As the ball bounces

The Compass - - SPORTS - Ni­cholas Mercer is a reporter/pho­tog­ra­pher with the Com­pass. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at­n­mercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

If you watched Sport­snet’s top plays of 2013, you un­doubt­edly saw an un­be­liev­able play from a ta­ble ten­nis ath­lete.

Now, I know what you’re think­ing. There is no way a play from the world of ta­ble ten­nis cracked the top 50, let alone the top 10, but that is ex­actly what hap­pened.

If you don’t be­lieve me, I ’ ll de­scribe it for you.

French player Quentin Robinot was squar­ing off with Kiril Bara­banov of Be­larus in the Kuwait Open. The match started in­no­cently enough.

The two play­ers start with a rally that slowly builds in in­ten­sity. Soon the play­ers are ri­fling the small, white ball at each other. Then, the amaz­ing hap­pens. As Robinot is go­ing to his right in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a cross-court blast from Bara­banov, his op­po­nent de­cides to fire the ball away from Robinot. In top tier dis­play of hand-eye co­or­di­na­tion and fast twitch mus­cle fir­ing, the French­man hits an un­be­liev­able be­hind the back shot for the win­ner.

It was some­thing I had never seen be­fore, and, to tell the truth, blew my mind.

The fact the play made the list was as un­ex­pected as Bobby Ryan not be­ing named to the United States men’s Olympic hockey team. It re­ally was.

Ryan is third in scor­ing amongst Amer­i­cans in the Na­tional Hockey League, but that’s a topic for another day.

Ta­ble ten­nis is not the first sport that comes to mind when you’re think­ing about high­light reel plays or heart stop­ping mo­ments.

But, they are there and they should be brought up more. Imag­ine, the Robinot play did not even crack the top-10 plays in its own sport.

Ta­ble ten­nis is a sport that gets a bad rap. How­ever, that does not take away from the tal­ent and elitelevel ath­leti­cism it takes to play the game.

You can’t just pick up ta­ble ten­nis and play the game at a high level.

It takes years of prac­tice to even play at the same ta­ble of some of the lower-tier play­ers.

Ath­let­i­cally, th­ese guys and girls are no slouches.

If you get the chance, check out the Con­cep­tion Bay North Ta­ble Ten­nis Club. You’re sure to see some amaz­ing shots and plays. But, don’t just fo­cus on that. Fo­cus on the skill of those play­ers.

Fo­cus on the amount of ded­i­ca­tion each of them put into their craft.

Wan t a tes­tame n t to t he amount of skill it takes to play ta­ble ten­nis look no fur­ther than the NHL.

Why do you think each team has a ta­ble hid­den some­where in their arena?

Why do play­ers have their own rac­quet?

Sure, play­ers have an in­sa­tiable de­sire to com­pete with each other, but that’s not the only rea­son a ta­ble is al­ways ly­ing around.

It’s a great train­ing tool and it’s a good work­out.

The way the sport is looked upon makes me feel like it’s a bit taboo.

When I started this job, that’s how I viewed the sport, I’ll ad­mit it.

Sure, it was a fun game to play, but it wasn’t hard.

How­ever, as I started cov­er­ing the sport a bit more I quickly came to re­al­ize that it was not as easy as it looked.

You can’t just pick up a pad­dle and play with the best.

Th­ese ath­letes have to be com­mended for the ded­i­ca­tion and the tal­ent they have.

It’s just another tes­ta­ment to the level of tal­ent the Trin­ity-Con­cep­tion-Pla­cen­tia re­gion has.

Some of the best ta­ble ten­nis tal­ent in the prov­ince re­sides in this area.

They should be placed on or near the same level of the hockey ath­lete or the base­ball ath­lete or the fig­ure skat­ing ath­lete.

Hey, it isn’t an Olympic sport for noth­ing.

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