Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by John Tonin

TEAM NORTH – Table tennis players and coaches from the Yukon and Northwest Territories take a moment out of their training session to take a picture on Sunday at École Whitehorse Elementary School.

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Photo by John Tonin

RETURNING SERVE – Ming Huang, left, hits the ball back over the net while her doubles partner Raghvi Sharma looks on Sunday at École Whitehorse Elementary School. Both will be representing the Yukon at the Canada Winter Games.

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Photo by John Tonin

Image title

Photo by John Tonin

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Photo by John Tonin

Yukon and N.W.T. train for table tennis

The gym at École Whitehorse Elementary School was taken over by table tennis for a three-day session.

By John Tonin on January 7, 2019

The gym at École Whitehorse Elementary School was taken over by table tennis for a three-day session. The Yukon Canada Winter Games team welcomed the team going to represent the Northwest Territories at the Games in what Yukon coach Kevin Murphy described as an “unprecedented event in our sport in Yukon.”

The Whitehorse Table Tennis club has been established for a number of years, but for the Northwest Territories, their club is still in the grassroots stages but is continuing to see steady growth led by coach Thorsten Gohl.

“For us, we are only three years old for table tennis in the Northwest Territories,” said Gohl. “There were players beforehand but the Northwest Territories hasn’t competed in the CWGs for 40 years.

“The main focus for me in the territories is grassroots, awareness. So the next five to 10 years that’s what we are going to do. Working with schools taking over their PE classes doing a week program in each school and then in the next five to 10 years focus on more high performance.”

Murphy says that Gohl has done great work in growing table tennis in the Northwest Territories.

“Until Thor (Gohl) arrived in the Northwest Territories table tennis was just a recreational activity and not to the level of Arctic Winter Games or Canada Winter Games,” said Murphy. “So he’s brought it back up to that level where they are well financed with lots of players and in a lot of communities. So he’s done an amazing job for table tennis in the N.W.T.”

Gohl has visited the Yukon in the past to help coach but this is the first year he has brought a group of players to practice and compete with some new faces.

“We started this a few years ago where I come down and do some training and help out a little bit,” said Gohl. “After that, the thinking was we could do more incorporation between the two territories because the team’s strengths are the same and it would be good to get our kids down to play other players.”

Murphy agrees with his fellow coach that it is important to get the players game experience against some new competition.

“Especially from their own peer group from another territory and the level is very close,” said Murphy when asked about the importance about the players seeing new faces to compete against. “Thor’s done an amazing job with the kids so their playing level is very good for the kids (in the Yukon) to play against too. There is nothing like playing against someone new that you can really test yourself against and really drive that learning experience.”

Aside from adding competitive experience to their repertoire of skills, the training sessions were also about building friendships between players from the territories.

“Hopefully we can foster those relationships where we can come back-and-forth,” said Gohl. “It’s not just about the winning aspect. It’s about learning, experiencing and building friendships for life.”

When it comes to competitions like the Canada Winter Games and the Arctic Winter Games the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut will be opponents. However, in the in-between times, they are building a northern style of playing and composure.

“They (N.W.T.) have really invested a lot to come overhear,” said Murphy. “Thor, he is very much about the territories, Nunavut, Yukon and N.W.T. as almost a stylistic athletic team. They have the same attitude the same camaraderie, we are table tennis north. It doesn’t matter what territory you are from. It is something to take pride it and especially going down there we are team north and will be cheering for each other. He is envisioning this across the territories and it’s really ambitious. I want this too.”

On the Yukon side of things, Murphy says the club is trying to promote the game by continuing to get into the schools.

“To do that here we are trying to get into the schools,” said Murphy. “If we can get in there on an active basis, work with some of the kids and get them excited about the sport we can feed them into the club and get them into the Arctic Winter Games or Nationals. The big sports get the number, we have to go out and be a lot more active in recruitment. Show them there are other options. There is a sport for everybody and I think that speaks to the diversity in this community.”

For Gohl, he believes that table tennis is a game of the north.

“For me, it is the sport of the north,” said Gohl. “You can do it in a basement, in a church and in a classroom, you don’t need much. It is a lifelong sport.”

Heading into the Games both coaches believe their teams are developing quickly. Both agreed that every practice they are seeing improvements in their technique and shot repertoire.

Comments (1)

Up 4 Down 0

Thorsten Gohl on Jan 7, 2019 at 7:37 pm

An absolutely beautiful article. John has captured the essence of what Table Tennis in the North is all about. Such great comments and descriptions of what great things are happening and what better things are coming. GO TEAM NORTH GO!!!

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