by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

20 November 2016

Present at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, later at the more recent Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Kirill Gerassimenko is taking Kazakhstan to new heights; he has become a role model not only for young players in his own country, also for those from that part of the world.

Now, can the region unearth a player who can follow in his footsteps? Most pertinently, was one present recently in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s principal commercial centre?

Jose Urh watches carefully as a young player focuses intently (Photo: courtesy of Jose Urh)


Commencing on Sunday 13th November and concluding five days later on Friday 18th November, the city was the home for a Middle Asia Regional Hopes Week; the head coach on duty was Slovenia’s Jose Urh.

A total of five boys and four girls participated, being from Iran and Uzbekistan in addition to Kazakhstan; in addition the host nation provided 10 practice partners. Proceedings were staged in a college in theShanyrak area of Almaty, where supported by the local National Olympic Committee, the Table Tennis Federation of the Republic of Kazakhstan possesses a table tennis training centre. 

Notably accommodation was accessible, the premises being is utilized on a regular basis by some 60 players.

Eight tables were available throughout the whole itinerary; the spacious nature of the hall making the premises ideal for the training camp; a more than sufficient number of table tennis balls were supplied, with coaches from the national associations involved providing Jose Urh with valuable assistance.

Joze Urh demonstrates the technique required (Photo: courtesy of Joze Urh)

Two training sessions were held each day, everyone following a detailed schedule carefully designed by Joze Urh. 

Proceedings commenced with improving the basic strokes being the feature of the opening day; footwork was the subject for the second day with movement exercises high on the agenda.

Service and executing the first ball in the rally formed the subject for day three, with the fourth day highlighting the passive element and anticipation. 

Education the key, next on the agenda was competition; the fifth day witnessed a tournament, an event that proved the highlight of the week. Members of the local authority, the Director of the College plus members of the media, including local television, attended.

Impressively Iran enjoyed the greatest success with Amin Samad winning the Boys’ Singles event and Elina Rahimi, the counterpart Girls’ Singles competition; Kazakhstan’s Damir Sarsenbai and Sarvinoz Mirkadirova were the respective runners up.

The tournament winners with coaches and (front row centre) Joze Urh (Photo: courtesy of Joze Urh)

Matters concluded one day later with multi-ball practice being on the agenda; an important factor being that each coach focused on their own players. Involving the coaches was a policy Joze Urh pursued throughout the week. Each day, in turn, the respective coaches organized a warm up session and set at least one of the exercises for the group.

My special thanks to all coaches who helped a great deal during the camp; my thanks to Kokabi Farshid and Niaghiha Zahra from Iran, to Anvar Karimov from Uzbekistan as well as to  Yevgeniy Timchenko, Tatyana Kim and Miryakub Miraslanov from Kazakhstan

Jose Urh

The players who participated were Nikita Panov, Maksud Rustamov and Diana Aristanova from Uzbekistan; Amin Saamadi and Alina Rahimi from Iran, whilst from Kazakhstan the youngster on duty were Damir Sarsenbai, Abdula Mamai, Servinoz Mikadirova and Malika Sandybayeva.

Members of the group at the close of proceedings in Almaty (Photo: courtesy of Jose Urh)