With the 6th Micronesian Games a mere 16 days away, Saipan-based members of the CNMI National Table Tennis Team still have no regular training facility.
Their original practice facility, the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnmasium multi-purpose room, was taken over by the Micronesian Games Organizing Committee last Friday.
Budhi Gurung, who at 49 years old is the senior member of the team, said as of now the national ping-pong team only has Saturdays and Sundays between 1pm to 4pm available at the Marianas High School Gymnasium.
Although, he noted that MHS Gym manager Jim Feger is very supportive and has even allowed them to practice Tuesdays and Thursdays, Gurung said the three-hour weekend schedule is too short and due to their work schedule they could not take advantage of the weekday offer.
Gurung said he and the rest of his teammates based on Saipan—Su Yong Dong and Chen Lin Ying—are used to practicing three times a week since last year and the women’s team of Jean Shi, Lucita Paculanang, Rose Agulto, and Siri Welch also need a suitable facility to further hone their skills.
“We need to practice like four to five days a week, but there is no place for us to continue practicing. We are really very frustrated,” he said. “I’ve participated in a lot of national and international ping-pong tournaments in the past and we need three to four hours a day of practice five to six days a week to prepare for a tournament as big as the Micro Games,” he said.
Gurung said the main venue for ping-pong for the Micronesian Games is the Northern Marianas College Gymnasium, but he said the venue reportedly would not be available until June 19, or a mere five days before the start of the Games.
“It is not easy for ping-pong players to bring in and bring out table tennis equipment from constantly changing venues. It’s a time-consuming job, especially the setting up of the barricades to stop the ball,” he said.
For his part, Marianas Amateur Table Tennis Association official Mario Espeleta said not being able to secure a permanent practice facility has been a big problem on the part of the federation. He said his players would have no choice but try and secure more days at the MHS Gym and then wait until June 19 to move in to the NMC Gym.
MGOC executive secretary Bill Sakovich said he feels bad for the table tennis team not having a venue to regularly train, but said the committee has given them a lot of time to look for an alternative venue—even weeks before MGOC took over the multi-purpose room.
“There were several possibilities. Granted not any of them were great. It was still better than nothing. I can’t say anything except that I hope they haven’t stopped [training] completely,” he said. “They knew that this place was going to be used as an office. This place was supposed to be MGOC office two, three weeks ago but I said ‘heck, were not even prepared’ and I told everyone to just let them hang in there a couple of more weeks.”
Sakovich admitted that MGOC might have erred by not having someone to make sure all the federations would have facilities for training. However, he said ultimately it was the responsibility of the individual sports federations to look after their own needs.
“It is a hassle and unfortunately there’s nobody behind the whole thing to help them out. They’re basically doing it on their own. But if you look at the other sports it’s kind of the same thing. The only ones that are really getting something is the softball, basketball, baseball—the bigger sports,” he said.