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Haslam inspires young TT players in Guyana

Published:Tuesday | November 22, 2022 | 12:09 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
Orville Haslam (centre) speaking with national table tennis coach Sandra Riettie (left)  in Guyana.
Orville Haslam (centre) speaking with national table tennis coach Sandra Riettie (left) in Guyana.

Jamaica’s team to the recent Caribbean Mini and Pre-Cadet Championships in Guyana came home with more than just the 10 medals they won in battle. They returned with words of wisdom from the most successful Jamaican table tennis (TT) player of all time, five-time Caribbean singles champion Orville Haslam, who told them hard work was the key to success.

Attending the event in his capacity as president of the St Vincent and Grenadines Table Tennis Association, Haslam inspired the team. According to Jamaica Table Tennis Association (JTTA) president Andrew Lue, the players were delighted to meet him.

“That was a good experience for the youngsters. He was able to tell them that he won 13 Caribbean titles in five years and those were just the ones that he won,” Lue recalled of the man who dominated the region from 1967 to 1971. “That’s a phenomenal performance,” Lue added.

“He was able to let them know that what is required is just hard work,” the JTTA president continued. “I think it will serve as a motivation for them going forward to see in fact it’s achievable. It just requires discipline and hard work,” said Lue.

Haslam won five straight Caribbean singles titles, three mixed doubles titles with Monica DeSouza, three men’s doubles with Trevor Campbell, and led Jamaica to team supremacy.

The hero, singles runner-up in 1975, added a word of encouragement for potential late bloomers. “He said he started playing at a relatively late stage, in his teens, so it is clear that if you start from where you are now, you can do well, if you’re open, exposed to conditions and you have the right mindset,” Lue reported.

Haslam later became a regional champion in squash and once served as national coach and president of the JTTA. Based in England during his playing days, he was ranked in the top 10 in that country and was once regarded as the player with the hardest backhand in the world.

Dale Parham, present as part of the Jamaica coaching staff, took the chance to learn from Haslam.

“Most of the kids, they didn’t know the history. You know, we don’t glorify enough of the past players here, so they would not have known of Orville but for me, it was great because I had a sit-down with him and we were discussing table tennis and how to get the sport bigger within the Caribbean region and you know that was probably the reason that he came to that tournament, to attend the annual general meeting and to put forward some of the thought that he had for the sport,” Parham reported.

“We spoke about pairing sports with education, you know, to give parents an incentive and also the players an incentive to remain in the sport a bit longer,” Parham remarked while adding that Haslam had discussed that there’s a lack of transition in the sport, from the youth to the seniors.

Haslam won the National Sportsman of the Year award in 1968.