The Zimbabwe Table Tennis Union (ZTTU) has begun preparations to ensure that the country qualifies for the 2023 World Table Tennis Championships, which are set to be staged for the first time in South Africa.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
Table tennis activity has resumed in the country following a lengthy Covid-19-induced break that affected a lot of the union’s key plans for the year.
And after South Africa earned the right to host the next world championships in September, ZTTU is already looking to make the most of it.
“The World Cup being hosted in our region comes as an advantage in that budgets will be manageable if we make it there. Most importantly, we also stand a big chance in the qualifiers to play at this global stage,” ZTTU president Noah Ferenando said.
“Our officials would also get a chance of officiating at a bigger stage. We have a plan of carrying a number of junior players for them to witness and appreciate the game at this level,” he added.
ZTTU have already set in motion plans to ensure Zimbabwe will be part of the global competition.
“The road to World Championships starts now. Our preparations need to be spot-on because 2023 is just but around the corner. We are busy constructing a business plan that would help unlock investment in the team so that our preparations would be wholesome.
“The idea is to infuse science-based approaches in our training particularly looking at psychology, nutrition, testing and measurement to only mention but a few. We have already had an experiment with the Long Athlete Development Programme, which saw a lot of youngsters making it on the national ranking,” Ferenando said.
ZTTU had a number of planned activities scheduled for the year, which had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The junior team was set to go for World Junior Championships qualifiers at the end of March in Namibia, but out of 11 countries only South Africa and the hosts Namibia attended the qualifiers.
In December the senior team is supposed to travel to Botswana for the regional championships, which are also qualifiers for the Africa Top 16 Championships, but the trip currently hangs in the balance.
One of the biggest local events, the Chinese Ambassador Cup which pits Zimbabwe against China held annually in September, was cancelled.
The plan made by the Chinese community in the country to send young Zimbabwean players to go and camp in China in preparation for the World Junior Championships was also put on hold.
But the sport is slowly returning.
“Following careful consideration, we have applied to the (Sports) ministry to resume table tennis activities. We started training in provincial centres and we had to restrict athletes from inter-provincial training sessions.
“We have also received a great deal of help from the Chinese community in Zimbabwe, which also provided training venues for players in Harare province,” Ferenando said.
According to Ferenando, the Mashonaland East training venue, Old Windsor School, has opened its doors to ranked players only while Manicaland province has also started their training at Mutare Girls’ High School.
Bulawayo province has started training at DRI Hall also under strict regulations to curb the spread of the coronavirus and ensure the safety of athletes.
“We are in the process of planning for the Top 16 National Championships coming mid-
December 2020 so as to keep our national team in shape ahead of the World Championships ranking build-up,” Ferenando said.
“We have also managed to conduct eight different national courses in both umpiring and coaching with Bulawayo and Midlands topping the list of participants in the virtual courses. These courses have come at the right time as they have boosted the numbers of officials on the ZTTU database.”