HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA
Yukon and Newfoundland table tennis players will be fighting tooth and nail to finish ahead of each other in the singles competition at the Canada Winter Games in Halifax on Friday.
Proof could be seen in the few matches played so far in all three events: singles, doubles and team competitions.
The team event wrapped up Wednesday with Yukon in 10th ahead of Nunavut, but behind Newfoundland/Labrador in ninth.
“We’re coming out on the wrong side of the equation each time, which means we want revenge,” said Yukon head coach Kevin Murphy.
After failing to pick up a set against PEI and Quebec, Yukon made quick work of Nunavut, with Yukon No. 2 Ehsan Idrees winning 11-6, 11-6, 8-11, 11-8 and Yukon No. 1 Alex Zheng winning 5-11, 11-3, 11-3, 11-8, in a best-of-three matches format.
In the following crossover match against Saskatchewan, Team Yukon, which includes No. 3 Kyle Gonder, failed to pick up a set.
Taking on Newfoundland for ninth, Yukon lost in three matches but pushed the doubles to four sets. Also, in an earlier singles match on Wednesday – in the singles competition, not the team – Zheng pushed Newfoundland’s Nicholas Buckle to five sets. Later, with Idrees, went five sets with a Newfie team in the doubles competition.
“We had a few that we probably could have won, or done better in,” said Zheng, “but, all and all, it was a fun time playing all the matches.
“We got two sets off Alberta in doubles, so that’s something to be proud about.”
A change in the table tennis format at the Games has hurt the Yukon team’s chances this year. In the past, teams sent two players under 17 and two under 15. Now they only send three under 18.
“We have a fairly young team; our No. 1 player is 15,” said Murphy. “So we have some developmental years that we’re giving up to the other provinces.”
Idrees and Gonder are both just 13, with the later having traveled to only one other tournament in his playing career.
“This is a major step for him,” said Murphy. “He’s actually done really well. His eyes have been opened by this competition and he’s picking up a lot of moves and techniques to help him get better. He’s already done a loop (stroke) here, and he’s been blocking loops back, trying shots, and his technique is getting sharper.
“It’s harder (to improve) back in Whitehorse where you don’t have to work as hard to win a point and your technique can be really suspect sometimes because the other player is not at your level. Whereas here you have to make no mistakes.”
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