WHY not table tennis, too?
This was the question raised by Philippine Table Tennis Federation president Ting Ledesma, who is batting for the inclusion of ping-pong, as the sport is commonly known, in the list of disciplines to be allowed to play by the national government under areas of the general community quarantine.
Although basically a non-contact sport, table tennis is often played in enclosed venues, sometimes in shopping malls where people congregate, the PTTF president pointed out.
“We have had online meetings with our coaches and stakeholders in our community to draft our local guidelines once our sport is given the go-signal to play again,” said Ledesma, adding that these were based on the directives issued by the International Table Tennis Federation last May 22.
“Once we have come up with the guidelines, we will forward them to the Philippine Sports Commission so they could look them over then, hopefully, it can endorse our protocols to the Inter-Agency Task Force overseeing the COVID-19 crisis for approval,” he said. “We want our sport to be included in the list so play can resume as soon as possible.
“Our priority is that our national team can also resume its training once we are given the permission to play.”
The ITTF guidelines stressed that their respective member federations comply with the rules set down by their national governments for the resumption of play.
Among the proposals made by the world table tennis body for the “new normal” during training are: temperature checks, required hand-washing before entering and after leaving the venue, footbaths at its entrance, prominent placement of hand sanitizers, observe proper social distancing, and no physical contact among participants.
It also proposed the thorough cleaning of the venue every two hours after each training session and non-use of comfort rooms and showers to avoid virus transmission.
The ITTF also discourages doubles training while coaches are the only ones allowed to hold the table tennis ball, and are properly marked and set apart from the rest in the training venue.
Players are required to have their own rackets and other equipment, including water bottles and snack packs, while a 10-minute interval will be required before the next training session to limit physical contact.
The playing area should be 5×12 meters surrounded by barriers, with a distance of two meters between courts.
Ledesma said changeovers are no longer required between sets and the PTTF introduced the “one-ball-one-point” policy for each game.
Ledesma, who coaches the Ateneo varsity squad, acknowledged that the sport was also hit hard by the government-imposed lockdown to curb the spread of the virus, disclosing that some of his assistant coaches would be laid off with the UAAP intramurals in hiatus.
The table tennis chief said national team members are doing mostly their training at home, although Olympic hopeful Jann Nayre Nayre continues to work out with South Korean mentor Kwon Mi Sook inside an apartment compound the PTTF rented near the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.
Kwon was instrumental for the late Ian Lariba qualifying as the country’s first table tennis athlete in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
“We are still hopeful that Janjan (Nayre’s nickname) will able to qualify for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics when the Olympic qualifiers resume next year,” said Ledesma of the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games veteran.