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Successful Bid at Star Awards Evening, Successful Conclusion in Dubai
By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Christian Lillieroos prepares the schedule for the day  Photo By: Courtesy of Christian Lillieroos


Supported by ITTF Dream Building, a Training Camp in the city of Dubai for Para Table Tennis athletes in the Middle East region was staged successfully from Sunday 1st to Thursday 5th June 2014.

The project was the result of a successful bid earlier this year at the Star Awards Evening Driven by GAC Motors, staged in Dubai on Saturday 11th January 2014 when Giselle Pettyfer from Falcon and Associates successfully bid $15,000 to support the proposal.

Present in Dubai to promote proceedings was Poland’s Natalia Partyka, the Women’s Singles Class 10 gold medallist at the three most recent Paralympic Games with the man at the helm of coaching being Christian Lillieroos, former Chairman of the International Paralympic Table Tennis Committee,

Christian Lillieroos, the Head Coach, Reports
Christian Lillieroos reports on the ITTF Dream Building Project Table Tennis Training Camp
This was the second such camp. The first one was organized in December in Egypt for Para Table Tennis athletes from Africa.

UAE is a very interesting place and Dubai is a unique city in the world. UAE is a union of seven different Emirates that was founded in 1971. UAE has a local population of about one million people but about eight million live in UAE.

It is a very international vibrant country, where it is almost rare to meat a local person. You find Chinese, Thai, Polish, Iraq, Iranians, Tunisians, Egyptians, English, Irish, Australian, Indian, etc. It is like a World melting pot.

Dubai is a rare Arab city, where they do not have much oil properties so they focused their attention on tourism. The facilities from hotels, street, to venues are in general excellent. They have the largest shopping mall and the largest building in the world, and maybe the only seven star hotel. English is spoken as much as Arabic in general. Many international people working in Dubai never learn Arabic.

The table tennis training camp was hosted at the Dubai Sports Club for disabled; a very nice club where activities for all kind of disabilities are organized in many sports. Recently the IPC World Power lifting championships was hosted there. The club provided daily transport for all the local disabled people to the club for activities.

They had 22 buses to do this work on a daily basis. The local table tennis program has a girls’ and a boys’ club with about 30 people playing daily. They only have 4 tables total so there is not so much playing time per person on a table. They also provided transportation for the camp from the hotel to the club and for some local people that stayed at home. The camp was in the central Gymnasium and eight tables were available but due to some cancellations of international players only six tables were used.

Players and coaches in Dubai with back row far left Natalia Partyka and far right Christian Lillieroos
Photo courtesy of Christian Lillieroos

The tables and surrounds were provided by the company “Ping Pong Dubai”. The mother company is Falcon Associates which is a strategic partner with the city of Dubai in promoting the city internationally. Ping Pong Dubai also facilitates the sponsorship of the Chinese National Table Tennis team.

The daily schedule of the camp was a session on the morning from 9.00 -11.30, then theory for one hour. The theory covered classification and what it takes to be a world class athlete for Natalia Partyka.

In the afternoon it was play from 3.30 – 6.00. Most of the athletes were new to this level of training. In Dubai tournaments are only provided for wheelchair athletes so many where playing in a wheelchair when in reality they did not have minimal disability to play in a wheelchair for international play. Four athletes ended up playing standing for the first time in the camp. One athlete who was most likely Class 7, also played football with able bodied as a goal keeper. The camp was very evenly divided in between women and men, which were very encouraging.

Fatima Alefefey was the local coach. Coach Fatima is the local club coach and was of great help during the camp. She is originally from Iraq and was a national team player there and has been working in Dubai for 14 years as a coach.

Natalia Partyka from Poland, who is the ambassador for the Dream Building Project and Janusz Szydlowski , who is from Poland and Natalia’s manager, were also present.
Janusz has a background in Athletics and has worked with Natalia over the past three years. He has a great eye for marketing as well as physical preparation. He helps Natalia with everything outside of technical issues which is the most important work for a world class athlete.

Natalia is a great inspiration for all athletes; she was only one of two athletes in all sports that qualified for both the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012. She is currently ITTF world ranked around 50 among able bodied. She has participated in four Paralympic Games and won three consecutive Paralympic Gold medals in Women class 10 singles, something no one else have done in Table Tennis.

At the age of 24, she has many years left to play, and a chance to increase her legendary status much more. She is shooting for medals in the Olympics as well, and we wish her all the luck for that.

Local promotion for the Para Table Tennis Training Camp in Dubai
Photo courtesy of Christian Lillieroos

Since 2009 ITTF has integrated table tennis for athletes with a disability under a Para Table tennis division or abbreviated PTT, with the slogan “one sport one family”. In many countries this has been a slow process for the able bodied national associations to take over the responsibility of the PTT athletes.

Now only the national members of ITTF have the right to enter PTT athletes in international tournaments. In many countries, including UAE, Table Tennis for disabled is carried out by a separate organization. This creates a lack of information about classification, rules, how to properly organize tournaments, how to enter international tournaments, the Paralympic games etc. Also how to develop a disabled athlete is sometimes very different from how to develop an able bodied athlete.

The majority of disabled athletes are from accident, war victims, or diseases that happen in their teens. The beginning in sports for most disabled people is with a rehabilitative goal in mind. To be better integrated in society, to be more self reliant, and to take part in sport is the best tool in general so get stronger in the functional parts of the body who after the accident or disease has to work very differently than before.

At that stage sport is more a medical model than a sport model, and is more suitable for a disabled sport organization. When an athlete takes a keen interest in a special sport and wants to be more serious then it is the time when a sport organization like the national table tennis association should take over the next step. Able bodied table tennis tournaments need to be ready to accept PTT athletes in their regular events, and to organize PTT events.

Coaches need to be trained in how to coach disabled athletes. The ITTF-PTT Level 1 is an excellent step in that direction. One rule that was instigated as early as 2005 by ITTF, even before ITTF integrated PPT athletes, is that in able bodied tournaments if a wheelchair player, who plays in a wheelchair due to disability, their opponents needs to follow the wheelchair serving rules.

Simplified: no serves to the sides or short, (see ITTF rule). In UAE that was total news, and I still see that in many countries that the able bodied organizations are totally unaware of that rule. I am still waiting for a very competitive entry in the ITTF World tour of 2 wheelchair players playing doubles without having to alternate. They will in my opinion have a good chance to advance far.

The Dream Building project is an excellent tool to make the national table tennis associations more aware of their responsibility to take care of their PTT athletes and to make the PTT athletes better aware of their potential as athletes and what the world has to offer for them. 10% of the world’s population is disabled, that is almost one billion people, and many of them are neglected in their home countries.

They need dreams to encourage them to be a vital part of society as well. ITTF is making an excellent strive in that direction with this program, and we thank them and the sponsors for all their efforts and support.

left to right Fatima Alefefey, Januz Szydlowski, Natalia Partyka and Christian Lillieroos in Dubai
Photo courtesy of Christian Lillieroos  


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