VIDEO: First Plymouth table tennis Junior Open a smashing hit
AMBITIOUS city table tennis club Woolwell have hailed their first-ever junior open tournament a success.
The tournament was held at the club's new table tennis facility at Eggbuckland Community College.
It gave local junior players the chance to compete against opponents from across the country in the first national event of the new table tennis season.
Club spokesman and coach Kevin Buddell said the event attracted players hoping to earn ranking points.
He said: "Despite the time of year, the event was extremely well supported.
"Some very experienced players entered the tournament with high expectations to earn crucial England ranking points early in the new table tennis season."
The entry list included players as young as eight years old competing in a tournament for the first time.
The event was divided into four age groups split between boys and girls in under-11, 13, 15 and 18 age groups.
The tournament was also the culmination of the first-ever residential table tennis training camp held in Plymouth at the new facility, which was organised by Plymouth based ETTA regional coach Paul Whiting, assisted by local coaches Kevin Buddell, Darren Reed and Mike Hugh.
Sparring was also on offer with Andy Millman and Eric Cheng assisting.
More than 20 local players of all age groups took part in the three-day camp for up to six hours a day.
Nearly all the titles were won by players who attended.
The most notable successes were Stanley Shilton winning the under-11 age group and local player Ben Edmunds winning his first open title in the boys' under-13 age group.
Okehampton's Emily Haskell took the under-13 girls' title, athough she was pushed all the way by Plymouth's Francesca Maestri in earlier rounds.
The under-13 girls' runner-up was Haskell's training partner, Zoe Bennett.
The under-15 age groups saw Carl Baldry from Cornwall upset the seeding by beating Ed Haskell in the boys' final and Holly Johns taking the girls' title by beating Emily Haskell in the final.
The under-18 boys' and girls' events proved to be the strongest, with Plymouth's Ollie Buddell and Torbay's Jaz Johns both seeded number one, challenged by a group containing Saltash's England ranked number 22 girl Beth Wilson, Nat Sheehan, Jordan Bone, Ed and George Haskell, Carl Baldry and Cornishman Locryn Van der Velde.
Beth Wilson took on Johns in a high-quality final, but the England number nine girl took the title.
Nat Sheehan reached the final by beating Plymouth's Jordan Bone in a highly entertaining defence versus attack semi-final.
In the other semi-final, Buddell, in his final junior year, overcame Ed Haskell.
In another high quality final Buddell proved too strong for Sheehan to take the title.
CITY IN RACE TO BECOME CENTRE FOR THE SPORT
PLYMOUTH is on the verge of becoming one of four high-performance centres in England.
The game's ruling body, the English Table Tennis Association (ETTA) and Sport England are due to announce within the next 48 hours where the centres will be located.
It is expected that Plymouth, where Woolwell Table Tennis Club have built a dedicated table tennis centre, will be one of them.
The centre at Eggbuckland Community College was built with the help of ETTA cash.
Club spokesman and coach Kevin Buddell said the fact Plymouth was being considered was 'testament to all of the hard work and investment made at the college'.
He said the Eggbuckland centre, which has been built with the backing of the community college, was 'one of four locations nationally that fitted rigorous selection criteria'.
Buddell said the plan was to open and support a new pilot project of focussed grass roots and high performance development centres.
He said: "The new facility at Eggbuckland Community College has been shortlisted as one of these possible locations, with the final announcement due within the next few days.
"The ETTA and Sport England following a recent visit were not only impressed by the new facility in Plymouth, but highlighted all of the recent hard work carried out by all the local clubs and the volunteers working in table tennis in the Plymouth area."
Sport England are working with the ETTA to give table tennis an increased profile and hopefully attract more players.
The aim is to produce players of a high standard to challenge for local, national and international titles in years to come.
Buddell said: "If the ambitious project does come to Plymouth it would be one of the most significant investments in table tennis ever made in the city."
Regional coach Paul Whiting held a three-day residential coaching session at the centre before last weekend's junior open.
He said the success of the players who took part in the sessions was a result of their hard work, with them training for more than six hours a day.
Whiting added: "Their excellent performances simply would not have been possible without the building of the facility, which is now challenging to become one of the very best table tennis facilities in the country."
Meanwhile, coaches stressed confirmation as a national centre would not affect new child and adult coaching sessions being planned from September 1, which will be open to all ages and standards.
Woolwell are holding open days at Eggbuckland Community College every Sunday in August or September between 2pm and 3pm.
They can also call Buddell on 07836 550308 or email email@example.com for more details.
All table tennis equipment can be supplied free of charge for players new to the sport.