Ping pong stars descend on Dubai for World Tour Grand Finals

Kara Martin
by Kara Martin
9th January 2014

article:9th January 2014

Have a go: Dubai residents can play on free-to-use tables in parks.
Have a go: Dubai residents can play on free-to-use tables in parks.

This weekend Dubai residents will get to experience a master class in table tennis when the world’s best players contest the GAC Group 2013 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals at Al Nasr Club from today (Thursday) until Sunday, January 12.

A total of 69 players from 18 countries including China, Germany, Belgium, Brazil and of course the UAE are in action, and up for grabs is a hefty $1 million (Dh3.67m), so expect some fast and furious competition. The semi-finals and finals both will take place on Sunday.

In the spotlight this weekend is the China National Team, known to be the most successful in the world with table tennis the most popular sport in their country, and its star players yesterday joined forces with Team UAE’s Majd Albalooshi and Abdulla Almuheisni at Safa Park to create some build-up ahead of the showpiece as well as promote the sport alongside Ping Pong Dubai, a non-profit initiative working at popularising the sport in the UAE.

The first stage of the initiative was to install free-to-use tables across Dubai Parks and in front of The Archive at Safa Park where many residents, both expats and locals, had a go with the bat and ball and showed off their skills under the watchful eyes of the professionals, who also staged exciting demos.

Chinese star and 2012 Olympic men’s gold medallist Jike Zhang – who was at the promotional event yesterday and will be competing this weekend alongside team-mates world No1 Long Ma, world No1 female player Shiwen Liu, London 2012 gold medallist Xiao Xia Li, and Olympic silver medalists Ning Ding and Wang Hao – said: “Table tennis can be enjoyed by anyone – no matter their age, ability or fitness level – and having tables in parks captures the spirit so it is wonderful to see this happening in Dubai. It is always pleasing to see table tennis being developed in other countries and witnessing people sharing in China’s passion for the sport.”

One very passionate player representing the small female contingent in Team UAE this weekend, Majd Albalooshi, is looking forward to sharing the world stage with such greats as the Chinese.

“Since I am competing against world champions it’s going to be difficult. I’ll try my best,” she said.

Action gets underway from 10:00, through to 19:00 each day.

What: GaC Group 2013 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals

When: Thursday, January 9 to Sunday, January 12

Where: Al Nasr Sports Club, Al Nasr Leisureland


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