Team Sask Table Tennis
A bright future for Team Sask Table Tennis
Table Tennis is one of the original Canada Winter Games sports first taking place in 1967. Team Sask's innagural competition is in 1971. The 2019 games in Red Deer may be bitter sweet, with Table Tennis' inclusion in 2023 being in question as one of four "host choice" options for the games.
Simply put, that means Table Tennis’ Canada Winter Games future is in the hands of the host — PEI. They will choose one of four sports which include Karate, Fencing, Target Shooting, and of course, Table Tennis.
When talking with Team Sask Manager Alayna Chan of Saskatoon (2007 & 2011 Canada Games alumni), she discouragingly states that Table Tennis is likely not on the schedule for 2023, and when asked about what athletes have to work towards in Saskatchewan, she doesn’t paint an opportunistic picture either.
The reality is, in Saskatchewan, Table Tennis is a rather small community and your playing career relies on club level tournaments. There is a university league between the United States and Canada, but no NCAA or USports sanctioned competition, and there is currently no official University team in Saskatchewan.
If these Saskatchewan athletes want to develop and play at a higher level, they have to move to Vancouver, Toronto, or other larger centres where the sport thrives.
Which is why, like many sports, Quebec, Ontario, and BC are top teams at the Canada Games. Larger population simply leads to more athletes, facilities, and competition. Team Sask Table Tennis is a young team with a number of 14 year olds. The 2019 Canada Winter Games are by far the largest tournament any of Team Sask’s athletes have been in, but they look to make the most of it.
— Alayna Chan
"I think they're really overwhelmed by the sheer number of people...not unlike other sports"
“I think they’re really overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people” says Alayna when talking about the team, but also notes that “that’s not unlike other sports”.
With that said, the women’s team here at the Canada Games all train in Regina. Luyuan Fan, Aliya Liu, and, Ruby Sha are all good friends. It’s obvious from the moment we see them come off the bus at Red Deer College, through the opening ceremonies, and into the first few days of competition.
The boys team, coached by Paul Noel of Saskatoon consists of Syed Hasan of Regina, Joshua Lu of Grasswood, and Gaoxing Xi of Saskatoon. Despite not being able to all train together, the team has travelled to Nationals together and will rely on that competition to work together here in Red Deer.
Watching this team grow and see them settle in, allowing their personalities to come out, is fun for our mission staff. In fact, the various personalities in the sport is what Alayna loves about Table Tennis. She views the Canada Winter Games as a learning experience for this team, and “hopes they learn from their experiences quickly so that they can implement their learning from one match to the next.” This is exactly what is happening.
The Girls finish a strong 5th in team play, with the Boys Team placing 7th. The Boys Doubles are vying for 5th with the Girls team playing for 7th at time of writing, with singles and mixed play off to a good start for both teams. It is a strong showing for Team Saskatchewan at Westerner Park in Table Tennis. These young men and women are proud to represent their province, and are doing a fine job, despite the hurdles their sport faces with our small population.
Typical Saskatchewan, always achieving the most with what we have.