Table tennis telly stars at AIMS

TVNZ weatherman Sam Wallace hanging out with Nathan Xu, Sang Yong Park, Grace Qin, Mikey Malik, Jiayi Zhou, Zac McKellar and Josh Bartlett.
TVNZ weatherman Sam Wallace hanging out with Nathan Xu, Sang Yong Park, Grace Qin, Mikey Malik, Jiayi Zhou, Zac McKellar and Josh Bartlett.
TVNZ weatherman Sam Wallace hanging out with Nathan Xu, Sang Yong Park, Grace Qin, Mikey Malik, Jiayi Zhou, Zac McKellar and Josh Bartlett.

Some of the top NZCT AIMS Games table tennis talent had an early start on their first day of competition, with Nathan Xu, Sang Yong Park, Grace Qin, Mikey Malik, Jiayi Zhou, Zac McKellar and Josh Bartlett featuring on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme before most of their AIMS rivals were even awake.
With Tauranga local legend Kadia Keller-Rice coordinating things, Xu excited onlookers and a huge television audience by giving Breakfast’s Sam “The Weather Man” Wallace a dust-up on live television.
TVNZ weren’t the only broadcasters showing an interest, with Sky TV also sending a film crew to the table tennis as part of their 60min documentary on the AIMS Games.  They featured the ‘No Exceptions’ demonstration at Memorial Hall, which celebrated Paralympics New Zealand’s Spirit of Gold promotion, one year out from the Rio Paralympics.
Victor Kamizona, James Goulding and Mark Wilson provided some great material as the cameras took in the 12 tables of youngsters warming up for the AIMS teams event.
The enthusiasm from the competitors (93 in total this week) was obvious throughout, and the many spectators were kept entertained.  The highlight of the day was a spectacular match between Malik (Pinehurst) and Cobham Intermediate’s Park, which thrilled the big audience.  Making it even mow impressive was that it wasn’t even a competition match – with Park and Qin (Pinehurst) forming an invitation side to play the team with a bye each round.
In the 16-team boys’ grade, six teams remain unbeaten after day one, with four of these teams in the A division – Tauranga, Te Puna, Somerville and Otumoetai losing only a single game between them.  There are sure to be fireworks as they battle each other for the two medal play-off spots on Tuesday.
Among the leading lights of the day were undefeated Te Puna trio Riley Nordick, Ryan Monk and Jed Jager, and Arnold Rueben from Otumoetai, who all won four straight matches, while other teams spread matches between four players.
In the B division, Pinehurst and Otumoetai were undefeated, while Tauranga 2 and Pongakawa both upset Mount 1 and Papamoa respectively.
The girls’ round robin was full of topsy-turvy results, with Otumoetai 1 the only team remaining unbeaten – even though they appeared to be at risk of losing three of their matches at various stages.  The only player to win four matches was Matamata’s Abbey Daisley, after fending off the challenge of Ngarangi Mason from Murupara.  Anya Hawkins lead the way for Otumoetai, while Jasmine Young and Abbey Nyhoff were very steady for Tauranga.