Seven years ago, ten-year-old Zaeem Arif walked into the PEI Table Tennis Association building for the first time to play his first game of tennis. of table.
Now he is preparing to represent Prince Edward Island at the upcoming 2023 Canada Winter Games table tennis tournament.
“I’ve seen my game improve over these years, and I’m proud of myself. I’ve succeeded at this level and I want to continue,” Zaeem said.
Zaeem is among the table tennis players who will represent the island at the Winter Games, which will run from February 18 to March 5.
For Zaeem, participating in the Winter Games is an honor.
“It’s kind of amazing to represent Prince Edward Island in such a big event,” he said.
Zaeem added that he loves attending tournaments to see players from other provinces and learn from their unique playing styles.
“When I look at the players outside of Prince Edward Island, they are 10 times, 20 times better than me,” he said, adding that this motivates him to continue developing his skills. skills.
The game is fun, competitive
Maryum Arif, 13, has been playing table tennis for four years and comes to play at the Table Tennis Association as often as she can. She will also participate in the Games in February.
“I thought at first it was really fun, and it’s still fun, but competitive,” she said. Playing in tournaments and meeting new people is one of her favorite parts of table tennis, Maryum said, as she can increase her ranking and learn new ways of playing.
Maryum said she likes to play the fast game, especially when matches come and go for long stretches.
“You have to be ready when the ball comes back so you can hit the ball the other way so the other person has to scramble,” she said, adding that it can also be scary.
Maryum said she was looking forward to the Winter Games and hoped to win a few matches and do her best.
“It’s hard, but when you keep playing it will get better and easier.”
Continue the game on the island
This February will be Najam Chishti’s tenth Canada Winter Games. As a coach and president of the PEI Table Tennis Association, Chishti has been involved in table tennis since 1987 and is an international table tennis referee.
“My passion is table tennis,” he said, adding that he asked for a table tennis table as a gift when he graduated from tenth grade and has been playing ever since.
“Nobody coached me. I went out and taught myself,” he said.
Table tennis is an Olympic sport, not a basement sport, Chishti said, adding that a table tennis ball can travel up to 100 kilometers per hour.
Chishti said he was happy to pass on his knowledge as a coach and delighted to see his students improving their game and competing across the country.
“As long as they’re happy and playing and improving their game, that’s what I want.”
Chishti works with his wife, Farida Chishti, who is the director of the table tennis association. She said they like to see veteran players who have since moved on come back to visit and play a few games.
“These students that I trained, they became doctors, engineers, lawyers and they still want to play,” he said.
“Now hopefully they will bring their children to play here so that this sport of table tennis can continue on the island,” he added.
In the coming months before the Games, Zaeem said he will work to improve his skills and mindset. And looking to the future, Zaeem said he dreams of becoming a professional table tennis player and one day representing Canada at the Olympics.
“We’re just getting started, so hopefully we can keep it going for the long haul,” he said.
island morning5:28Islanders gear up for Canada Games