked the best prospect of all.
Regarding the organisation, definite progress; as always, there are matters than need attention but there was nothing major and criticism is easy. Comparison needs to be made with what has gone before and in that respect progress was made.
Hats Off to the Volunteers
Sergio Blanco, the President of the Mexican Table Tennis Federation, and his team can look back with pride and it is his team of which he can be proud.
The volunteers were always helpful, always pleasant, always smiling; the table tennis events at the forthcoming Pan American Games in October are in good hands, in safe hands.
A happy group of volunteers with Raul Calin, ITTF Competition Manager (front centre)
Photo by Raul Calin