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Table tennis mojo for Rankin team

Members of the Rankin Inlet table tennis team brought home a total of eight medals from the territorial trials in Iqaluit last month.

The Rankin players captured gold in U15 women’s doubles, silver in U18 men’s singles, and bronze in U18 mixed doubles, U15 Mixed doubles and U15 men’s singles.

Gholam Dareshoripour was selected for the Arctic Winter Games, while Gregory Wiseman was named as an alternate.

Members of the Rankin Inlet table tennis team that had a strong showing in Iqaluit this past month are, back from left, Olusoga Tomoloju (Mr. Tom coach) Gregory Wiseman, Sandy Tattuinee, Wayne Pilikapsi, Gholam Dareshoripour and Mark Squires (coach), and front from left, Atuat Aliyak, Bailey Green, Natasha Kadjuk-Mosbeck and Ramona Niviatsiak in Rankin on Oct. 21. Photo courtesy of Mark Squires.

Coach Mark Squires said Rankin’s play in Iqaluit was a huge improvement over this past year.

He said he and fellow coach Olusoga Tomoloju are very happy with the progress the players are making.

“We have a player (Dareshoripour) selected to go to the Arctic Winter Games now in U18 men’s singles, and we’re very proud about that,” said Squires.

“Our players have put in a lot of time to improve their play this year. Our team worked very hard this past year, as well, and we’re now seeing the progress from that dedication and the exposure we received in Iqaluit.

“We had a game plan coming in this year and we trained very hard. And, in Iqaluit, we were rewarded for all our hard work.”

Squires said it’s hard to compare table tennis with hockey and soccer, which are the two big sports in Rankin Inlet.

He said table tennis gets nowhere near the exposure those two do as a sport.

“When you turn on the TV you see hockey, football and soccer. It’s very seldom that anyone turns on the TV and sees professional table tennis,” he said.

“When I was in Grade 8 about 15 years ago, I went with my school to my very first table tennis tournament in Goose Bay, Labrador, and all of our players were completely wiped out by the Inuit communities from coastal Labrador.

“I couldn’t understand why every Inuit player was exceptionally good until I made it to the North and realized sports is everything here.”

Squires said there are so many things people can choose to do in the south, but it’s always about sports in the North.

He said sports provide that special grip that kids in the North hang onto so tightly.

“We’re really hoping to have a tournament at the school following the Christmas break for everyone who plays, or who would like to play,” he said.

“We had so many people very interested in table tennis, but we were only allowed to pick eight from the 30 or so who were interested. So, we want to give everyone the chance to compete.

“We’re also very excited about the fact Bense Csaba – his mom and dad head Table Tennis Nunavut – is coming to hold a table tennis training camp just for Rankin Inlet in March or May, whenever Baker Lake takes its spring break.

“So, the tournament and training camp will be two great highlights to bring the year to a close for our program, and then we’ll do it all over again in October of 2020.”