The best paddle-wielder in the Yukon this year is an Alaskan.
Armed with a old fashioned paddle and a patient, no-frills approach, Eagle River’s Andy Hutzel took on all comers at the Yukon Table Tennis Championships on the weekend.
In Sunday’s open-singles final at Whitehorse Elementary School, Hutzel came up against Whitehorse’s Kevin Murphy, another seasoned veteran with decades of competitive experience.
Defending champ Murphy couldn’t solve Hutzel’s shots — which he likened to knuckleballs coming across the table.
“Some of those shots defied the laws of physics,” said Murphy after losing the match.
Hutzel’s defensive style and spin control threw Murphy off his game.
“That old style really neutralizes the spin on the ball,” said Murphy. “I hit it thinking the spin was going one way, but it would be the opposite, and I’d put it into the bottom of the net like I’m some sort of rookie.”
Murphy and third-place finisher Ryan Bachli use a more modern, looping style — which can give the ball major spin and speed as well, but is more risky.
Players get further back from the table, and end up taking more steps to get into forehand looping position.
Murphy said the unpredictable spin on Hutzel’s returns kept him glued to the middle of the table, preventing effective use of the looping style.
Hutzel never adopted the new approach — in fact, he quit the sport in 1975, and didn’t pick it up again until 30 years later.
When he started competing again, his archaic style befuddled the wide-open players, and he’s taken it all the way to the US Open (which he’s planning to do again this year, in Las Vegas).
“I think it’s really funny, it flusters a lot of people,” he said, with a grin. “It’s the classic, defensive style, but nobody uses it anymore.” He praised both Murphy’s skills and Bachli’s, as well.
“That Ryan is a great player — when he’s on, that ball really goes.”
After winning the open singles, Hutzel and his German partner Thomas Erbs started to show their fatigue in the doubles event, finishing fourth after losing to Bachli and Ben Barrett-Forrest.
Technically, Murphy remains Yukon champion with his silver-medal performance, and he’s heading to Vancouver in two weeks for the Western Canadian Open Table Tennis Championships, along with Ryan and Zara Bachli, Claire Abbott, Anna Smith and Mernoush Mahdavi.
The open competition format at Westerns will put Yukon’s juniors up against the best in the west, and there will also B and C divisions for less competitive players.
And players with ratings can compete in their categories as well.
Ryan Bachli won the last rated tournament he entered in Richmond in February, in the under-1000 division, so Murphy, who is also coach of the Yukon team, is expecting Bachli to do well.
Edna Knight — gold
(Yukon women’s champion
for ninth time)
Myrna Bruns — silver
Zara Bachli — bronze
Sue Mei Zhang — fourth
Andy Hutzel — gold
Kevin Murphy — silver
Ryan Bachli — bronze
Mernoush Mahdavi — fourth
Walker Ewing — gold
Kieran Halliday — silver
Lucy Liu — bronze
Yeu Fang Sharma — fourth
Sharma — gold
Bachli — silver
Zara Bachli/Edna Knight —
Andy Hutzel/Thomas Erbs —
Andy Hutzel/Thomas Erbs —
Ryan Bachli/David Zheng —
Sue Mei Zhang/Ben Barrett-
Forrest — fourth