Mon | Sep 23, 2019

TT heroes give back

Published:Tuesday | August 20, 2019 | 12:11 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer

The Excelsior High School auditorium was abuzz last week with the sounds of youngsters swatting table tennis balls back and forth under the watchful gaze of two former national champions, Keith Evans and Roberto ‘Dino’ Byles.

Under the auspices of the Kingston and St Andrew Table Tennis Association, the pair staged a clinic for young players designed to help them develop. Both men are delighted to give back to the game they love.

The Evans/Byles Table Tennis Extravaganza is an idea whose time has come. Evans, men’s singles runner-up in the Caribbean Championship in 1993, said he and Byles have harboured this idea for many years and Byles, who was a star during his days at Excelsior, was delighted to be back on familiar ground.

“It’s unbelievable and seeing the great turnout with all the youths playing, it’s worthwhile for Keith Evans and myself to come back and contribute to the sport”, Byles exulted.

Evans has happy memories of the venue, too.

“Funny enough, when I thought about it, this was where I played my first tournament”, Evans, the tall left-hander, reminisced.

“So, everything is kind of coming together and having fun being here and seeing some of these kids enjoying themselves, trying to get better”, added Evans, who has coached with great success in the US college system and internationally, as former US Para coach and coach of its Cadet team.

The extravaganza ran from Wednesday to Saturday with a tournament, but both men hope to come back soon.

Aiming to continue

“Now we have it going, I would like to continue,” said Evans.

Byles, who coaches and plays the game in Houston, echoed the sentiment and both thanked the Sports Development Foundation, Optical Solutions, Abnormal House, Food for the Poor, Tastee, Lannaman and Morris, Avitco, Xsomo, Storm Brokers, Key Insurance, Kiss, Hi-Lyte, Coco Jam, National, Fromage and Paddle Palace for supporting the effort.

Noting the evolution of the game’s techniques, the two champions want to help Jamaica catch up.

“The fundamentals, there’s not a lot of fundamentals”, observed Evans, who once served as Jamaican national coach. “The ones who are a little bit advanced have some, but they’re still a little bit old-school.

“Most people don’t even know that the Chinese are taking the ball on the rise,” he said of the speedy play of the world’s dominant table tennis power. “And you know, on the rise is not easy to master, so every time the game changes, the Chinese advance more and we are behind.”