Para Table Tennis Development Initiatives Take Center Stage
Recently, all eyes were on Para Table Tennis Development as a groundbreaking initiative took place in Giza (EGY) in the form of the first ever Para Table Tennis Training Camp organized within the framework of the ITTF Development plan. Simultaneously, selected Para Table Tennis athletes from Member Associations around the world were embarking on their own journeys, propelled by the support of ITTF's PTT Grants for 2023. These grants were designed to empower athletes by enhancing their training processes and supporting participation in international events, with an eye on the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.
2023 Africa PTT Training Camp, Giza (EGY) from 15-19 September 2023:
In September we witnessed a milestone of Para Table Tennis development pass with the first ever Para Table Tennis Training Camp organized within the framework of the ITTF Development plan, taking place in Giza, Egypt from 15-19 September 2023. The camp was led by Alessandro Arcigli, president of the Paralympic Committee of the ETTU and the Head Coach of the Italian Para Team.
“The assignment received from ITTF made me very happy and proud. I was very enthusiastic to have participated in this initiative, which the entire ITTF considers very important, for the growth of the Paralympic movement of this continent and my first thanks is to Polona Cehovin, ITTF Development Director and for Omar Refaat Bassyouni, ITTF Development Projects Manager. I was happy and proud that they chose me for this important activity. The environment was wonderful, and I was truly impressed by the commitment made by the players. I found them all very motivated and happy to be able to train, followed by ITTF coaches.” Alessandro Arcigli (ITA)
The training camp had multi-faceted objectives. For one, it was intended as a focal point for African Para Table tennis athlete aiming to prepare for the subsequent ITTF African Para Table Tennis Championships, while also generally working on improving their skills and performance. Another aspect of the training camp was promotional, targeted at increasing the visibility of Para Table Tennis within the African continent and opening doors for people with disabilities to see Para Table Tennis as a viable sport option, aiming at an increase in quality and quantity of Para Table Tennis athletes within the continent.
“I wanted to extend my heartfelt appreciation for the outstanding table tennis camp organized by ITTF, which was an incredible experience. The combination of the well-structured camp and the expertise of Coach Alessandro Arcigli made it truly exceptional. Coach Alessandro Arcigli’s coaching style was nothing short of remarkable. His attention to small details in our gameplay made an enormous difference in our performance. He possesses an exceptional ability to spot even the slightest nuances in our techniques and provide tailored guidance. It’s these small adjustments that have already begun to pay dividends, and I can see a significant improvement in my skills.” Tankiso Hata, athlete (RSA)
A total of 21 athletes from 5 Member Associations (Mauritius, South Africa, Egypt, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire) participated, of which 10 were women and 11 men, with 12 wheel-chair athletes and 9 standing, making it a very balanced camp in all regards. 4 coaches from Egypt and Cameroon joined their athletes in the camp, sharing skills and knowledge with each other and the participating athletes.
“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with such motivated Para Table Tennis athletes under the guidance of a passionate coach like Alessandro, who possesses a global perspective mindset to PTT training and development. In just one week, it has been an exceptional experience for me as a coach. I am wholeheartedly committed to assisting ITTF in their mission of making table tennis accessible to all, contributing in my own modest way. Together, let’s make table tennis a sport for everyone.” Yong Clement, coach (CMR)
The schedule contained regular training sessions, multi-ball sessions, and matches. The twice daily sessions focused on regular and special training exercises, while for the last day, the main focus was on playing matches. A short meeting was held at the end of the camp analyzing the work completed and identifying further work to be done at home. During the last session, the athletes had the opportunity to practice in the main venue of the 2023 ITTF African Para Championships.
The camp in Giza provided athletes and coaches an excellent opportunity to interact with participants from across the continent and train in a different manner than usual. This not only demonstrates the participant’s own dedication to table tennis, but also strengthens Africa’s position as a new hub for Para Table Tennis.
The Camp reflected ITTF Development’s commitment to fostering long-term growth worldwide. Its objective was to establish an enduring legacy marked by improved table tennis infrastructure, expanded Para player opportunities, and a strengthened network of empowered coaches. The primary focus was on harnessing the potential of Africa’s dynamic Para players. Through intensive training sessions, personalized guidance, and exposure to world-class playing styles, participants are poised for a transformative journey, facilitated by the advice of the coaches who gave them many useful ideas to introduce variations in their playing style.
“It was a really exciting experience for me. I benefited a lot from Mr. Alessandro’s comments and remarks. Moreover, training with different players from different countries was really useful and fruitful. I hope it could be held for many times.” Ahmed El-Mahs, athlete (EGY)
ITTF PTT Grants 2023:
The ITTF PTT Athlete Grants strive to assist Member Associations by offering dedicated support to promising and talented Para Table Tennis athletes of all classes, enhancing their training process and/or increasing their participation in international PTT-sanctioned events in 2023, with the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games in mind.
12 Athletes (8 female and 4 male) from 9 MAs (Brasil, Colombia, USA, Egypt, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia) benefited from the PTT Grants in 2023, which supported them in gaining international exposure and actively participating in the 2023 ITTF PTT sanctioned events.
In Africa, Christiana Ikpeoyi (Women’s Class 5) and Olatunji Ogunkunle (Men’s Class 4) from Nigeria used their grants to participate in the ITTF Fa20 Saudi Arabia Para Open from 8-10 August, where both athletes won a silver medal in the single events in their respective class. This showed to be great preparation for the 2023 ITTF PTT African Championships in Giza (EGY) which took place from 20-23 September, where they were able to secure their spots for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games by winning the gold medal in their respective categories.
“I am so grateful to the ITTF for the opportunity to participate in the international ITTF sanctioned events. We were lacking international exposure, and the grants supported me to prepare for such big events like the ITTF PTT African Championships” Christiana Ikpeoyi (NGR)
Hana Hammad (Women’s Class 6) and Faiza Mahmoud (Women’s Class 5), are planning to use their grants to participate in the upcoming ITTF Fa20 Value Jet Lagos Para Open in Nigeria from 12-14 October, as both players are looking to improve their ranking in the fight for a Paralympic ticket.
In Asia, Muntadher Al-Sarraji (Men’s Class 4) from Iraq used his grant to participate in the ITTF Fa40 Taichung Para Open in Chinese Taipei from 21-24 July, where he was able to secure a bronze medal in a very competitive class. Saudi Arabia’s Class 1 athlete Maryam Almyrisl used her grant to participate in a training camp in Egypt in July, which helped her in winning the gold medal in the Women’s Class 1 event of the ITTF Fa20 Saudi Arabia Para Open.
“I would like to thank the ITTF for the PTT Grants initative. I benefited a lot from the grant in my training camp in Egypt, where I was able to advance my performance through several training sessions and exposure to different players. It was a valuable experience for me.” Maryam Almyrisl (KSA)
“The Grant was invaluable in its support for the training camp of Maryam in Egypt, where she was exposed to a high performance training environment and friendly match experience with the Egyptian team” Hossam Elshobary, KSA PTT National Coach
In the Americas, Manuela Guapi Guzman (Women’s Class 3) from Colombia and Carlos Eduardo Freire de Moraes (Men’s Class 5) from Brazil used their grants for participating in the ITTF Fa20 Finland Para Open, and are planning to participate also in the upcoming ITTF Fa20 Copa Tango Para Open in Argentina from 6-8 October 2023, with a view towards the upcoming ITTF Para Panamerican Games 2023 in Santiago de Chile (CHI).
The next step in PTT Development for Asia and the Americas is the 2023 ITTF National Para Table Tennis (PTT) Training Camp Support initiative which is an opportunity for Member Associations to provide to the local Para players an opportunity to practice in a suitable accessible environment, while raising the level of playing and preparing for the forthcoming ITTF Asian Para Games and ITTF Para Panamerican Games 2023 . The initiative is designed to support the current plans for MAs to prepare their Para players for the qualifications of the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games.