Sat | Jul 11, 2020

Watson: Regional TT players can rise

Published:Friday | June 5, 2020 | 12:25 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
Kane Watson (right) in action during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
Kane Watson (right) in action during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

Three-time Jamaica men’s singles champion Kane Watson believes Caribbean table tennis players can compete with the best in the world. Watson is holding up another player from the region as proof, and says dedication, being in the right system, and support are needed to match the sport’s elite.

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) world rankings place Adriana Diaz, a right-handed youngster from Puerto Rico, at number 19 on the women’s list. Diaz, the Pan-American and CAC champion, has trained in China and now campaigns in the Indian Ultimate Table Tennis League.

This is the highest ranking achieved by a player representing a Caribbean territory.

Watson holds the 19-year-old Puerto Rican as an example of what Caribbean players can do.

“It can be done. Everyone feels it’s an Asian sport, a Chinese sport, but it can be done. It’s a matter of being in the right structure, being in the right system, having the support behind you and the mental capacity to push yourself to your limits,” Watson advanced.

Fresh from a table tennis trip that took him to Sweden, Spain and Portugal, Watson believes that Europe has the structure.

Asked what separates Caribbean players from the best, he replied, “I would say they’re in a more structured setting, it’s more systematic; they have more opportunities to play, the players are closer to each other in Europe, and it’s easy to travel.”

EXPOSURE NEEDED

“Talent is here in the Caribbean, but it’s the exposure that’s kind of holding us back,” observed the man who won a silver medal in doubles with Simon Tomlinson at the 2018 Caribbean Regional Championships. “We have to get out there more, get into that system.”

Four years ago, Díaz made history by becoming the first Puerto Rican female table tennis player to qualify for an Olympic Games, where she defeated Olufunke Oshonaike 4–2 in the preliminary round before losing to Li Xue 0–4 in the second round.

Last year, she was world number three in the ITTF under-21 world ranking.

Díaz made her professional debut for Dabang Smashers of the Ultimate Table Tennis league on June 16, 2018. On her second outing, she defeated the winner of the 2018 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup, Bernadette Szocs of Romania.

The highest ranking for a player of Caribbean origins rests with Jamaica-born Des ‘Black Flash’ Douglas. He played for England, where he learnt the game, and rose to world number seven in 1978.