Great Britain and Japanese Olympic teams will use state-of-the-art table tennis centre in Bethnal Green
A �500,000 table-tennis centre will host the Great Britain and Japanese teams at the 2012 London Olympics and it could also inspire the next generation of talent at a Bethnal Green school.
Morpeth School in Portman Place already has a high enough pedigree at the sport to be awarded funding from the English Table Tennis Association and Sport England to build the state-of-the-art centre.
On Tuesday, senior officials from the Japanese team, one of the main rivals to favourite’s China at the London Games, had a look at the building works which will be finished in September.
The school’s pupils, including Ashley Facey-Thompson, a hopeful for the Great Britain Paralympic squad despite being just fifteen, will benefit from a tournament hall with room for 25 tables and a six-table training facility which will also be open to the public.
Yasukazu Murakami, coach of the Japanese women’s team, gave the building plans the thumbs-up before his players visit next summer.
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He said: “The competition venue is big and so is this, so it suits our needs.
Of his country’s hopes come the Olympics, he added: “We will aim for gold but China is very strong.”
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“But hopefully we can at least get silver.”
Grant Solder, a former professional player and Morpeth’s head coach, has inspired its pupils to take the sport very seriously.
They were named national schools champions in 2009, their under-17s girls’ team went to the World Schools Championship and they now have four feeder primary schools in the borough – Globe, John Scurr, Bonner and Bangabandhu.
After touring the construction site and seeing design plans, the Japanese delegation, including Masahiro Maehara, director of Japan’s table tennis association, watched the school’s best players in action.
Mr Facey-Thompson, who hopes to get enough points in qualification games to represent his country, plans to train at the new centre despite the fact he is leaving the school this summer.
He said: “Table-tennis is more popular than football here.”
“China, Japan and Germany are the strong nations in table-tennis at the moment, but Great Britain is getting there.”