Payne basking in silver glory
Proudly clutching the trophy he won for his second place finish in the boys’ Under-13 at the Caribbean Regional Table Tennis Federation’s Pre-Cadet Championship in the Dominican Republic, talented Fast Loopers player Stephen Payne returned with the other members of the Barbados contingent, Tuesday night.
The squad that also included Payne’s team mates Akeel Lovell and Joshua Walcott; team manager David Payne and coach Carl Sealy, received a warm welcome at the Grantley Adams International Airport from enthusiastic members of the table tennis community.
The welcoming party was headed by president of the Barbados Table Tennis Association (BTTA) Lieutenant Colonel Trevor Browne and included secretary Marguerita Felix.
National champion Trevor Farley, who is also involved in the coaching programme for juniors, coach David Harris and family members of all the players were also on hand to welcome the team home.
A somewhat bashful Payne spoke of having mixed feelings at various stages during the tournament in which Barbados failed to win a medal in the team events and doubles.
“I was fairly confident (during the singles) but when I knew I had to play Aaron [Wilson] in the semis I didn’t think I would win, but I did,” the soft spoken Payne told the media.
He also revealed the challenges he faced due to the immense crowd support from home players. It took the intervention of coach Sealy to mentally prepare the youngster to overcome that problem.
“Coach really motivated me to do my best,” Payne said. “I am happy that everyone is here now to support me. They could not be there when I played, but I am happy they are here now,” Payne said in appreciation of the turnout of players and officials.
Sealy expressed great pride at Payne’s performance but regretted the absence of another leading junior Anthonette Riley, who was unable to make the trip due to financial constraints.
“We could have done much better. If we had Anthonette there we would have won about three medals. I guarantee that with me in Anthonette’s corner she had a great chance of winning the singles and with Anthonette and Stephen in the mixed doubles I know that was a sure medal as well,” Sealy said.
He added that Payne went from strength to strength during the tournament. Payne’s outstanding performance in the team put him in good position to win his group. Having to meet the No. 1 seed in the semi-finals was a bit intimidating, but he devised a strategy to counter the problems encountered against Wilson who beat Payne 3-0 in the team event.
“Aaron likes the ball coming on to him so I told Stephen instead of blocking the ball off the bounce to hold back. He had Aaron feeling for the ball,” Sealy said.
According to Sealy, Wilson adjusted his game to counter Payne’s strategy but Payne eventually came to grips with the changes and prevailed in the end.
Payne’s dad David, who managed the team on the trip to the Dominican Republic, praised the hard work of the coaches who worked with his son.