In a reversal of fortunes, Greenland and Yamal, Russia, tiny contingents from faraway lands, have made a name for themselves with a paddle and a ball.
“Greenland is definitely the strongest team to beat in the junior division,” said Yukon coach Kevin Murphy on Wednesday at Redoubt Elementary School in Soldonta, where the table tennis tournament is underway. “And Yamal, in the younger juvenile division is very strong as well.”
Had the Russians brought their juniors, they would have likely swept gold across the board, but lack of funding meant they could only bring half of a team.
“It’s basically a two-horse race, with any leftover medals being fought for by Alaska, Yukon and Nunavut,” said Murphy.
The official doubles tournament finished up on Tuesday, with Yukon’s Karlie Knight and Zarah Bachli nabbing silver in the junior female division.
Claire Abbott and Jada Powell made it to the podium as well, taking bronze in the juvenile female doubles.
Team Yukon has no junior boys, so two of the four males had to play up a level. Without knowing that Yamal had no juniors coming to the Games. Murphy chose to keep his stronger boys, Ryan Bachli and Malkolm Boothroyd, in the juvenile division, to give them a better chance of medalling. It was a strategic decision that may have backfired.
The boys would likely have finished with silver in the less challenging junior division, but they lost their juvenile bronze medal match to Alaska by three points. “It was so close,” said Boothroyd.
Logan Gray and Ben Barrett-Forrest ended up with a bronze in the junior boys doubles.
Murphy was pleased to see the Yukon team’s performance against the Russians.
In preliminary singles action earlier in the week, Ryan Bachli’s surprised his Russian opponent with some big loops (power top spin shots), although he did not win.
“Ryan is an eager student of the game, he wants to learn the power strokes, and he wants to play with the big guns of the game,” said Murphy. “In the last month, he’s really developed his game, he’s peaking at the right time.”
In the end, Zara Bachli was the only Yukoner to make it out of the preliminary singles rounds. She lost in the semifinals to Hansigne Petersen of Greenland.
“I was really impressed with Zara,” said teammate Claire Abbott. “The way she stayed calm, after losing a point, and the way she just kept working hard.”
Bachli will face Nunavut’s Pia Tikivik for the bronze.