Si­mon says Swe­den

Tom­lin­son eyes Scan­di­na­vian re­turn in Tokyo 2020 prepa­ra­tion

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS - Hu­bert Lawrence Gleaner Writer

SI­MON TOM­LIN­SON, Ja­maica’s ta­ble ten­nis cham­pion, says he will head to Swe­den to im­prove his game when his stud­ies at the Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (UTech) are over. Tom­lin­son has his heart set on com­pet­ing for Ja­maica in the 2020 Olympics and be­lieves a re­turn to Swe­den will help him to train and com­pete at a level that will make this dream come true. “I’m still a stu­dent-ath­lete, so for the short-term, I’m fo­cus­ing on fin­ish­ing my de­gree,” he tabled in an in­ter­view at the Bar­bican Ta­ble Ten­nis Cen­tre in Kingston re­cently. “Of course, I’m train­ing as well as I can, given that I still need to fo­cus most of my time on school­work. “As soon as that’s fin­ished, I’ll be look­ing to go back to Swe­den, go back to play­ing the league, to stay there longterm and be in a com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment to pre­pare my­self for Ja­pan (2020 Olympics).” Like his men­tor, three-time Caribbean cham­pion Stephen Hyl­ton, the 24-year-old Tom­lin­son has trained in Swe­den be­fore. The Scan­di­na­vian coun­try has pro­duced three world cham­pi­ons in Stel­lan Bengts­son, Jan-Ove Wald­ner and Jor­gen Pers­son, Olympic bronze medal­list Erik Lindh, and three-time Euro­pean cham­pion Mikael Ap­pel­gren with Wald­ner, the 1992 Olympic gold-medal win­ner, re­garded by many as the finest player of all time.

Af­ter a lull, the Swedes are on the rise again. Ag­gres­sive left-han­der Kris­tian Karls­son played his way into the In­ter­na­tional Ta­ble Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion (ITTF) World Cup semi-fi­nals with an­other Swedish leftie, Par Gerell, in the quar­ter-fi­nals.

PLAY­ERS TO BE CHAL­LENGED

Among the play­ers Tom­lin­son must chal­lenge to qual­ify for a re­gional Olympic spot is Brazil­ian Hugo Calder­ano, who starred at the re­cent Olympic ta­ble ten­nis com­pe­ti­tion in Rio de Janeiro.

Dur­ing 2016, Calder­ano rose from num­ber 77 to num­ber 31 in the ITTF world rank­ing. In Rio, he reached the round of 16 in the men’s sin­gles. Other noted play­ers from the re­gion in­clude France-based world num­ber 157 Mex­i­can Mar­cos Madrid and an­other Brazil­ian, Thi­ago Monteiro, ranked at 155.

“It’s hard to com­pete with those guys,” Tom­lin­son es­ti­mated, “so it would be good to be on sort of more even foot­ing with them the next time around.”

Tom­lin­son ex­pects to com­plete his UTech stud­ies in 2017.

De­spite the re­spect the UTech Sports Man­age­ment stu­dent has for Calder­ano and the re­gion’s other fine ta­ble ten­nis play­ers, he isn’t scared. He clearly feels that he can join Garfield Jones, Hyl­ton and Michael Hy­att as Ja­maican ta­ble ten­nis Olympians.

“I have more ex­pe­ri­ence,” said the young man, who has played on the Euro­pean cir­cuit and who has played in black, green, and-gold at the Com­mon­wealth Games and World Cham­pi­onships. “Be­ing able to draw on that ex­pe­ri­ence to help in com­pe­ti­tion should help a lot,” he con­cluded.

TOM­LIN­SON

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