Hyatt optimistic for CAC Games
Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica will do well when table tennis begins at the CAC Games in Veracruz, Mexico, later this week. That's the word from two-time Olympian Michael Hyatt. Not only has his own preparation gone well, but Hyatt says his teammates will also be ready for the battle.
Despite a team-leading 10-1 win-loss record at the World Team Championships in April, the 44-year-old Hyatt has worked hard since then.
"I went back to the weight room, changed my diet and trained harder than I have the last 10 years," he said.
With 20 pounds off his weight in April, he says, "I'm quicker, faster and can recover better between games and matches."
The hard work has already won the Calabar High and Anderson College graduate two singles titles at the Portland Open in Oregon earlier this month.
"I feel very good about my preparation, form and chances," he reasoned, "to bring glory for my country in Veracruz 2014."
Hyatt feels that his young teammates, Kane Watson and Simon Tomlinson, gained a lot from their experience at the World Team Championships, where Jamaica won the fifth division of the men's event. He praises the Jamaica Table Tennis Association for allowing him to incorporate his personal coach, American Barney Reed, as the national men's team coach and describes Reed's work as invaluable.
The team has spent time training in California under the supervision of the US-based coach prior to the Games. Hyatt, Watson and Tomlinson have been training twice daily with sessions including footwork and multi-ball drills, tactical drills, service-and-service-return practice, gym work, cardio work, strength training. They also have several team matches against some of the best and strongest players on the USA circuit.
The men's team travels to Mexico on the 12th, two days early, to get used to the high altitude and playing conditions.
"Simon and Kane are great young players with talent and a bright future," he said. "But they had never won a regional or world title for the Jamaica men's team.
"Now we know we can win at a high level," he summarised. "And we are preparing to do that in Veracruz starting Saturday, November 15."
Hyatt, Watson and Tomlinson can expect a big challenge when the matches begin. The reigning team champions are the Dominican Republic in the men's event and Venezuela in the women's.
Hyatt was involved when Jamaica last won a medal in table tennis at the CAC Games. He and Nigel Webb gained silver medals in the men's doubles in 2002, an achievement Hyatt remembers fondly.
This was the first medal for any sport that Jamaica won at that Games.
"At the time, I felt that Nigel and I got the 'medal ball' rolling," he recalled. "It's good to be going back to the CAC with a chance again to medal for my country."
The three regional teams most highly ranked by the International Table Tennis Federation are Puerto Rico at 43, Chile at 46 and Mexico at 48, with Jamaica appearing at number 82 in both the men's and women's world rankings.
Table tennis at the Games begins on November 15 and includes team, individual and doubles competition.