Table tennis is now official in the Northwest Territories.
The sport’s new governing body in the territory, Table Tennis North, became Sport North’s 30th sports organization earlier this month.
Table tennis enthusiasts hope that will mean future funding to help promote the sport in northern communities.
Up to eight young athletes will be sent to play table tennis for the NWT at March’s Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland.
“It’s been a grassroots thing that started building up about two years ago in Fort Providence and spread from there,” said Mike Johnson, the vice-president of Table Tennis North, during a coaching clinic at Yellowknife’s Weledeh School on Sunday.
“Now it’s official, which is good – we’re on the right track. We just have to function without any money and then hopefully we can get some money, start doing some clinics and spread it out further.
“We want to send tables to communities. We can’t grow the sport if there are no tables for kids to play on. If we can donate tables to communities, it’ll grow the sport.”
Brian Liang and Tamara Jovic, two Sir John Franklin High School students, are both hoping to take part in the Arctic Winter Games.
Liang has been twice before, in 2012 and 2014.
“It’s a lot different playing here than somewhere like China,” said Liang, referring to the dominant Olympic table tennis nation. “There are less people to play.”
But Johnson says there are “pockets of interest” in the NWT that Table Tennis North is eager to exploit, once the money can be found to send tables to communities.
Johnson says storing the tables can present challenges, but the low numbers required to get a game going – and the sport’s indoor environment – are ideally suited to the North.
Jovic has only been playing for a couple of months but told Moose FM her new sport is fun and challenging.
“My mom and Brian’s mom said I should join table tennis so we can go to Greenland over March break,” she said, admitting the chance to travel is a motivating factor.
I like it. You need to be fast and you can’t hit the ball too hard or else it goes out. And you can’t really just run, you kind-of have to side-shuffle and stuff.”
Johnson is realistic about the NWT’s Arctic Winter Games hopes for the time being.
“This coming year, we’ll participate,” he said with a smile.
“Most of the kids here are grade six and younger, training for two years or four years down the road. It’s going to be a building year.”