commitment . determination . success
Important lesson for Team Canada
Vancouver, September 2, 2013 – The week ended with the Junior Boys Finals between the top two junior boys from Taipei. Canada’s #1 Hongtao Chen had an impressive run to the semi-finals beating Taipei’s #3 Chia-Hung Sun in the quarters. However, in the semis it was game-over for Hongtao against Taipei’s Tai-Wei Wang.
Earlier in the week, Chen had an impressive showing at the North American Championships Junior and Senior Singles. He dominated the Junior Singles and had to concede only to North America’s and Canada’s #1 Zhen Wang in the Men’s Singles. Zhen Wang won the North American Men’s titles after a spectacular display of technique and athletics in the finals.
The Canadian Women’s Team recorded a sensational 3-0 win over Team USA. Women’s team National Team coach took a gamble with the order of play, pitting Canada’s #1 Mo Zhang against the higher ranked US #1 in the first match. Zhang promptly rewarded the coach’s confidence in her and defeated the American by a score of 3-2. Leading 1-0, Canada sent 17 year old Anqi Luo into the court against a higher ranked Erica Wu (US). Luo showed fine form and extended the Canadian lead to 2-0.  In the third match of the fixture Anqi Luo and Michelle Liaw faced Ariel Hsing and Prachi Jha – the Canadian doubles completed another upset and to the delight of the crowd complete the 3-0 upset and claimed the continental title.
The Junior Girls team faced off against Team USA and had to concede superiority to them (0-3). The Junior Boys Team failed to qualify for the World Junior Championships losing 3-0 to Team USA.
Without Canada’s top three men (Wang and Chen face eligibility issues and Andre Ho complained of back pain) the Canadian Men’s Team went into the match with their second guard and were no match for the Americans. As in the women’s match, the encounter ended 3-0, this time for the Americans.
Full results for the ITTF North American Championships are at
At the Canadian Junior Open, the Junior Boys team faced a tough challenge from Team USA, with an upset win by 13-year old Kanak Jha over Hongtao Chen. Under the calm direction of one of Canada’s young coaches working at this event, Maxime Surprenant, James Pintea turned in a strong performance and won two points for the Canadian team. In the quarter-finals, however, Team Taipei proved too strong and Canada had to surrender its medal hopes.
The Cadet team competition produced some additional success for the Canadian teams. Canada’s top girls team – Jiabao Liu and Cherry Zheng – won bronze as did the boys team (Jeremy Hazin and Moxi Guo): the Canadians lost a tough match to Singapore B with Jeremy Hazin losing the final match 2-3 (9-11 in the fifth); the final score was 3-2 for Singapore B.
Anqi Luo drew a bad lot in the Junior Girls event. After winning her round-robin matches convincingly, she faced Japan’s defensive artist Seira Ushijima, the eventual winner of the tournament, and had to concede the match with little opposition.
Canada’s cadet girl champion Jiabao Liu (ON) faced off against the US’s defender Angela Guan in the quarter-finals. Jiabao started well and started off to a 2-0 lead (11-7, 11-3). Then, instead of continuing her strategy and waiting for her opportunity to score, the young Canadian saw a possible upset win and wanted to finish the match quickly. This played into the game of Guan who, started to score more and more by changing her defensive spin. Guan would go on and win the match 3-2 securing a podium finish.
On the boys’ side the only Canadians in the quarters were Xuebo Li (ON) and the much improved Michale Luo (BC). Xuebo advance to the semis with a win over Arash Shah (US) while Michael Luo lost in a close match against Kunal Chodri (1-3), who later defeat Xuebo Li (3-0) for a place in the finals.
In the Junior Boys, the lone Canadian in the quarter finals was Hongtao Chen (ON). He faced a difficult task against Taipei’s Chia Hung Sun, survived a few tense moments and emerged a winner by a score of 4-1. In the semis the Canadian played too passively opening the door to the finals for the aggressive Taiwanese.
The finals became an exclusive Taiwanese affair with Heng Wei Yang prevailing 4-2 in an exciting match filled with speed and spin rallies.
From a Canadian perspective, the lengthy preparation in China (prior to the competition) certainly paid off. While major improvements take time, the players returning from the camp in China certainly showed some impressive improvements.
Since this is one of the few international competitions to which young Canadians have access, it is an important opportunity for coaches and players to compete and learn in a high-level international competition.