Nepal players gain support at World Table Tennis Championships

Nepal players gain support at World Table Tennis Championships
A Nepalese mixed doubles team plays at the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships on Monday.

SUZHOU - Having lost his qualifying round match in men's singles, Purshottam Bajracharya stood courtside and cheered on his compatriots as they struggled against their Hong Kong opponents in mixed doubles.

"With a win by us, we hope to give courage to the people of Nepal," he said.

Nepalese players might have little hope of taking medals back to their earthquake-ravaged country from the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships, but they won the hearts of players, fans and officials at the tournament.

Bajracharya, who also played and lost in mixed doubles, is one of six players dispatched to the tournament from Nepal. He was in action Monday, just two days after the quake that devastated the country and left thousands dead.

The three men and three women live in the capital Katmandu, which suffered immense damage. After the earthquake hit, they all phoned home and were relieved to hear that their families were all right.

But it was heartbreaking to watch television images of the destruction, including a well-known temple and other famous spots, Bajracharya said.

Still, Bajracharya and the others realise it is important to focus on the task in front of them. ITTF chairman Thomas Weikert offered condolences to the Nepal delegation, which is pressing on under such adverse circumstances.

At the 2011 world championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands, the table tennis community similarly came together in support of Japan, which had been hit in March by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Kasumi Ishikawa, Japan's top female player here, played at that tournament and sported along with her teammates a patch reading "Wasurenai [never forget] 3-11" on their uniforms.

"At that time, players from other countries offered words to us. If I have a chance, I want to do the same for the Nepalese," Ishikawa said.

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