By Ian Marshall
Also add to the equation that you had to postpone the tournament, which was scheduled to take place in May 2020, to April 2021, and subsequently postpone it again, in this case to June 2021, due to government regulations of lockdown, a more demotivating situation. Not for Slovenia, on the contrary, a major challenge!
The Slovenian National Paralympic Committee (CNP) and the Slovenian Table Tennis Association (STTA) responded to all requests and came out with flying colors; the World Paralympic Qualifying Tournament organized in Lasko, a spa town located in the east of the country, from Thursday 3rd to Saturday 5e June turned out to be a flawless success.
Petra Sörling, Executive Vice President in charge of Para Table Tennis, represented the ITTF Executive Committee at the event:
I would like to thank the Slovenian AFN and STTA for organizing the event under unprecedented circumstances. Not only did it end “without Covid”, but more importantly, provided an exceptional opportunity for the Para Table Tennis family to reunite again, fifteen months later.
From left to right, Tomas Varga, ITTF Technical Delegate, HE Hiromichi Matsushima, Japanese Ambassador to Slovenia, Petra Sörling, ITTF Executive Vice President, Gorazd Vecko, ITTF Para TT Committee, Member, Pablo Perez, ITTF Para TT Manager, Tina Crotta, President of ITTF Para TT, Damijan Lazar, President of the Slovenian APN, Ratko Kovacic, President of the Croatian AFN and Kensuke Tsuchiya, President of Toyota Adria.
Indeed, since 2004, Slovenia has regularly hosted a para table tennis event on the ITTF calendar, which was only interrupted in 2020 due to the pandemic. On this occasion, the traditional International Open was replaced by the very first time such a final qualifying tournament for the Paralympic Games had taken place; quite simply, there could not have been a better choice of places.
Gorazd Vecko, a volunteer with the ITTF Para Table Tennis Committee and also UK Para Table Tennis Performance Director, described his emotions:
I got goosebumps when I saw a hall full of athletes playing games again for the first time after a year and a half; all the players had a smile on their face!
For the organizing committee, it was a rather difficult task, not only a tournament of great importance, but also a tournament which involved 423 participants from 47 different National Paralympic Committees, including more than 200 players participating in 21 events.
Attention to detail, as never before, 1,110 Covid-19 tests were organized, all of them were negative; nurses and medical staff were present at the hotel 24 hours a day.
In addition, a total of 10 tables were broadcast live on YouTube, and to also allow participants to follow the matches, the official hotel also displayed the ten tables in the respective 10 channels on their video surveillance. Also a first time in Slovenia.
The efforts made have produced some pretty astonishing numbers on YouTube. The tournament recorded a total of 153,586 views, with over 13,000 hours of viewing!
The streaming of the 10 tables generated more than 150,000 views during the global qualifying tournament
Japan recorded the most views in terms of country, with 13,415, followed by Denmark, with 10,254, the Republic of Korea, with 8,927, France, with 8,883, and Brazil, with 8. 414.
Finally, the event was played on San-Ei tables and with DHS balls, trying to mimic the conditions of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games as much as possible.
The same tables and balls from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games were used at Lasko
Quite simply an exceptional achievement; a huge success thanks to a group of dedicated staff, many volunteers, all contributing to an unforgettable event, one which has maintained the traditions of Slovenia, traditions of excellence.
Speaking about the volunteers, ITTF Para Table Tennis Manager Pablo Perez said:
We counted on the invaluable supervision of Slovak Tomas Varga as Technical Delegate, making a perfect tandem with Greece’s Tina Crotta as Referee. They didn’t miss the opportunity to make history at the first Para qualifying event held in a place they can handle blindfolded. They had a team of three assistant referees and 28 domestic and foreign referees, including twelve Blue Badges, which ensured the level of refereeing that players will find in Tokyo.
Qualifications – Men
MS1: Dmitry Lavrov (Russia) MS2: Thirayu Chueawong (Thailand) MS3: Vladimir Toporkov (Russia) MS4: Boris Travincek (Slovakia) MS5: Jack Spivey-Hunter (Great Britain) MS6: Matteo Parenzan (Italy) MS7: Maksym Chudzicki (Poland) MS8: Clément Berthier (France) MS9: Ivan Main (Ukraine) MS10: Gilles de la Bourdonnaye (France) MS11: Koya Kato (Japan)
Qualifications – Women
WS1 / 2: Aino Tapola (Finland) WS3: Nergiz Altintas (Turkey) WS4: Sue Gilroy (Great Britain) WS5: Panwas Sringam (Thailand) WS6: Moon Sungkeum (Republic of Korea) WS7: Nora Korneliussen (Norway) WS8: Zsofia Arloy (Hungary) WS9: Jennyfer Marques (Brazil) WS10: Merve Demir (Turkey) WS11: Lea Ferney (France)