Every dream, every road to success has to start somewhere. You can't sit around waiting for the opportunity, you have to go and get it yourself. Fortunately enough for me, opportunity showed it self sooner than I expected. I had the opportunity to participate at the Mike Dempsey memorial tournament that was held in the memory of a para legend Mike Dempsey, in San Diego, CA at the end of November of this year.
Thanks Killerspin for all your support!
From what I have heard, international tournaments are not very big in USA, so this really was a huge opportunity for me to get as much experience as I could. Being the newcomer, I didn't know what to expect going into it. To be honest, it was a miracle that I was able to participate in this tourney, but with the amazing help of my coach Ed Hogshead, and the US National Para coach Sean O'Neill I was able to get in in the last minute. As soon as I got of the plane, nearly right away I was picked up by some volunteers and was taken straight to the hotel...well a hotel where anything and everything that you needed was within walking distance. Restaurants, and the convention center where the playing area was, all of it was right there next to you.
The tournament came with a training camp for all the juniors in advance to prepare each one of the juniors for the completion. The camp was ran by one of the Swedish legends Stellan Bengtsson, Stellan's wife Angie, also a US national team member all throughout the 70s, US National junior cadet coach Keith Evans, and some volunteers from the San Diego area. The camp was ran perfectly and was a huge help to my game, especially having the privilege to get some help from 1971 World Champion Stellan Bengtsson. The camp was being held twice a day, early in the morning at 9:30 to about 12:00, and the afternoon session which was held from 2:30 PM to about 5:00 PM. Each session was amazing and really prepared for the actual competition.
Coaches: Stellan, Angie, and Keith
The competition started on Thursday so we had one day rest due to a lot of training, which was very nice. Once the competition started, it was ran very smoothly. Ten minutes before your event started you had to be in the hall to wait for your umpire to take you to your table. There was never a time where my match was held late, everything was ran on time and in perfect conditions.
Igor in action
The conditions of the convention center were in perfect shape. Lightning, air conditioning, the environment that I was playing in, everything was just perfect for a tournament to be successfully ran. Personally I really enjoyed my experience playing internationally, but also representing my country in home soil. Even tough I didn't win anything, I got a very clear and a very good idea of where I need to be to compete with some of the best paralympians in the world. Having amazing conditions to play in really helped my experience to be that much better.
Igor and Alex; TD Andre Scott chatting with Daryl Sterling, Jr.
I can say that Andre Scott: Tournament Director, did an amazing job putting an event, that was a true success together. Having the opportunity to be able to be a part of it, but also meet all kinds of people, have fun, and get amazing experience was very worth it. I really hope that next year, this particular event grows bigger and gets much more attention. As I said, it is amazing experience, good weather, awesome environment and just a great event to be a part of. I want to thank everyone that was a part of this event. You made it a success!
Team USA and Alex & Igor at Player Party
All Images courtesy of Richard Xue.
ITTF's complimentary article on Igor's Feature.