A Yellowknife player practices her returns during a training session. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Table Tennis North comes to town for training

Yukon and N.W.T. teams train together for Canada Winter Games

Table Tennis Yukon hosted Table Tennis North for a weekend of training at Whitehorse Elementary School from Jan. 4 to 6 as part of the preparations for the upcoming Canada Winter Games next month in Red Deer, Alta.

Kevin Murphy, president of Table Tennis Yukon and coach of the CWG team, said the training weekend was a way for the sport governing bodies in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories to increase cooperation.

“The coach and main driver of Table Tennis North … is Thorsten Gohl and his idea has been for a while that the North should combine, not only in terms of training for table tennis, but in terms of providing a team at competitions — whether it is at a national (championship) event or even, if there was a lack of personnel, a combined territories team that could attend Canada Winter Games or something along those lines,” said Murphy.

This year, all three territories are fielding full teams for the CWG, but table tennis participation can vary year to year — “It’s just one of those sports that you have to be very active at the grassroots level to get more and more kids coming out,” said Murphy — so Murphy originally invited Gohl to Whitehorse to work with Team Yukon.

Gohl, Murphy said, felt it was a good opportunity to expose his own players to a new training environment, so he brought seven players as well as an official in training.

“We have a qualified national umpire here,” said Murphy. “So he did the training for that official using some of the matches that were played here as part of our training exercise to train her.”

Murphy said that while the table tennis was just for training, some new faces helped keep the competitive juices flowing.

“The upshot of it was that basically with more people in the club — more kids … their age and … all going to the CWG — they were concentrating more,” said Murphy. “They were all working quite had to make sure that it might be a friendly competition, but Yukon was going to win or (N.W.T.) was going to win. It heightened the quality of the training, which was quite good for the kids.”

While the focus was decidedly on table tennis, Murphy said the two teams still found some time to relax and show off the best the area has to offer.

The teams both spent some time hanging out at the Takhini hot springs and posed for some photos at the SS Klondike.

Now, the team is focused squarely on the CWG next month, though the team has been selected since October.

“The kids are all training about three days a week roughly,” said Murphy. “They’re all brand new to competing in the (CWG) but there are three on the team that were at the last Arctic Winter Games, so they have good competitive experience.”

Murphy said that after the CWG, Gohl will be back in the Yukon to help Murphy with training and demonstrations at local elementary schools in the lead up to an elementary school table tennis tournament tentatively scheduled for April.

“We’ll be out there and hopefully the tournament comes off and we can identify some new talent for the Arctic Winter Games down the road, because we’ve got 2020 down the road here,” said Murphy.

The Canada Winter Games are Feb. 15 to March 3 in Red Deer, Alta., and include 21 different sports.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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