There is a large entry for this year’s Colchester and District Table Tennis League Closed Tournament hosted by the Tollgate Table Tennis Club, at the Holmwood House School this coming weekend. There is a welcome return for eight times men’s champion Rik James (Rowhedge C). He will be attempting to equal his old teammate Dave Coles nine Men’s titles but faces some stiff competition if he is to do so. Reigning champion Jake Collins (Gt Horkesley A) beat him in the league, just, despite living now in London limiting his appearances. Andy Warner (Tollgate A) has beaten Collins twice this season but like James (in Chelmsford) had a poor Ipswich tournament by their high standards. Richard Goodhand (Gt Horkesley A) leads a list of top challengers that include another returning ex (Vets) champion Steve Kerns (Pegasus A) whose impressive list of silverware includes; Braintree, Ilford and Southend Men’s Singles winner’s medals. Add in Gary Young (Rowhedge C), Nigel Hodder (Tollgate B) and Colin Stallwood (Tollgate A) along with Jermaine Fearon (Rowhedge C), Mike Wright (Gt Horkesley A), three time winner Dave Moss and 2009 champion Greg Green (Tollgate A) completing the twelve seeds. This leaves danger men like Richard Hutchinson (Gt Horkesley A), Gary Cattermole (Rowhedge B), Peter Burrows (Tollgate B) and Sam Hume (St James C) unseeded so expect a few upsets!
With no Aimee Sparkes this time, last year’s triple title sensation Jane Li (Tollgate A) starts firm favourite to retain her Ladies Singles title. The experienced twenty-two time winner Sue Welham (Tollgate A) will pose the main threat with thirteen year-old Gracie Edwards (Rowhedge E) likely to provide stiff competition along with the ‘old guard’ of Janet Faiers (Gt Horkesley C) and Annabelle Rodriguez (Tollgate C).
There will be no defending Men’s Doubles Champions as Keiran Lally is sunning himself in the Algarve so Greg Green teams up with Colin Stallwood who are undefeated in the league together and also current Clacton champions. Former Chelmsford winners Steve Kerns and Gary Young are number one seeds, joined by Rik James and Gary Cattermole, Jake Collins and Richard Hutchinson, Richard Goodhand and Mike Wright, and last year’s beaten finalists Andy Warner and Nigel Hodder and the seven time winners Dave Moss and John Andrews (H20 Rowhedge A). It’s impossible to pick a winner!
Youngsters Jane Li and Gracie Edwards with a combined age of twenty-eight amazingly start as favourites to win the Ladies Doubles whilst at the other end of the scale Sue Welham and Hazel Hume have a wealth of experience and if the pairs meet in the final as they are seeded to, tactics will be vital.
Once again the Mixed Doubles appears the strongest field of the lot with no clear favourites. It’s an all-Tollgate seeding with Jane Li and Greg Green stepping up to the top spot with the more experienced Sue Welham and Nigel Hodder seeded two. Watch out for the well matched pairing of Janet Faiers and Richard Goodhand as well as Gracie Edwards and Andy Warner, Annabelle Rodriguez and Colin Stallwood, father and daughter Rik and Lauren James, (Rowhedge I) the un-related Chloe and John Andrews (Rowhedge) as well as Gary Young and Hazel Hume (Gt Horkesley E) - perm one from eight!
The Vets 40+ is another difficult event to call with defending champion Andy Warner and Rik James heading a strong field. Nigel Hodder recently won both the Ipswich and Suffolk Championship’s and
Along with teammate Charlie Fulcher have both beaten Warner this season. Previous winners Steve Kerns and Mike Wright are joined by Gary Young and Colin Stallwood in a truly excellent line-up.
Charlie Fulcher will be looking to make it a hat-trick of Vets 50+ titles, with Steve Kerns and twice previous winner Nigel Hodder the likely protagonists along with the evergreen Ian Whiteside (Pegasus A).
Whiteside is joined by ‘new-boy’ Martin Edwards (Rowhedge E) in the Vets 60+ bidding to win it for the fifth time and third on the trot. Wily campaigners Ken Lewis and Duncan Elloy complete the seeds.
Clacton’s likeable Sam Hume is firm favourite to lift his first Junior Boys title but there’s a whole host of others looking to take him on like the talented Bardell brothers and Jared Chelski all from Rowhedge.
Jane Li and Sam Hume should win the Junior Doubles probably facing Gracie Edwards and Morgan Bardell (Rowhedge I) in what appears to be a ‘Mixed Doubles’ event with Lauren James and Morgan Bardell the other major competition!
Jane Li is favourite to retain her Junior Girls title. She will be facing Gracie Edwards, the Granddaughter of Martin and Chris Edwards, Chloe Andrews the sister of Michael and Lauren James, daughter of the prolific Rik James.
The Cadets sees Sam Hume looking for a possible clean sweep of U18 events with Gracie Edwards, Lewis Bardell and Jared Chelski looking to make names for themselves
There is also a good turnout in the Division One, Two, and Four Singles events where Sam Hume, Steve Holland (Gt Horkesley D) and Mark Glenister (Rowhedge K) are the number one seeds.
There is no Handicap event this time as it has been run separately so the Junior and Veteran’s events kick things off on Saturday 28th February with the Closed Championships and Divisional Singles are on Sunday 1st March with the finals and presentations by the Mayor of Colchester starting at 6.30pm on the Sunday evening. Spectators and former players are welcome to attend, quality refreshments are provided!