Table tennis making way to Arctic Winter Games

photo courtesy of Thorsten Gohl Riis Schaub of Hay River was a member of the NWT table tennis team at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland.

photo courtesy of Thorsten Gohl
Riis Schaub of Hay River was a member of the NWT table tennis team at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland.

Initially left out of the plans for the 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games, table tennis has now been added to the list of sports for the international event.

That announcement was made in a June 7 news release from Greg Rowe, the president of the host society for the Games, which will be co-hosted by Hay River and Fort Smith.

We are pleased to have the opportunity to include table tennis, a sport that is growing

in the NWT, and has always had a strong presence across the circumpolar world,” said Rowe.

The addition of table tennis was approved by the host society at its regular meeting on June 4.

That means there will be 19 sports in the 2018 Games.

Table tennis will add approximately 70 participants from eight contingents.

The venues for all sports, including table tennis, are currently being assessed as we challenge the assumptions made in our bid document,” stated Rowe. “We expect to

confirm them by September 2016, when the host society meets with the Arctic Winter

Games International Committee.”

When contacted by The Hub, Rowe explained that table tennis has been part of the Games for many years, but was initially left out of the South Slave Games because of organizational issues with the sport.

“When we were building our bid at the time there was no TSO – territorial sporting organization – that we could lean on for resources and a chairperson,” he said. “In putting our bid together, we didn’t have the TSO, we didn’t have a venue. So we actually left it right out of our bid. The international committee was aware of that.”

Rowe said, shortly after the South Slave was awarded the Games, the international committee asked if it would entertain adding table tennis.

“Some things had changed,” he said.

In particular, a TSO for table tennis called Table Tennis North, had been established and Fort Providence’s Thorsten Gohl. He was head coach of the NWT’s table tennis team at this year’s Games, and he indicated his willingness to be involved in the South Slave event.

“The international committee also indicated to us that table tennis is one of the few sports that has almost all of the contingents involved,” said Rowe. “I think the only one that doesn’t participate in table tennis would be Team Alberta North. All other contingents do send participants. It was a mandate that the international committee really wanted to see if we could include it. And given the circumstances that had changed, we felt that it would be certainly a viable option.”

The host society president added a venue was also identified in Fort Smith and accommodations became available at Aurora College.

Gohl welcomed the return of table tennis to the Games.

“From my perspective, I’m very excited, but I’m not as surprised as many others would be,” he said.

Gohl said that’s because he believed there was no possibility that table tennis wouldn’t be part of the 2018 Games.

“When I talked to the host society before, they were all saying that it came out because there was no sports organization there at that point and they didn’t see the benefit at that time,” he said. “That’s my understanding. And so I said, ‘We’re now here and I think that we can make this work.’ We had some great talks with Greg Rowe and with some other people.”

Gohl said finding a venue was really the only issue.

Hay River’s Riis Schaub, who was one of four local players on the NWT table tennis team at this year’s Games in Nuuk, Greenland, is also happy to see table tennis back for 2018.

“I’m excited because table tennis is growing in the NWT and I feel that, if we have it in 2018, it will grow it a bit more in the NWT,” said the 14-year-old. “It’s a fun sport and a lot of the other countries and provinces that come to this enjoy it. So it’s good for the kids and it’s good for Arctic Winter Games and the sport of ping pong.”

Rowe said the total number of participants in the 2018 Games won’t change with the addition of table tennis.

“We’ve got a maximum number of 1,900 that was proposed when we bid the Games,” he said. “So they may go back to some of the contingents and say, ‘OK, you can’t send a full contingent in all sports. This is the maximum you can have.’ So it really isn’t going to affect us a whole bunch from accommodations.”

–Paul Bickford