Mon | Jul 24, 2017

Table tennis bouncing back in Trelawny

Published:Monday | March 20, 2017 | 3:00 AMHubert Lawrence
Anita Belnavis (left) moves to her right to chop back a hoop from the racquet of Sandra Riettie in the final of the Women’s Singles at the National Table Tennis Championships at the National Arena on Sunday, November 15, 1981. Riettie won in straight sets 21-17, 21-19 to become the national women’s champion, a feat she had achieved twice before.

Trelawny, the parish that gave Jamaica its only female Caribbean table tennis champion, is pushing the sport again. The renewed table tennis energy is two-fold. According to Trelawny Table Tennis Association president R. Raymond Lawrence, the goal is to produce champions again and to encourage many more to play the game.

Speaking at the recently held parish team play-offs in Falmouth, Lawrence explained, "The vision is to see a champion coming from Trelawny again, Trelawny being the captain of table tennis." The reference linked to a famous past when Anita Belnavis won the Caribbean singles title in 1977 and placed second in the CAC Games the following year. She later formed a strong pairing with Aldith Ellis that made Trelawny a powerhouse in the sport.

Lawrence wants to bring those days back, but in addition, he wants to increase the opportunities for the public to play. "If I want to play football, I can go play anywhere", he reasoned, "If I want to play cricket, I can find a team, but if I want to play table tennis, I cannot.

"I want to fix that", he said. "That is my vision," Lawrence continued. "Somewhere persons can go and just play table tennis just for the fun of it."

 

Tennis association's goal

 

That is in line with the goal of the national table tennis association to have 15,000 people playing the game.

As the Trelawny play-off competition spun along, he envisaged, "It is a view to build a nucleus from which we can build on for national teams or other parish teams."

Apparently, there are encouraging signs that the Trelawny table tennis revival is gathering support. "People are catching the vision and there are people recognising that table tennis is important and can be a vehicle for stemming crime and violence in Trelawny, especially among youngsters", he said. In fact, the play-offs were to be followed by a weekend training camp at the Melia Braco Hotel in Rio Bueno.

The schools contesting the play-offs were Westwood High School, Holland High School, William Knibb Memorial High School, Troy High School, Albert Town High School, Cedric Titus High School and Muschette High School.

Lawrence believes the cooperation that made the play-offs possible will lift table tennis in Trelawny. "We're now developing a network that can build table tennis ... and build sport in general," he noted.

In a final recommendation for the game, Lawrence invoked its value to practitioners of other sports. "Sir Garfield Sobers and Viv Richards would say that their pastime was table tennis", he observed, "because it builds your reflex, and we want to use this now to build other parts of the discipline called sports."