by Morley Walker
Jeremy Tran could barely see over the top of the table when he started playing table tennis competitively at age 7.
Now 14, Jeremy is one of the province’s top-ranked players and one likely to shine at the Canadian National Table Tennis Championships, being held July 5 to 10 at the University of Winnipeg.
“I love the sport,” said Jeremy, a Grade 9 student at Henry G. Izatt Middle School in Whyte Ridge. “It’s much harder than it looks when it gets competitive.”
Truer words were never spoken.
Played at its highest level, table tennis demands agility, speed, concentration and fearsome eye-hand co-ordination. Experts have compared top players’ reaction times to those of a jet pilot.
Jeremy uses spins, lobs, and smashes to move the ball around the table in a way that would amaze the casual basement player.
“Like any other sport, it requires years of intense practice to master,” said Darek Mikita, president of the Manitoba Table Tennis Association.
“Jeremy is one of several of our young players who deserve credit for dedicating themselves to constantly improving.”
A small non-profit organization under the umbrella of Sport Manitoba, the MTTA has been planning for months to get ready for July’s Canadian championships.
It is the first time since 1992 that the nationals have been held in Winnipeg. About 200 players from across the country are expected to converge on the U of W’s Duckworth Centre, where at least a dozen tables will be in action in a variety of junior and senior men's and women's singles and doubles categories.
“We want to make these the best nationals ever,” said Mikita. “Our volunteers have been working non-stop.”
Table tennis, an Olympic sport since 1988, is second only to soccer as the world’s most popular recreational sport.
Its popularity is growing in Canada, because of recent immigration from Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa, where it is taken seriously, indeed.
Jeremy was introduced to the sport as a pre-schooler by his father, director of the provinces Occupational Health Unit. His mother is a senior IT specialist.
Jeremy's table tennis skills have earned him a spot on Canada’s elite Boys Cadet 15 Squad. His older sister, Naomi, 15, has also been a top table tennis player. She has transferred her skills to badminton, where she has competed provincially.
Jeremy also loves soccer and he plays clarinet in his school band. He admits he gets ribbed for his table tennis obsession.
“My friends don’t think table tennis is as challenging as hockey,” said Jeremy, who practises two or three hours several days a week.
“But I don’t mind. Personally, I just want to medal at the nationals.”
The MTTA is encouraging spectators to come out and cheer on their favourite players. Check out the organization's website, mtta.ca, for event times and details.
(WinnipegREALTORS® is a proud community supporter of the Canadian National Table Tennis Championships being held in Winnipeg from July 5 to10.)