Earlier this year a para classification seminar was held concurrently with the 2017 Oceania Para Championships over five days from the 10-15 of April in Suva, Fiji.
Dr Sheng Wu was the presenter for the course. Dr Wu guided participants through the key theoretical concepts of classification over the first two days of the seminar, followed by practical learning over the remaining three days. Level A participants were able to observe during classification and level B participants assisted the lead classifiers, Dr Wu, Dr Katrina Forster and Tah Fatt Ong with the classification of new athletes. During classification, athletes with a disability were asked to undertake physical and medical testing, demonstrate table tennis skills and be observed during competition.
By the end of the event 32 athletes from nine countries had been classified.
Lead classifier Dr Katrina Forster highlighted the importance of the seminar to Oceania.
“The success of the development of the para side of tabletennis is very much a team effort and the identification and classification of athletes is an important component. Having knowledgeable classifiers throughout Oceania can only help the development of our sport.” Katrina Forster
Elite para table tennis continues to grow in Oceania and having a larger pool of trained classifiers is vital for the sport’s continued expansion. Proof of the region’s development was evident as Sharlene Nand and Tekoaua Tamaroa became the first pacific islanders to receive a Level B Classification Accreditation.
“Classification is crucial as it provides athletes with a disability with a level playing-field in competition. Para table tennis is developing rapidly in Oceania and having well educated, experienced classifiers is a top priority.” Christian Holtz
The seminar not only provided vital education, but also served as inspiration for the coaches that attended.
“Learning from such experienced professionals in the field of para table tennis as well as being exposed to so many inspiring para athletes has helped me not only as a classifier but also as a coach. With the knowledge I have gained during the course I am hoping to increase my involvement with para table tennis in the Oceania region.” Patrick Wuertz
An initial exposure to table tennis was also a key element of the seminar. The course provided an opportunity for those unfamiliar with the sport to develop a understanding and appreciation for the game.
“Coming from a non table tennis background, the Fiji seminar and experience was an excellent introduction to the sport and classification. Since then I have kept an interest in table tennis, and I am going to Europe in September to continue to develop my classification skills.” Aleem Khalfan
The seminar participants were partially funded by the Agitos Foundation, the development arm of the International Paralympic Committee, and the ITTF-Oceania Development Program.