Team Yukon will have no gaps in its table tennis roster come March’s 2012 Arctic Winter Games when Whitehorse hosts for a sixth time.
Unlike at the last two major Games, the 2011 Canada Winter Games and the 2010 Arctic Winter Games, the territory will have female table tennis players.
Four girls and seven boys, including one from Dawson, came out to Table Tennis Yukon’s trials for the Arctic Games on Sunday at Whitehorse Elementary.
That was enough to fill all eight spots and have two alternates for the boys.
“That is a welcome relief to (Table Tennis Yukon president) Dave Stockdale and myself,” said Yukon head coach Kevin Murphy. “We had the turnout for the girls and it was great to see.”
Selected to play for the Yukon on the female roster are Sana Syed, sister to two former Team Yukon players, and Grace-Anne Janssen in the juvenile category. Chosen for the junior division are Alysha Gullison and Whitney Musil.
“They are all in the juvenile category, so the two top girls are most likely going to be in the juveniles and the other two girls will probably be moved up to the junior age category,” said Murphy. “So (two of them) will be competing in the junior age category, but that’s all right – it’s good experience for them.”
The last major Games that Yukon female players attended was the 2008 Arctic Games in Yellowknife with a full squad of boys and girls competing.
The male team will be led by Alex Zheng, who will be playing in his fourth major Games, in the junior category (born in 1994 or later).
Zheng played for Yukon at the 2011 Canada Winter Games last February in Halifax, and at the 2010 Arctic Games in Grande Prairie, Alberta, winning two golds and a silver in the juvenile division. He also played in the 2008 Arctic Games in Yellowknife, finishing fifth in singles and fourth in doubles.
“He’s moved up to the older age category, so it’s going to be a tougher road for him,” said Murphy. “He’ll be hard pressed to win a medal against the tough Greenlanders and Russians.”
With Zheng in the junior division will be juvenile-aged player Abed Rajab.
In the juvenile category (born in 1997 or later) are Kyle Gonder and Ehsan Idrees, both of whom represented the Yukon at the Canada Games in Halifax.
As preparation for the Arctic Games, the team may send a group of players to a compete at the JOOLA North American Teams Table Tennis Championships in Baltimore, Maryland, at the end of November, a tournament Yukon champ Ryan Bachli has competed at the numerous times.
“We have the money to do that and it’s a great tournament,” said Murphy. “There’s lots of opportunity to play during the two-and-a-half days the tournament covers, so we’re looking if we can do that.”
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