Natasha Carr-Harris reports on the Canada Hopes Challenge 

Former National Junior Team athlete Natasha Carr-Harris has agreed to write a number of articles for ttcan.ca. Her first assignment was the National Hopes Challenge in Drummondville, QC on the occasion of the Butterfly Canada Cup Finals. Here is her report:

During the second weekend of January, I had the pleasure of attending the 2016 Canada Cup tournament in Drummondville, Quebec. Now it’s been a good couple of years since I’ve played in the Hopes category, which is for young table tennis players 12 years of age and under. Watching these young athletes do duel on the courts reminded me of the good old years, when competition was daunting and the prospect of winning was the most thrilling thing in my eyes.

I first spoke to 10 year old Raymond Zeng from Quebec who laughingly remarked that at 5 and a half, he was at the debut of his table tennis career and had to use a stool in order to see over the table. Now 5 years later and he’s zipping across the length of the table at an incredible speed as he punches the ball from one corner to the next.



Raymond Zeng, Québec (Photography by www.quebec-photo.ca)
 
And there’s certainly no shortage of ambition either. Goals are raised at a high bar. 11 year old Daisy Zhang from Alberta informed me of formidable plans of someday representing the country internationally.



Daisy Zhang, Alberta (Photography by www.quebec-photo.ca)

Being mindful of the stress that comes with competition, I asked the interviewees if they ever felt overwhelmed with it all. “Despite the pressure, I still have a lot of fun”, says 11 year 
old Katherine Morin from Quebec cheerfully. Her response was mirrored by the other two players. At such a young age, these players are not only fast and powerful, but also impressively mentally strong.



Katherine Morin, Québec (Photography by Thor)

I was impressed with the skill displayed in the Hopes category, but their physical stamina and dexterity is not the most admirable thing about these children. It is most certainly their alacrity in the face of competition and drive for perseverance that truly call for the title of “athlete”.

So best of luck to the Hopes athletes and their future endeavors. The top 4 Hopes finishers will qualify for the North American Hopes Challenge in Markham, Ontario and the winners from there will be invited to the World Hopes Challenge in Qatar.

These kids are most definitely the future of Canadian table tennis, so keep an eye out.