Oman to host ITTF Challenge Plus event

Muscat, Oct 16 – In its launch year, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF)’s ranking tournament ITTF Challenge Plus is coming to Oman next year. The ITTF new tournament will be held at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex indoor courts in Muscat from March 20 to 24, 2019.
Announcing the packed international calendar during an event at Omantel headquarters in Mabailla, Oman Table Tennis Committee (OTTC) Chairman Abdullah Mohammed Bamakhalef said 2019 will be another milestone year for Oman table tennis.
“It is our privilege that the ITTF Challenger Plus tournament is coming to the Sultanate in its launch year itself. We can expect top ranked men and women players for the Challenge Plus as it is a ranking tournament and start of the season,” Bamakhalef told Oman Observer.
The singles tournament for men and women will hand out a prize money of over $65,000, he added.
The Challenger Plus series starts in Portugal with Portugal Open from February 13 to 17, 2019.
The OTTC also managed to make the Oman Junior and Cadet Open — ITTF Premium championship an annual affair with the top event happening from October 24 to 28, 2019.
Apart from these high-profile tournaments, the OTTC has bagged the hosting rights for an international training camp for under-12 paddlers.
The camp will be held in Salalah from August 1 to 8.
“All the participating players have to qualify from their governorates level to attend the camp. The Sultanate has been assured of two slots as the host country. Along with the players, parents will attend the camp besides the coaches and technical coaching staff,” the OTTC chairman said.
“This will be a major boost to our tourism sector too since the training camp will include several international coaches from around the world along with the parents of the participating players,” Sajjad bin Mohammed al Lawati, OTTC board member, said.
The OTTC is also in the process to bid for the ITTF Veteran’s World tournament for 2022.
“The OTTC is getting ready to submit its bid for Veteran’s World tournament in 2022. The last edition of veteran’s tournament was held in Las Vegas with participation of more than 4,500 participants. Earlier edition in Spain was also well attended.”
“The OTTC is looking to promote this bid in a different way and seeking support from the Sultanate government. The venue of the tournament is planned at the Oman Convention Centre as the hall capacity can have more than 120 table tennis boards,” Sajjad said.

A person who is closely monitoring the standards of Oman TT players, head coach Mohammed Atoum, said the young players are developing fast.
“Oman players have made quick progress after watching and taking part in many international level tournaments in Oman and abroad,” Atoum said. The Jordanian said the Sultanate players have impressed in the Arab TT in Egypt this year.
“Though our players did not win any medals, they were close to win some. Many officials told me that Oman players have significantly improved their standards from what they performed in the Arab TT hosted by Oman in 2017.”
“Our under-12 player Ahmed al Riyami had put up a spirited fight against the West Asian champion from Iraq to miss out 3-2 and also he had the same score against the eventual champion in Egypt in the preliminary rounds.”
Moadh al Shehi (U-15) and Al Munther al Ghassani (U-14) also were impressive in their outings at Arab TT, the Oman coach said.

Anuroop Athiparambath