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The ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals 2023 held in Durban, South Africa, was a historical event that delivered top quality table tennis across 8 days. The event marked the return of the event to Africa after 84 years and while the Chinese players swept home the titles, fans had the pleasure to witness remarkable moments from many other players throughout the event, showcasing how much the sport is growing globally.



The event was filled with triumphs, surprises, and inspiring stories of resilience. In the round of 128, the table tennis world witnessed a monumental upset when Brian Afanador, ranked 74th in the world, defeated the formidable Hugo Calderano, ranked 6th. This unexpected outcome not only showcased the unpredictable nature of the sport but also shed light on the immense talent residing in lesser-known nations. Afanador’s big night underscored the importance of ITTF’s Development’s Hopes Programme in nurturing young talents and providing them with the necessary exposure to thrive on the international stage.



Another memorable moment was the impressive performance from the Republic of Korea’s Shin Yubin and Jeon Jihee in their Women’s Doubles category. Their exceptional teamwork and determination were evident throughout the event, particularly in their semifinal match against defending champions Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu, where they produced an inspired performance against their Chinese counterparts, controlling the match from start to finish. While they were unable to secure the title after falling short against eventual winners, Chen Meng and Wang Yidi, their journey exemplified the spirit of perseverance and showcased the rising talent in the sport.



Anders Lind, a Danish player, also left a lasting impression during #ITTFWorlds2023. Despite facing a significant ranking difference, Lind secured a spot in the quarterfinals of the Men’s Singles by defeating world number 13, Korea’s Jang Woojin. Lind’s inspiring journey to this stage cannot be overlooked. In March 2021, he was involved in a severe car accident that resulted in two broken vertebrae, and doctors were uncertain about his ability to walk again. However, through sheer determination and resilience, Lind defied the odds and made a remarkable comeback. His story serves as a true epitome of resilience and an inspiration to athletes worldwide.



In the Women’s Singles category, Japan’s Hina Hayata created history by winning an epic battle against Wang Yidi. The match between Hayata and Wang was a nail-biting affair, with both players pushing each other to the limit. Eventually, Hayata emerged victorious with the final game ending 21-19 in her favour. By reaching the semi-finals, Hayata became the first Japanese woman since 1969 to win a singles medal at the World Championships.



But there was one moment that really stood out for all of us, especially here in Africa! After beating World No. 10, Truls Moregard, Egypt’s Omar Assar would go on to win his round of 16 clash to become only the second African player to make it to the quarterfinals. Almost immediately after this victory, Omar Assar and Quadri Aruna shared a tight embrace, symbolising their unwavering friendship and mutual respect. It was a heartfelt moment that transcended the competition and showcased the strength of their bond and the bond between Africans. Their embrace served as a reminder of the extraordinary journey they have both embarked upon and the inspiration they have provided to countless aspiring table tennis players across Africa.

The World Championships has showcased the incredible skill and passion of players from around the world and propelled the sport of table tennis to new heights on the African continent, inspiring future generations to embrace the sport and pursue their dreams. Future generations like Nigeria’s Taiwo Mati who had a memorable outing in Durban after he made his way to the round of 32.

Over the 8 days in Durban, table tennis fans got to experience the diversity and global appeal of the event, further emphasising the inclusive and competitive nature of table tennis. As the curtains close on a special and historic World Championships, the table tennis community can look forward to the ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals Busan 2024 from 16 to 25 February next year. This will mark the first time in history that the event will be held in the Republic of Korea.

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In the realm of change and progress, it’s often challenging to gauge the intensity and determine whether it brings forth positive outcomes.

Moments like these are hard to put into words, but the pressure we felt throughout our journey to Durban was undeniable – driven by the relentless pursuit of achieving our objectives.

However, as we bid farewell to Durban (Ethekwini), South Africa, after successfully hosting the ITTF World Table Tennis Championship Finals, we knew deep within our souls that every ounce of effort was worth it.

It has been 84 years since the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) hosted its marquee event in Africa. So, you can only imagine the pride that swelled within us when we concluded yet another historic chapter in our sports journey—the unforgettable ITTF World Championship Finals in Durban, South Africa. As the Egypt cup was ceremoniously handed over to the next organizers in Busan, South Korea, it struck us just how long it had taken for the cup to return to the beautiful shores of this remarkable continent— we can be sure that the King Farouk from Egypt who started the tradition in 1939 would not have imagined that it would have taken so long to return.

Preparations for this event were nothing short of intense, as is customary. Each passing year in recent times brought new challenges we had never faced before. Terms like “load shedding” entered our vocabulary, plunging us into a world of electricity and energy management that we had to swiftly master. Yet, the local organisers remained unfazed, having already grappled with these issues day in and day out.

The ITTF and WTT operations team, having matured, grown and developed in recent years, seamlessly integrated themselves into the event. They worked hand in hand with the Local Organising Committee (LOC), their unwavering commitment serving as the backbone of the World Championship’s success. Together, they painted a vivid and awe-inspiring picture of South Africa, showcasing the country’s beauty and the spirit of table tennis to the world. To those unsung heroes who toiled tirelessly behind the scenes, both from the LOC and the ITTF/WTT, we owe a debt of gratitude that words fail to express. Take a well-deserved rest, for you have truly earned it. And a special shoutout to Joe Carrim and Hajera Kajee, whose unwavering dedication, patience, and collaboration with our professional team were instrumental in ensuring this triumph.

But let’s not forget the shining stars who stole the limelight—the Chinese players, unrivalled and imperious. Just when we thought the pressure might chip away at their dominance, they unleashed an unprecedented display of skill, taking home all the gold. Sun Yingsha and Fan Zhendong, proving their World Number One status, demonstrated their sheer mastery by defeating formidable opponents and cementing their positions atop the table tennis world.

Fan Zhendong now enters the elite ranks as a two-time World Champion, setting his sights on Doha 2025 to potentially join the legendary Ma Long as a three-time consecutive champion. The feat of winning three titles in a row earns the winner a special replica of the St Brides vase —a recognition of their unrivalled excellence. We were honoured to bestow this vase upon Ma Long in Durban. Although Ma Long may have fallen short of his own expectations, reaching only the semi-finals this time around, it served as a testament to his extraordinary skill. However, it was his heartfelt speech delivered in both Chinese and English that truly touched our hearts, showcasing the humility and grace of an absolute legend in our sport.

While the Chinese players reigned supreme, it’s important to acknowledge the achievements of players from other nations as well. Japanese, Korean, Hong Kong Chinese, and German players all returned home with well-deserved medals, adding their own unique colours to the tapestry of this championship.

Yet, it was the moments beyond the medals that truly resonated with us. When Omar Assar, a local hero from Egypt, became only the second African player in history to reach the quarterfinals at a World Championship. It was a powerful statement that African table tennis was not only alive but also capable of competing at the highest level. The embrace shared between Omar Assar and Quadri Aruna after his triumphant victory remains etched in our memories, representing a symbol of solidarity and triumph against all odds—an indelible highlight of the tournament.

Another extraordinary tale unfolded through the journey of Danish player Anders Lind. A mere 18 months ago, Anders faced a devastating car accident that left doctors questioning if he would ever walk again. However, fuelled by his determination and resilience, he defied all expectations, defying the odds to reach the quarterfinals of the World Championships. It was an extraordinary achievement, offering hope and inspiration to those facing their own adversities. Anders Lind’s story serves as a reminder that with unwavering dedication and an unyielding spirit, hope can triumph over the darkest of moments. In this realm of sport, we discover invaluable life lessons that are often elusive in other spheres.

Now, we embark on a new chapter, hoping to alleviate the weight of change that has burdened us. Our faith in the sport’s potential to conquer new horizons remains unwavering. Creating pathways to the finals, expanding opportunities for our beloved sport across the globe—these endeavours are crucial. We strive to expose more people to the joy of table tennis, cultivating a truly global game that transcends boundaries and unites enthusiasts from every corner of the world.

For 82 long years, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) had confined its World Championships to the borders of Europe and Asia. The World Championships Finals stand as a beacon, beckoning us to venture into uncharted territories. We hold steadfast hope to explore new markets for the 2027 event, perhaps the Latin American regions or the untouched shores of Oceania.

Amidst the intense pressure experienced since the reforms reshaped our World Championship formats and the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have achieved remarkable milestones for our most prestigious event, the World Table Tennis Championships, over the past three years:

  1. In 2021, we witnessed the historic debut of the World Championships Finals in the United States, hosted in the vibrant city of Houston, Texas.

  2. The following year, during the throes of the pandemic, the World Team Championships Finals unfolded in Chengdu, China.

  3. And now, in 2023, after an agonising 84-year absence, the World Championships Finals returned to the continent of Africa, gracing the splendid city of Durban, South Africa. It was a homecoming of monumental significance, an event that will be etched in our collective memory for years to come.

This resurgence, following the regrettable cancellation of the 2020 edition, reaffirms the unrivalled stature of our World Championships on the global sporting calendar. As we navigate through the learnings of the reforms, the birth of WTT, and the post-COVID era, we find ourselves in a promising position.

As we cast our gaze toward future editions, our trajectory takes us back to the Middle East, where Qatar awaits for the second time to embrace the championship. Having previously hosted the teams event in 2004, Qatar will now step into the limelight, welcoming the individual events in 2025 for the very first time.

It’s exciting times ahead for the Championships.

In closing, we extend once again our deepest gratitude to all those who played a part in the resounding success of the ITTF World Championships Finals Durban 2023 in South Africa. The positive, soul-stirring emotions that enveloped us during our time there still resonate within our hearts. May we never have to wait another 84 years before we bring this grand event back to the splendid continent of Africa!

Steve Dainton ITTF Group CEO



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Updated: Aug 31, 2022



 

I would like to take some time to re-iterate the purpose of participating in leagues and offer a few takeaways that I hope parents can use to help their children to be more productive and effective in using leagues as their learning vehicle.


Leagues are simulated tournaments. They are supposed to be a “learning” mechanism. A mechanism that gives players the perfect opportunity to practice what they learn in lessons and try out the new skills they picked up recently. They are organized to encourage keenly competitive matches to be played. It is through repeated, close competitions that our players grow in skills, game strategies, and mental toughness; all necessary to be a competent and higher level player.


Nobody can elevate their games to the next plateau without trying something new and taking more risks. They should not keep falling back to bad, old habits that had inhibited their progress just wanting to win some points or games. In leagues, we want our players to be free to try and practice their newly learned skills.


Trying out something new and taking more risks mean the player will likely make more mistakes and pick up more loses. But the important part is that they try new things, new skills, new footwork, and take more risks. A player who is not afraid to try new things in league play will solidify his/her mastery of the new skills and ditch the bad, old habits much quicker than one who does not.


Notice that I haven’t even mentioned “winning” more than half way through this writing. I assert that “winning” is not a crucial part of playing leagues. “Winning”, even though satisfying to the winner, isn’t necessarily best for learning. “Losing”, even though painful to bear most times, is what triggers longer term changes and permanent learning. Pains linger while joy evaporates quickly. Those who dare to try new skills in leagues will be much more successful in the longer haul.


So, parents, allow space for and encourage your children to try new things and take more risks in leagues. Allow them to lose in the process; knowing that they will grow and be more successful in the longer haul. Parents should observe in a distance most of the time unless you see something bad happened. Remind and encourage them try new things and ditch old habits. Pay particular attention to any sign of losing focus, negative energy, and poor sportsmanship issues. Leagues are not where you should be critical of your children when he/she lost a game or match. On your way home after a league night, don't ask how many matches your child win/lose. Instead, ask them what they learned from their matches and what adjustments they can make in the future. Be supportive of your children’s long journey most of all.


I know parents want to see their children improve and win immediately. I know because I am one of you as well. But understand that the “road to winning” is a long and arduous one. Focus on letting your children grow and learn, and guiding them to become a much better sportsman/person is a much better route to take.


HITTA League Director/HITTA Advisor, Chong Pang




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