Peace the message from Antalya

The organising committee, their efforts appreciated by all (Photos: Dicle Ekinci)

by Dr. Savaş Ertufan, Veteran Table Tennis Association (VMTD)

Organised by the local Veteran Table Tennis Players’ Association (VMTD), Kemer a resort with a Mediterranean coastline in the Turkish province of Antalya was the home for the recent 23rd Antalya International Veteran Championships.

Proceeding commenced on Monday 25th September and concluded on Friday 29th September.

The slogan “Table Tennis Delivers Peace” was the theme for an event that attracted no less than 340 players representing many different age groups and nationalities. They came together to compete in a pleasant and peaceful environment. At the end, some players were awarded medals, some were not but without a doubt, the real achievement of the tournament was the forging of “friendship” amongst players.

Impressively this year, players from 28 countries participated in the tournament, which started with an Open Singles event. Pia Toelhoj from Denmark, who eventually departed with a total of four titles, won gold in the Women’s Open; Yuri İllarianov from Russia, succeeded in Men’s Open.

Over the following two days, age group singles matches were played. On the fourth day, women’s and men’s doubles matches took place. Finally, on the last day, the tournament ended with mixed doubles.

Notable names and there were two more who attracted the attention, Deniz Yener-Korematsu travelled some 15,000 kilometres from Melbourne in Australia to compete, whilst Sarmad Durand, who gained third place in Men’s Singles 30-39 years, journeyed with a group of colleagues from Iraq.

Unfortunately, he was unable to stay to the end to receive his bronze medal at the award ceremony. He had to leave Turkey with other Iraqi players upon learning that the Turkish-Iraqi border was about to close; the conflict at home was on his mind all the time and certainly affected his performance.

A most successful event, the reaction from all was most positive.

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A plethora of action in Kemer (Photo: Dicle Ekinci)

“It was my first time here; I absolutely want to come again next year. I met amazing people. Because they come here every year, players know each other; it is like being in a family. I would like to thank especially the organization committee as well as the President of VMTD, Isik Ertufan and her husband Savas, for the wonderful job they did. As for my performance, I can say that I was quite satisfied with my play. Actually, I started playing table tennis at the age of 10. I played in the Denmark National Team for 15 years and then gave up playing for 20 years. During that time, I kept on working out in order to stay in good shape. Then about a year ago, ITTF Vice President, Petra Sörling, called and asked me to play in Alicante with her. That was how I restarted table tennis. My game is more mature now because as years passed, I learned how to control my nerves, stay calm and concentrate during a match. I try to enjoy the points.” Pia Toelhoj (Denmark) – Winner of four titles

“For the whole week, I did not play well; I wasn’t focused enough and my game wasn’t consistent, except for the semi-final and final. I regained my concentration in these two matches and started to play better. Before the final, I watched the semi-final match between Vedat Zengin of Turkey and Yuri Illarianov. Yuri is a better player than me and as the winner of the Open Tournament, I thought he would be my opponent in the final. (Vedat Zengin beat Yuri Illarianov three-two.) During the final match with Zengin, we were both nervous; in the third game, I remember losing eight points in succession. In the last game, however, I decided to keep calm and just keep the ball on the table. My opponent started hitting the ball out. That was how I succeeded in the deciding game, I won three-two.

This was my second time in Antalya, I will definitely come again next year. What makes this tournament so special is that I can play against strong players from countries like Iran, Russia, Turkey, Iraq and Ukraine. These guys don’t come to World Championships so often. So, it is interesting for me to find the opportunity to play against these players. Also, I think the organization is very good here, I play half day in the sports hall and then spend the rest of the day in the beach.” Peter Beranek (Germany) – Champion of men’s singles 50-59 years

“This is my fifth time participating in this tournament, I think it is the best one by the sea. I always try to come here, because the organization is good; the sea, weather, hotel and food are all very good. The sports hall is within the hotel complex, which is very convenient. There are many strong players from different countries, which makes it very interesting for me. I am satisfied with my performance in this tournament. My play is usually consistent.” Sergei Savaliev (Russia) – winner men’s singles 40 – 49 years.

“During this tournament, I played well, except for the Open. Last time I participated in this tournament, I was unlucky at the Open too, because I had to play against Ding Yi and got eliminated. I think Antalya Tournament is super. I would like to thank all the participants and especially the Ertufans for their hospitality. I love the atmosphere here.” Oleksii Kaulik (Ukraine) – winner men’s singles 30 – 39 years

“It wasn’t so difficult to get the gold medal in my age group because there were not too many opponents. In Germany, we have many players over 80, even 85. I would like to thank Savas Ertufan for combining the group 75 plus with 80 plus. I enjoy coming to Antalya for the tournament, this is my seventh or eighth time. I find it interesting playing against opponents that do not come to the World championships.” Konrad Steinkamper (Germany) – Winner of men’s singles 80 years plus

“The tournament is very well-organized in the sense that, when you go to other international tournaments, everybody organizes their own accommodation and they stay in different places and the only opportunity to be with the table tennis community is in the hall, whereas in this instance, it is really nice that people can hang out outside the table tennis hall and gather in a social environment. This creates a very nice atmosphere. The location is very nice and there are many things to do other than table tennis in your free time. It is very good that the table tennis hall can be that close to the accommodation. Between matches, you can go have a snack, take a shower and come back, I find this really convenient.” Deniz Yener-Korematsu (Australia)