While the contingent may not have returned from Mexico with gold medallions, the team of 5 certainly returned with valuable lessons learnt in the sport of international table tennis.
The ITTF-Latin American Championships, the highest level of senior table tennis competitions in the Latin America and Caribbean region witnessed a youthful inexperienced team full with vigor, dedication and determination, intended to leave a mark on the hearts of all table tennis enthusiast.
The first at such international event, the Saint Kitts and Nevis team played an estimated 50 hours of table tennis over two weeks competing against regional counterparts such as Barbados, Puerto Rico, St Vincent and Cuba and subsequently against Latin American opposition of the likes of Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Columbia.
Unsuccessful with qualification for the PanAm Games, following defeats to Cuba and Barbados, the team objective changed towards having a total immersion into international table tennis training and competition. Coach Calvin Lake summed up the experience, “competing at the highest level in table tennis requires specialized training at an early age to acquire sound technical skills. During the tournament our technical errors cost us many games and as a result, going forward there has to be a focus on year round training for national athletes, developing the Under 10 and Under 12 players with sound technical skills and a return to the fundamentals for table tennis.”
He noted that “the team evolved during the life of the tourney, this exposure of competitive play allowed the athletes to develop mental toughness and greater tactical awareness. However, with the correction of simple technical errors through continuous training and competition participation, the current focus by the SKNOC and SKNTTA on exposing the young talents of the Federation, I would say the future augurs well for table tennis.”
Angelisa Freeman, the lone female of the group also shared her experience, “more training is needed to improve certain techniques and strokes. As players we have to develop the determination and motivation not to give up or break down during the game. We also noticed that more matches are needed to build our confidence. For all the young players aspiring to play table tennis, the love and determination for the sport will take you anywhere in the world.”
The team display did earn Saint Kitts the attention of the Dominican Republic and the Columbian Table Tennis contingents.
Both entities through discussions with Kevin Hope, the team manager resulted in gentlemen’s agreements for sporting and cultural exchanges. These two stalwarts in Latin American and the Caribbean Table Tennis Union (LATTU) in the forms of signed MOUs agreed to assist the SKNTTA with the development of their junior athletes ages 10 to 18 years through annual overseas training camps at their National Training Centers and study visits for table tennis coaches and administrators to observe the best practices in developing junior athletes and hosting tournaments.