48 hours for the ping pong tables

Not even a serious lack of sleep could deter one entrant to The Ping Pong Dubai 2014 Open Tournaments, where players of all nations and ages batted furiously to achieve the winning cup

Aaditya, a 10-year-old from India, had travelled back especially for this event and hadn’t slept in 48 hours. He went straight from the airport – via a shower at his mother’s insistence – and to the tournament.

“I’m not doing it for winning, I’m doing it for a better experience so when I get older I will be better,” he said after winning his first round match.

The event that was worth two sleepless nights was the Ping Pong Dubai 2014 Open Tournament, which saw over 100 people do battle at Dubai Sports World on 27 June to prove their worth on the tables. Competitors from China, India, Europe and the UAE took part in the event, incorporating an age range of 10 to 67.

There was a definite buzz in the air, as the tournament is the premier event in Ping Pong Dubai’s calendar and lures the cream of the crop when it comes to players: a former Egyptian champion and a Lebanese champion took part, as well as skilled players from China and the UAE women’s team.

The Ping Pong Dubai initiative aims to encourage greater participation in the sport and to promote the positive social and physical benefits it brings. Previous events of PPD's include the Corporate Challenge, which targeted an international audience from the professional sector, encouraging some healthy rivalry in a fun and informal environment.

PPD is also part of Art Nights, a quarterly event which combines elements of art, film, music, design and cuisine at Dubai International Financial Centre – there are tables at the events allowing people to play, and a graffiti artist has even created customised graffiti ping pong tables at the events.

Cui Yong, a 24-year-old Chinese expat, said that he had been playing the game for 10 years now, as it is such a popular sport in China, and was pleased at the chance to take it up in Dubai. "I’ve won a few competitions and trophies at Al Barsha club, where I now play, but I don’t think I’ll win as there are too many strong players here today. I’ve played against a lot of them through Ping Pong Dubai. I joined up last year and have been coming regularly ever since."

The recognition of Chinese players of the quality of the event reflected Dubai's commitment to China, and the Dubai Government recently announced the renewal of their sponsorship of the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA) for a further three years.

Ping pong
Ping pong tables will be available to use at the Dubai Sports Exhibition until 28 August

UAE Table Tennis Association Technical Director, Mohsen Eldemerdash said: “In Dubai we have found a lot of players who had given up competing as adults have come back to the game thanks to Ping Pong Dubai. The strength and quality of this field show that.”

The Championship was divided into three categories. Men under-40, men over-40, and women, who all took part in a knockout style competition over the day.

Early morning practise saw teams of four participants pinging two balls simultaneously across the 12 competition tables at furious speed drawing gasps from spectators, before the official draw was announced. Mr Eldemerdash praised the Dubai Sports World – an event at the World Trade Centre that hosts a variety of indoor sports and leisure activities for sports enthusiasts – in helping increase participation and making the event a success.

“I love table tennis and this is a good opportunity to play against other players in the UAE. I love the arena here. It’s really, really nice. I used to play at clubs and stuff but this is world class,” said competitor Rishab Sukumar.

In the Mens under-40 tournament, Vishal Narayanan took the honours and drew the biggest applause from the crowd, defeating countryman Sohaib Syeed in the final. Mohamad Alshobary from Egypt, won the over-40’s category, while Henna Mohnani from India won the womens’ category.