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Over 100 table tennis players and officials from nations around Oceania and Asia hit the tables later this week and next at the Auckland Table Tennis Stadium in Gillies Ave for the 2012 KVB Kunlun TTNZ New Zealand Junior and Cadet Open.
As a build-up to the Open the Oceania Cadet Challenge will be held on 15th April, 2012 and an ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) Training Camp will be held from 16th - 18th April.
Nations competing include Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, New Zealand and Pacific Island countries. The Global Junior Circuit Event 19-22 April features players in under18 and under 15 age groups and should provide the future of the sport in New Zealand which is growing steadily.
The Global Junior Circuit Event is the Oceania leg of the ITTF Global Junior Circuit where players earn points with the opportunity to qualify for the prestigious Global Junior Circuit Finals at the end of the year.
“The playing numbers, particularly around the Auckland region are growing, especially in the schools. This sort of tournament is great for our young players to gain valuable experience in what are considered top junior events. Already players such as Roger (Rao) and Kevin (Wu) are in the New Zealand men’s team. The standard of play can be quite high and a lot is expected from our Kiwi players,” says Shane Warbrooke, Chief Executive Officer Auckland Table Tennis Association and Tournament Director.
The Oceania Cadet Challenge is for players 15 years and under. Each country can have two boys and two girls entered to attempt to qualify for the Oceania team to compete in the Global Cadet Challenge held at the end of the year.
New Zealand is expected to be strong in most areas of the tournament especially with some well-travelled players who are mature in table tennis beyond their years.
Two players of note who are taking part are Roger Rao and Kevin Wu. Both have recently been a part of the New Zealand men’s team at the World Championships in Dortmund, Germany. They now return to action on the Global Junior Circuit. Rao, who attends Auckland Grammar is 15 years-old, while Wu is 17 from Kohimarama, but has been training in China of late. Strangely the pair have the same birthday, 7 November, however two years apart.
There will be plenty of experience for Rao, Wu and other Kiwis to call on with Olympic hopeful and former Commonwealth Games medallist, Li Chunli as one of New Zealand coaches on site.
One of the top hopes in the girls competition is Ruofei Rao who is the younger sister of national rep, Roger Rao. At only 12-years-old Ruofei has already played overseas and is recognised as a talent for the future. Part-Maori player Nathan Watson is another to watch in the boys section while it is expected that players from Singapore will be strong and New Zealand should prove to be too strong in boys events while Australia should dominate the girls events.