Thu | Dec 9, 2021

Tomlinson, Watson in Olympics qualifiers today

Published:Tuesday | April 13, 2021 | 12:16 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
National table tennis players Simon Tomlinson (left) and Kane Watson.
National table tennis players Simon Tomlinson (left) and Kane Watson.

Simon Tomlinson and Kane Watson will start their bid for Olympic table tennis glory today. They are among 27 men with the same goal at the five-day Latin American Singles Olympic Qualification tournament in Rosario, Argentina.

Tomlinson is seeded at 20 in this qualification event and Watson is the 21st seed. The strong entry list includes six players ranked in the International Table Tennis Federation’s top 100, with Paraguay’s Marcelo Aguirre on top at number 63. Emil Santos of Santo Domingo, winner of the men’s singles when Jamaica hosted the Caribbean Regional Championships in 2018, is the 10th seed.

Tomlinson and Watson will also have to watch out for the 15th seed, Wu Jiaji. The right-handed Chinese player became eligible to represent Santo Domingo in 2019 and took the silver medal at the Pan American Games that year.

The Jamaicans have been training in the United States, and recently they both produced good results at the Florida State Qualifier from March 19 to 21. Watson won the under- 2,300 rating singles and Tomlinson was the runner-up in the Division 1 Giant Round Robin section.

They both were grateful to get match practice ahead of the challenge that lies ahead in Rosario.

“It was surprisingly good after a year of calamity, after a year of no competition, of hardly any training at a very high quality,” Tomlinson said on March 24.

The national champion lost just once, 0-3 to Hector Berrios, Puerto Rico’s three-time Caribbean champion, in seven trips to the table.

“I still need improvement, but I have to give thanks for the small victories and look ahead to the bigger ones,” Watson said. He eliminated top seed Alejandro Roldán 3-2 in the round of 16 and, in the final, the big Jamaican outlasted Jose Alvarez 3-1.

He was pleased with his fitness.

“You know tournaments require a different type of fitness because, mentally, your mind is more into it so it’s more taxing on the body,” Watson explained. “So I’ve been running, skipping, doing the necessary things; but for tournament play, getting that one tournament under my belt helped a lot.”

Since then, the 2018 Caribbean doubles runners-up have been refining the skills in training at the Broward County Table Tennis Club, under the guidance of Santo Domingo coach Frank Arias, who is with them in Argentina.

The latest world ranking lists Tomlinson at 701 and Watson at 753.

Garfield Jones, Michael Hyatt and Stephen Hylton are the only Jamaicans to have played in the Olympics, with Hyatt at the table at both the 1992 and 1996 Games.