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Sealy: Tour a boost to U-13s

Mike King

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Promising?table tennis junior players Stephen Payne and Akeem Lovell didn’t smash past all and sundry at this year’s Pan American Under-13 tournament, but they did earn rave reviews for the standard of play they exhibited.
Coach Carl Sealy said there were huge lessons to be learned from the one-week tour of Guatemala and the boys had already shown much improvement in their play since returning home a few days ago.
“It was a boost to all of us. The players learned a lot and I did too,” he said.
“The week was divided between the camp and the tournament. The camp only had specially invited players and Stephen was seeded two within the camp.
“I give them a point and a half on improvement since the tour and the ongoing Nationals [National Championships] is proof of that.
“Akeem has already started to make his mark in the B Class and looked good on Friday night,” the coach added.
“Only Saturday morning, Payne defeated Tryvonn Powlett from the Defence Force Programme in the Under-21 division. These boys are only 12 and are the future of our game.”
The tour was organised under the auspices of the International Table Tennis Federation Development Programme in conjunction with the Latin American Table Tennis Union. All players were between nine and 13.
Sealy, a winner of the Caribbean Junior title in 1971 and 1973 at age 13 and 15, said the tournament was boosted by the presence of Sweden’s Peter Karlsson, a former European champion, who conducted the sessions.
“Karlsson has a lot of pedigree. He was part of World Championship-winning Swedish teams in his day and is now the brand ambassador for Indian manufacturer Stag, who have taken over as  major sponsors for table tennis,” he said.
An agreement between the Table Tennis Federation?and the Latin American Table Tennis Union facilitates funding for one such high-level name to conduct a course each year.
Payne, a student at Queen’s College, made the last 16 of the tournament and put up a spirited fight against Argentina’s No. 1.
“In the team competition we came up against Argentina and Mexico. We didn’t win but Stephen played so well against the No. 1 from Argentina that he earned praise from everyone who saw the showdown,” Sealy said.
“He won the first game, was up 10-7 in the second and 11-10 in the third and faltered, but he could have won.
“Stephen lost three games to one against the Brazilian No. 2 in another close, tense match.
“Akeem is now showing improvement. This was a learning programme for both of them, especially Akeem.”
The coach said the tour helped him to identify flaws in the boys’ game.
“Guatemala was an important tour. All of the juniors out there looked sharp, sharp. I see where our boys’ weaknesses are.
“That’s the beauty of sending juniors to these kind of tournaments because, as a coach, you know what you have to do.”