TABLE tennis is proving to be a smash hit in Moray at club nights served up by an international star.
Moray Table Tennis Club struck its first shots just before the October holidays, with as many as a dozen players playing each week.
Sessions at Elgin Academy are run each Monday by sports lecturer Stephen Gertsen, who retired from table tennis after a successful career in the sport.
The Welshman played for his country in the Commonwealth Games among numerous international appearances, and also coached the England team.
He is a UKCC level four coach, which is the highest in UK, and is now based in the north as a sports lecturer with UHI, including classes at Moray College.
Hearing about dwindling numbers in table tennis in this area, he decided to lead an effort to raise more awareness and encourage more people to take up the sport.
This year he recruited friend and former Scottish international rival Niall Cameron – who is originally from Elgin – to visit local schools, stage demonstration events and inspire youngsters to pick up a bat and play.
Cameron’s own career in table tennis is still ongoing but he began with sessions at Elgin Academy, where the current Moray club is being held. He went on to break into the Scotland international scene, and earned more than 100 caps for his country, as well as playing professionally in France.
Cameron also competed at the Commonwealth Games for Scotland in Manchester in 2002 and Glasgow in 2014, and still harbours hopes of competing in the next Games in Australia’s Gold Coast in two years time.
During his visit to his home area in June, he told the Northern Scot he had set his friend Gertsen the challenge of finding the next Scotland international to come from Elgin or Moray.
Cameron’s legacy, and the efforts of Gertsen to promote his sport in this area, are bearing fruit with more people, especially youngsters, showing an interest locally.
The Welshman is supported in running the Moray club by Ken Kennedy, a former international umpire who has been coaching table tennis players for many years.
Their club Gertsen said he hopes to pass on his knowledge and experience to the Moray community and his long term vision is to see a national champion from the area.
Gertsen, a former British champion who competes for Wales at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010, also led a table tennis coaching course in Moray in April to fuel further interest.
Club nights at Elgin Academy are held each Monday between 5.30 and 6.30pm. New players are very welcome, with all abilities are catered for.
Gertsen said he aims to make his session fun and engaging whilst also working on developing the participants’ technical and mental ability.
The club is going well but is keen to attract even more members, not just young players but adults, and people who may have played the sport in the past and are keen to return to it in a fun and welcoming environment.
Anyone aged eight and upwards can come along and play. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.