Monday, July 6, 2009

Table Tennis Tourney

Here is Trofie Wife’s promised recollection of the Para Table Tennis European Championships!

It wasn’t quite Murderball (that’s a documentary about the US Paralympic Rugby team—see it if you haven’t; it’s amazing), but the competition was certainly fierce.

The event was held at the Valliant, which is a medium-size event space on the grounds of a planned redevelopment that also includes housing and a mall (which was designed so that enough light would come in through the roof and windows such that the Italians could keep their shades on indoors and features a store called “Sonny Bono—Born Trendy”) and is adjacent to the Genova Sampierdarena train station. At least 15 tables were set up around the floor, with little fences keeping the players (and errant balls) penned in. I found a good spot in the viewing gallery, right in front of a singles match, Israel v. Italy (I wasn’t sure who to root for! I ended up clapping for both, which probably confused everyone around me). The Italian player won that match and then teamed up for doubles, sweeping Israel yet again. (At least as far as the EU Paralympics committee is concerned, Israel and Turkey are part of Europe.)

It was pretty amazing to watch the competitors maneuver around the table. I was watching the players in wheelchairs, but there are others who have use of one or both legs, aided by braces or other devices; some players have trouble with their arms. Some of the players in chairs keep a hand on one of their wheels so that they can easily move around, and they are not shy about making each other lunge for cheap drop shots.

I was also able to catch some of the matches between Slovakia and Great Britain (I recognized several of the players from our shared flight and was happy to hear their teammates shout out such encouraging words as “Well played, Jane!” which brought me back in time to camp, where we were surrounded by BUNAC staff); unfortunately for the Brits, the Slovakians cleaned their clocks (I would not want to run into a Slovakian woman (in a wheelchair or not) wielding a paddle in a dark alley; they were fierce!).

Certain countries appear to be really good at this sport—Italy, France, Spain, and Slovakia were winning lots of matches that day. Matches (three games played to 11; must win by two) can go very quickly, especially if one side loses focus. Each game was monitored by a line judge and scorekeeper and boasted a ball girl or boy (who darted after errant balls after each point, just as in tennis).

The only bizarre thing about the event was seeing a large number of the athletes smoking outside the venue in between rounds of competition. That just seems wrong. But I guess, afterall, Trofie Wife must remember that we are in Europe!

Baci e gelato,

Martello e Trofie Wife

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