As the ball bounces

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If you watched Sportsnet’s top plays of 2013, you undoubtedly saw an unbelievable play from a table tennis athlete.

Nicholas Mercer

Now, I know what you’re thinking. There is no way a play from the world of table tennis cracked the top 50, let alone the top 10, but that is exactly what happened.

If you don’t believe me, I’ll describe it for you.

French player Quentin Robinot was squaring off with Kiril Barabanov of Belarus in the Kuwait Open. The match started innocently enough.

The two players start with a rally that slowly builds in intensity. Soon the players are rifling the small, white ball at each other.

Then, the amazing happens.

As Robinot is going to his right in anticipation of a cross-court blast from Barabanov, his opponent decides to fire the ball away from Robinot. In top tier display of hand-eye coordination and fast twitch muscle firing, the Frenchman hits an unbelievable behind the back shot for the winner.

It was something I had never seen before, and, to tell the truth, blew my mind.

The fact the play made the list was as unexpected as Bobby Ryan not being named to the United States men’s Olympic hockey team. It really was.

Ryan is third in scoring amongst Americans in the National Hockey League, but that’s a topic for another day.

Table tennis is not the first sport that comes to mind when you’re thinking about highlight reel plays or heart stopping moments.

But, they are there and they should be brought up more. Imagine, the Robinot play did not even crack the top-10 plays in its own sport.

Table tennis is a sport that gets a bad rap. However, that does not take away from the talent and elite-level athleticism it takes to play the game.

You can’t just pick up table tennis and play the game at a high level.

It takes years of practice to even play at the same table of some of the lower-tier players.

Athletically, these guys and girls are no slouches.

If you get the chance, check out the Conception Bay North Table Tennis Club. You’re sure to see some amazing shots and plays.

But, don’t just focus on that.

Focus on the skill of those players.

Focus on the amount of dedication each of them put into their craft.

Want a testament to the amount of skill it takes to play table tennis look no further than the NHL.

Why do you think each team has a table hidden somewhere in their arena?

Why do players have their own racquet?

Sure, players have an insatiable desire to compete with each other, but that’s not the only reason a table is always lying around.

It’s a great training tool and it’s a good workout.

The way the sport is looked upon makes me feel like it’s a bit taboo.

When I started this job, that’s how I viewed the sport, I’ll admit it.

Sure, it was a fun game to play, but it wasn’t hard.

However, as I started covering the sport a bit more I quickly came to realize that it was not as easy as it looked.

You can’t just pick up a paddle and play with the best.

These athletes have to be commended for the dedication and the talent they have.

It’s just another testament to the level of talent the Trinity-Conception-Placentia region has.

Some of the best table tennis talent in the province resides in this area.

They should be placed on or near the same level of the hockey athlete or the baseball athlete or the figure skating athlete.

Hey, it isn’t an Olympic sport for nothing.

— Nicholas Mercer is a reporter/photographer with the Compass. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at

Organizations: National Hockey League, Conception Bay North Table Tennis Club

Geographic location: Belarus, United States, Placentia Bay Roberts

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