Table tennis became the first sport locally to return competitively at the start of this month, this was after the government eased the coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations.
The tournament held at BNYC Hall, saw a number of new changes due to the effects of COVID-19. Significantly, the Botswana Table Tennis Association (BTTA) suspended the doubles event in an effort to encourage social distancing. Spectators are not allowed in playing areas, and matches are broadcast on projectors through social media pages to reduce crowds in playing halls.
These changes have brought a different dimension as players seek to acclimatise under the new normal. Ahead of yet another spectacle, the ‘Road to Finale’ which was held this past weekend at BNYC Hall the men’s top ranked player, Tshenolo Mooketsi said he enjoying the new normal. He said mental strength was key under the new conditions.
“There is huge impact on us, as we not free to play like we used to. Is also hard to hear instructions from your coach because of the distancing. But this improves your mental fitness as a player. We do almost everything on the table on your own, with minimal help from the coach and support from the fan while at the same time you have to practice safe methods. It all impacts on your mental strength,” he said. His opposite number, women’s number one, Tshepiso Rebatenne shared the similar sentiments as she wishes the new normal to remain post COVID-19.
“Playing in a quite and not crowded hall is kind of cool because you are able to focus well without disturbance from the spectators.
One needs to rely on themselves as the only coach.
I must say I like the new normal more, I wish we can use these rules in our competitions even after the pandemic,” Rebatenne said. Men’s second-ranked, Boago Malobela said despite ping-pong not having much following, he misses crowds on match days.
“There are games where you need the voice of the fans. I always relish facing the number one (Mooketsi) in front of fans, it pushes me to do better.
His club, BDF has the loudest following so, it motivates you to play in front of that crowd. The changes, to be honest, have affected the players differently. Some were doing well because with fans watching while others it allows them to focus on the game, when it’s them, players and the coach with no noise from the fans,” Malobela said.
Nhabe Table Tennis Club’s Tirelo Tshipinare said the new normal has hampered the players’ monetary benefits as games and tournaments have significantly reduced. “BTTA had to adopt strict social distancing measures, by cutting some events such as all the doubles event.
This is a huge knock for us who get most of our wins in the doubles event. The BTTA had a great line-up of two or three tournaments in a month, with a substantial amount of prize money. Unfortunately, they are now down to only one tournament per month,” he said.