Dawson City’s Emily Gaw is sort of obliged to play the Yukon Table Tennis Championships again next year.
She has titles to defend and it’s only fair that others get a shot at playing one of the rising stars of the Yukon table tennis world.
The 13-year-old won three titles at the Yukon championships over the weekend at Whitehorse Elementary School. It was only her first time competing at the event.
“I’m pretty excited right now and I’m just feeling happy,” said Gaw.
“I’m happy we got to come down. I live in Dawson, so I don’t go to very many tournaments and this was one of my first ones besides Arctic Winter Games.”
Gaw claimed titles in girls singles, the high school girls team event – with a fellow Dawsonite – and, perhaps most impressive, open women’s singles.
She has come a long way in a short time.
“(I’ve been playing) about a year competitively, but we had a table before so I would just go out and play for fun,” said Gaw.
Gaw downed two past champs to take the title in women’s singles.
She beat 2012 champ Xiu Mei Zhang in the semifinal, coming back from down two sets to win in five. Gaw then topped 2014 champ Myrna Bruns 12-14, 11-7, 11-7, 11-3 in the final on Sunday.
“I just took my time. Every time I went to serve I took a deep breath and just tried to focus,” said Gaw. “That’s what my dad (Irwin) told me to do. Every time I saw him he was like ‘calm down.’”
Zhang and 12-time champ Edna Knight tied for third, deciding to forego a bronze match.
Gaw captured the girls 12-14 singles title in round robin play on Saturday. Whitehorse’s Grace-Anne Janssens went undefeated in the round robin to take the girls 15-17 title as the only player in the four-person competition in that age group.
Gaw went 2-1 in the round robin for the 12-14 title, ahead of fellow Dawsonite Kate Crocker in second and Ming Huong in third.
“I played Grace-Anne and that was hard. All my games were pretty close,” said Gaw.
Gaw and Crocker won three straight match-ups in the high school girls competition – comprised of singles and doubles play – for first.
Janssens and Ashley Harris placed second with two wins and Kelcy Armstrong and Arya Khodakarami placed third.
“It’s really exciting to be able to come and even win some games,” said Crocker. “In Dawson we’re doing it on our own, so it’s fun. We’re a bit of the underdogs, so it’s fun to come and know we’re doing well, and know we should keep on practicing.”
Gaw and Crocker both represented Yukon at the Arctic Winter Games this past March in Greenland, helping the juvenile squad take bronze in the team event. Gaw also made the semifinal of juvenile girls singles at the Games.
There were some very familiar faces in the men’s singles final as Whitehorse players Ryan Bachli and Kevin Murphy met a ninth consecutive year.
Bachli, 24, won his fourth title with an 11-4, 11-4, 13-15, 11-3 win over Murphy, who is still recovering from hip replacement surgery in December.
“I was so surprised that Kevin actually got to the final,” said Bachli. “It’s like a tradition, so he had to get there.
“The only reason I won was because he’s wounded … You want to get it (the title) when he’s at his best.”
Bachli, who last won the title in 2014, only dropped two sets – one to Daniel Li and one to Murphy in the final – en route to the title.
“I felt sorry for him, I didn’t want to win it three straight,” joked Bachli. “I had to give him something.”
Murphy, 58, beat Bachli for his 20th Yukon men’s singles title last year. The long-time coach was inducted into the Sport Yukon Hall of Fame earlier this year.
“The last four weeks I’ve been playing doubles and today was my first time playing singles (since the surgery),” said Murphy. “I’ve been rehabbing the hip and a back problem, and I had a motor vehicle (accident) that caused some difficulties as well. So I’ve been working real hard to get back into playing shape, but it’s taking a really long time to get there and it doesn’t help the older I get.
“But I really wanted to play; I wanted to defend my title. I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it to the final.”
Mark Preston took third with a four-set win over Daniel Li.
Bachli left with two titles on Sunday. He and Mehrnoush Dahdavi defeated Murphy and Taras Yurkin 11-9, 12-14, 11-8 in the men’s doubles final. Preston and Li took third with a straight-set win over Dawson juniors Ethan Gaw and Sam Crocker in the bronze match.
Janssens and Knight went undefeated in three matches to clinch the women’s doubles title. Zhang and Carmen Dubois took second ahead of Emily Gaw and Kate Crocker in third.
Arcel Siosan, who won the junior men’s singles last year, took the boys 15-17 singles title with three straight round-robin wins. Ethan and Sam placed second and third, respectively. Siosan, Ethan and Sam also played for Yukon at the Arctic Games in Greenland.
Ethan and Sam brought another title to Dawson, taking the high school boys team title with three round-robin wins. Siosan and Max Zimmerman placed second. Zach Zimmerman and Thomas Moore took third.
Zach won three straight in a round robin for first in boys 12-14 singles. Simon Lauer placed second and Max third.
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