MUSCAT: Competition is heating up on the final day of play at the World Veteran Table Tennis Championships Muscat 2023 at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC). After five days of competition by 1,600 players from 69 nations, the world titles will be decided, and medal ceremonies will take place for the top three in each category.
Pippa-Louise Trass (AUS) and Kessang Bhatia (IND) booked their place in the last four with an early victory over Monia Franchi (ITA) and Dominique Buchholz (GER) on Friday. Joining them are the pairs of Youngmi Jeong and Youngnim Kim (KOR), Swati Agharkar and Sunita Dhatingan (IND), Gina Hundven and Bente Ulstein (NOR), and Gabriele Roth and Birgit Schon (GER).
Oman’s Hafidh al Awadi is gearing up for a last 16 match-up with his partner Shehab Albaity (KSA) after the pair advanced in an early match on Friday. Unfortunately, the pairings of Anwar Abbas and Mansoor al Wahaibi, and Salim al Battashi and Saleh al Matri will not be joining them after narrowly losing their matches.
A big focus of the World Veteran Table Tennis Championships has been the suitability of the sport for older people. Open to those aged 40 and over, Muscat 2023 has shown that it is possible to play at the highest level of the game for a lot longer than sports like football or rugby. The health benefits of physical activity, the mental health benefits of the tactics and overcoming challenges in each match, and the solidarity with a thriving community have been there for all to see this week.
Roy Norton, representing England in the 80-85 category, said, “I’ve been playing table tennis for 67 years. Table tennis is good for your body, your brain, and it is socially very good. Anybody can play table tennis at an advanced age. I am 80 and I am still playing, and competing against younger people. I used to be chairman of the veterans in England, and we set up an international event for countries close to us. We have tried to improve the sport, and you can see here this week how many veteran players there are. I am now in the finals of the Consolations, the semifinal of the Mixed Doubles and I am in the last eight of the Men’s Doubles so I hope to be in three finals at the end of today.”
Rein Lindmae from Estonia, competing in the 70-75 age group, said, “Aside from playing, I have enjoyed the opportunity to explore Oman. We have been to the Royal Opera House Muscat, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and seen a lot of the city. I am leaving after the tournament but my daughter is planning on returning to Oman in February for a holiday. We have heard a lot about Oman and the great places to see here.”
Oman’s singles hopefuls bowed out yesterday despite very brave performances. Saleh al Matri lost 3-1 in a very close match with Algeria’s Imad Oustani, while Soman Ukkath Variath also lost a tight match to Woncheol Jeong of Korea. Mansoor al Wahaibi narrowly lost to Premraj Jachak of India in his Round of 32 match, and Salim al Battashi also exited the competition at the same stage with a loss to Rajnish Khatavkar of India.
Ismail al Sulaimani was beaten by Vinay Chandra of the USA in the Round of 32, Husam Shalaby fell to Vivek Kohli of India, and Sultan al Riyami conceded to Suman Tamang of India in a walkover.
Tomorrow will see the semifinals and finals in main draw and consolation competitions take place with players looking to secure their place and have a chance to take home the trophy.
The two most experienced players in the entire competition will take on each other in the 85+ age group.
Hyun Youngja and Watanabe Yasu, both from Japan, have proved that age is just a number as the two 90-
year-olds show how sport can bring lifelong joy.
The World Veteran Table Tennis Championships 2023 is organised by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, the Oman Table Tennis Association and the International Table Tennis Federation, with support from Oman Fiber Optic, STAG Sports, Omantel and Belltel.