Sat | May 8, 2021

Watson, Tomlinson Olympic dream ends

Published:Monday | April 19, 2021 | 12:15 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
WATSON
WATSON

The bid by Simon Tomlinson and Kane Watson to qualify for the Olympics is over. However, they have both emerged from the Latin American table tennis qualifying tournament in Rosario, Argentina, with a positive outlook, and Watson says more high-...

The bid by Simon Tomlinson and Kane Watson to qualify for the Olympics is over. However, they have both emerged from the Latin American table tennis qualifying tournament in Rosario, Argentina, with a positive outlook, and Watson says more high-level tournaments will help as he looks to the Commonwealth Games next year.

Tomlinson, the reigning national champion, kept his nerve in a seven-set thriller against Venezuela’s Cecilio Correa, winning 11-6, 11-8, 7-11, 12-14, 8-11, 11-9 and 14-12, even though he is world ranked at 702 and the Venezuelan at 331. Then he was eliminated from the first stage of the event four sets to one by world number 77, Alberto Mino of Ecuador. In stage two, he found himself down 4-11, 8-11, 4-11 against world number 133 Daniel Gonzalez of Puerto Rico.

He dug deeper and took the fourth set 11-9.

“I started to tell myself that I had to give more, that I could play a better game and points started to connect a bit better,” he said.

Gonzalez won the fifth set 11-9 to advance.

Watson, ranked at 756 in the world, got going late against Cuba’s Jorge Campos, ranked at 275, and lost in the first stage 3-11, 2-11, 11, 7-11, 6-11; and in the second stage, he lost four sets to one to Hector Gatica of Guatemala, ranked at 375. On reflection, Watson said of his encounter with the Cuban 2016 Olympian, “I started most of the sets late and tried to play catch-up. I tried to rush the game instead of making my opponent do more than me, making unforced errors.’’

He took a set off Gatica, but rued lost chances.

“I made some decisions which I wouldn’t second-guess, but I’d probably do differently to get better execution to close out the sets,’’ Watson explained of a match that finished 9-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-3.

Tomlinson has no regrets.

“Given everything that we had to go through from the last year, not just the last year, but the last four years, I am not disappointed,” he said. “I did the best that I could and then I gave more, beyond that point. So, I’m not disappointed in the result at all. It’s comforting. Both players I lost to are top 100 players and I was in both games with them, so I’m not disappointed in how I was playing.’’

COMMONWEALTH GAMES

Asked how the Rosario experience might help his preparations for the Commonwealth Games, Watson said, “To prepare for that, I would like to have more high-level tournaments leading up to that, the difference to playing this one and waiting one whole year to play a next one would defeat the purpose of the learning experience here.

“To play high-level tournaments back-to-back-to-back would definitely increase my level, so hopefully I’ll get in a string of tournaments before Commonwealth Games and use this as a stepping stone going forward.”

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