Posted on August 11, 2018

After the latest success of Qatar’s national table tennis team at the recently concluded 26th Arab Table Tennis Championships in Cairo, Qatar’s national team and Aspire Academy coach, Peter Karlsson, envisions a bright future for the talented players, that could lead one of them to a spot at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The team, comprising some of Aspire Academy graduates including Mohamed Abdulwahab, Abdulrahman Al Naggar, and current student-athlete Abdulaziz Al Hajaji, along with athletes from the Qatar Table Tennis Federation, won a total of four medals throughout the Championships. Some key players on the team demonstrated strong performances against the number one players of table tennis giants, Egypt and Bahrain in the teams and singles matches across various age groups, including the Under-21, Under-18 and the Under-12.

With these results, coach Karlsson feels optimistic and sees a bright future awaiting the team in future tournaments. Commenting on the athletes’ performance, he said: “I’m extremely satisfied with [the boys’] performance. They played really well. Having reached the semi-finals in the teams’ category and the finals in the singles category head-to-head against Egypt, a country well known for its rich history in table tennis competitions, was a great achievement in itself.”

Karlsson added; “The table tennis competition featured several categories, and we faced Egypt in all of them. One of our team members, Mohammed Abdulwahab managed to beat Egypt’s number one player when we faced the team in the group stages. When we faced the team again in the finals, our other team member Al Naggar, who was returning from injury, also came out victorious against Egypt’s top player. However, the overall results meant that Egypt managed a narrow win over us in a very closely contested match.”

“Before the match with Egypt, Al Naggar and Abdulwahab, two of Qatar’s most promising table tennis athletes, each won their matches against Bahrain’s top table tennis player who is regarded as the number player in the Arab region for his age group and recently won Asia’s Under-21 table tennis champion a few weeks prior to this Championship. In the Singles category, Al Naggar faced the star Bahraini player again in the semi-finals but lost 3-1. The latter went on win the Singles category.”

“The high level of competition that our players faced, and overcame in several matches, to me says they have the potential to take on the region’s top players and acquit themselves well in the West Asia qualifiers for 2020 Olympics in two years’ time.

Karlsson concluded saying, “Looking ahead to future competitions, Aspire Academy, in collaboration with the Qatar Table Tennis Federation, plan to have its table tennis athletes take part in two more major events by the end of 2018 and around nine international and regional tournaments in 2019. Come 2020, the hope is that our players would have had adequate exposure and gained good experience to help them secure a spot in the West Asian qualification for the Olympics.” 

The Championship in Cairo featured around 386 players competing in the Under-21, Under-18, Under-15 and Under-12 age groups competitions. The list of players comprised some of best young Arab table tennis players representing 13 countries from the region; including hosts Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Palestine, Sudan, and Lebanon. Aspire Academy’s Table Tennis programme is one of the strongest youth development programmes in the Arab World. Aspire Academy works closely with the Qatar Table Tennis Federation to provide a comprehensive structure, training schedule and planned local and international competition exposure for its student-athletes to help them reach an elite status in various local, regional and international tournaments in which they compete.