Despite having brought just two table tennis teams to compete against 10 Whitehorse teams, the Alaskans did pretty well.
Competing in the second annual Alaska-Yukon Challenge held over the weekend at Whitehorse Elementary, visiting Alaskans took top honours in the novice team event while Yukoners won the open team event.
The tournament also featured an individual event, in which, by chance, the final four matches were between Yukoners and Alaskans.
“There are a lot of good players over here in the Yukon,” said Diann Darnell who played for the Alaskan team, Quick Silver, which finished third in the open team event. “And this is a great tournament.”
The Challenge, which features novice and open divisions in both team and individual categories, operates under a handicap system that takes into account each player’s rating points accumulated in league and tournament play. So with 50 rating points equallimg one game point, a player with 200 more points than his/her competitor would begin at minus four at the start of each set.
In the open team event, the Unstoppables, consisting of Yukoners Kevin Murphy and Ryan Bachli, lived up to their name going undefeated and taking first. Finishing in second were Yukoners Malkolm Boothroyd and Ken Madsen under the name Birdmen, followed by Quick Silver, which consisted of Bill Chen and Dave DeMay.
“It’s nice to have a handicap tournament,” said Boothroyd. “It gives people who don’t always win a chance to go further.”
In the novice team event Alaska’s Flashers—sans trench coats—made up by Marcus Mager and Jerry Smith, took the title. Xui Mei Zhang and Edna Knight, making the Yukon team East-West, finished second followed by Jordi Ribera and Angelo Vaphers making up the Yukon team Up and Comers.
Boothroyd also found success in open singles, defeating DeMay 8-11, 11-7, 12-10, 12-10 in the finals.
“I felt lucky just to be in the match because Malkolm had already beaten me yesterday and already beaten me badly this morning,” said DeMay, who, under the handicap rules, started each set down minus seven. “He’s a young and upcoming player, so this will probably be the last time I’m close to him.”
“I was struggling to get his serve back,” said Boothroyd. “As a result all the sets were really close. Once I got the serve back, we were pretty well matched.
“For many of my games against the Alaskans, I dropped the first one or two sets and then figured out what to do in the last few.”
Finishing third was Murphy, defeating Chen 7-11, 11-8, 9-11, 12-10, 11-5, after having lost their first two encounters in the round-robin section of the tournament. According to Murphy, who started each set with a one-point advantage, a change in equipment may have made the difference.
“As I got to know his game, I realized I should be using a different racquet against him to neutralize one aspect of his game that was really bothering me,” said Murphy. “I was having trouble with his service reception and putting it back in such a way that it neutralizes his offence a bit. So I needed a harder hitting racquet to pick up the speed.”
Tied 5-5 in the fifth and deciding set, Murphy kept his focus to win the final six points.
Coming out on top in the novice singles was Mager, who defeated Rebecca Johnson 11-6, 11-6, 11-5 in the finals.
“I’ve been playing on and off for three years and really only play at break time at work,” said Johnson, who sporadically attends Whitehorse Table Tennis Club events.
“He found my weaknesses and kept playing with them,” said Johnson, of the finals.
Johnson, who is pregnant, joked that it may have provided her with a bit of an advantage.
“I have the added advantage of having two people on my side,” said Johnson. “It might also throw off mind games: the opponent has to be nice to me.”
Finishing third in the novice division was Alaska’s Jerry Smith, who defeated Ribera 11-6, 11-8, 11-2.
Next year’s Challenge will be held in Anchorage, Alaska. However, to make travel easier, the event will likely be moved to spring.
“We’re going to move this tournament to April or May,” said Dave Stockdale, the Challenge’s head referee. “I think more people will come then—we’ll get more Alaskan participants. And it’s better for us.”
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