2019: Year in review
January 2, 2020
By Barry Griffiths, ITTF-Oceania General Manager
2019 has been a busy year for ITTF-Oceania, to say the least with a full year of tournaments, programs and events. As we prepare for 2020, we’d like to recognise some of the accomplishments and changes from 2019. Here are just a few highlights from this year.
The pinnacle of Oceania table tennis in 2019 was undoubtedly the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum Australian Open held in Geelong, with record entries and ticket sales. Nearly 200 of the world’s best athletes, including 9 out of the 10 top-ranked players in both the Men’s and Women’s Singles flew down under to compete in this premier event. History was made when Xu Xin became the first player to ever win two Australia Open titles.
Following the successful debut of the ITTF Oceania Tour in 2018, the 2019 ITTF Oceania Tour capitalised on the lessons learnt and has delivered an even more remarkable tour with more players and more prize money. The pinnacle of the Oceania Tour is to qualify for the Oceania Cup where Oceania’s best athletes battle it out for $40,000AU in prize money and a spot at the ITTF World Cup. The 2018 ITTF Oceania Tour culminated in the 2019 Oceania Cup in Tahiti with victory for Australia’s Heming Hu and Jian Fang Lay in the Men’s and Women’s Singles.
The Pacific Games in Samoa which are hosted only once every four years was a major highlight of the year with Vanuatu achieving notable success, taking home gold medals in the Men’s and Women’s Teams as well as the Men’s and Women’s Singles and Doubles events with Yoshua Shing and Priscilla Tommy each adding three gold medals to their collection.
In the Paras, Australia achieved a clean sweep of gold medals in singles events at the 2019 ITTF-Oceania Para Championships in Darwin, Australia. Later in the year, Australia’s Sam von Einem dominated at the 2019 INAS global games, beating world ranked no.2 and no.3 to claim gold.
In celebration of World Table Tennis Day, ITTF-Oceania has released the newly developed and long-anticipated school program – Bounce it Back. This program has now successfully launched in both Tonga and Fiji.
In August, Tonga Table Tennis Federation won the prestigious World Health Organisation (WHO) Healthy Islands Best Practice Recognition Award for the Smash Down Barriers program. This program aims to create opportunities and increase the quality of life for people with a disability through active participation in table tennis, and also works to change community perceptions of disability and has been one of ITTF Oceania’s standout programs since inception.
Oceania’s young stars battled it out in Tonga at the 2019 ITTF Oceania Junior Championships with Australia dominating the event and going home with 13 out of the 14 gold medals available. New Zealand’s Nathan Xu was the only non-Australian to win a gold medal, claiming the Junior Boys Singles title.
Our best hopes for the future participated in the World Cadet Challenge in Poland with representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, New Caledonia and the Cook Islands. Australia’s Finn Luu exceeded expectations to come 14th in the Cadet Boys Singles, one of the highest rankings achieved by an Oceania player.
At the recent ZEN-NOH 2019 ITTF Team World Cup Anolyn Lulu, Priscila Tommy and Stephanie Qwea made history by becoming the first-ever players from Vanuatu to compete at the ITTF World Cup.
In preparation for one of the biggest events of the sports calendar next year, qualifications for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are in full flight with the Teams Qualification showcasing the strength of Australia winning both the Men’s and Women’s teams. There is one last qualification opportunity for singles and mixed doubles on 19 & 20 April 2020 as part of the Festival of table tennis in Brisbane.
ITTF-Oceania would like to thank everyone for their support and participation in 2019 and we can’t wait to share with you all the things we have planned for 2020.