14 countries compete in table tennis tournament for physically disabled



JSFH hopes for sponsorship commensurate with achievements

By Sahar Aloul
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AMMAN - Running short on sponsors but heavy on human resources, Jordan Sports Federation for the Handicapped (JSFH) prepares to host its first international table tennis tournament starting today.

Fourteen countries, including Jordan, are expected to participate in the King Hussein Memorial Table Tennis Tournament between Dec. 11-17.

"Participants will qualify for 20 points adding up towards their Athens Paralympics 2004 qualifications and also improving their world ranking," the tournament's executive committee president, Jasser Nweiran, said.

This International Table Tennis Committee (ITTC) approved tournament will give the participating 18 national team players both exposure and experience on the world scene.

"Due to the lack of resources the number of players we send abroad to participate in tournaments is limited," explained Jordanian delegation administrator Maysoon Hamarsheh. "This event will give our players the chance to play against internationals."

Classification is another important issue for physically disabled players in order to participate in world championships.

Physically challenged table tennis players are classified according to their disability and categorised into ten classes; the first five for wheel chair users - with class one being the highest disability - and categories six through ten for players who can make use of their legs - ten being the least handicapped.

Two classifiers from ITTC will be present at the tournament offering the chance for players to get classification, ITTC's Jiri Danek told The Jordan Times.
Danek, who visited the country in September to check on JSFH readiness to host the tournament, expressed his satisfaction with the preparations.

"The organising committee is doing a good job and has so far shown a great deal of professionalism," Danek said.

But the major challenge for JSFH remains the coming Middle East and Africa regional tournament scheduled for July 2003 and expected to be hosted in Amman.
"We already started preparing for the regional championship by cutting down on our expenses to cover this high cost event," Nweiran said, "but we will need a lot of support from sponsors to help us handle such an important sporting event."

While sponsors splurge on various sports they tend to shy away from handicapped sporting events leaving the JSFH often to care for its own.

"We rarely have sponsors for our championships despite the fact that Jordan's only Olympic gold medal was won by no other than JSFH table tennis player Maha Barghouti at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics," Hamarsheh noted.

Barghouti secured fifth place in the overall world ranking after a series of wins in the Wheelchair Table Tennis World Championship in Taipei last August.
She will participate in this tournament alongside Arab Paralympic champion Khitam Abu Awad and Fatima Azzam. Khalid Abdul Karim, Mazen Shamayleh and Mohammad Khawaldeh, among others, will represent Jordan.

The tournament will be patronised by JSFH President HRH Prince Raad Ben Zeid and will see Britain, the Netherlands, Liechtenstein, Iraq, Nigeria, Greece, Italy, Tunisia, Russia, France, Austria, Kuwait, Poland alongside Jordan take part.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

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