Olympic Table Tennis Qualifier Opens Despite Pandemic

(ATR) The tournament in Argentina had been postponed from 2020.

(ATR) An encouraging sign for continental sports as a Latin American country manages to hold a pre-Olympic tournament amid a COVID-19 surge.

In Rosario, Argentina, the regional table tennis qualifying championship for the Tokyo Olympics has just started.

The tournament began a day after a committee of experts recommended to the National Government the implementation of more severe restrictions in the country, which itself already suffers from drastic measures due to the new outbreaks of the coronavirus.

On Monday a record number of infections for 24 hours was announced: more than 19,400 cases.

Despite the crisis, which has led to cancellations of sports activities, the authorities are trying to preserve the commitments linked to the Olympic process.

Luckily, the table tennis date has been met. Whether the boxing qualifier for the Americas, scheduled in May in Buenos Aires, also takes place remains a doubt.

Around the Rings followed this first day of the table tennis action on the Latin American Table Tennis Union's Facebook Live page.

The contest runs from today until April 17 at the Centro Metropolitano de Eventos in Rosario with Olympic spots for Tokyo available for four men, three women and one mixed doubles team.

The venue will be one of the venues for the South American Youth Games of the regional sports organization (ODESUR) in 2022.

In the pre-Olympic, barely 10 spectators are allowed for each session within the daily schedule that runs from 10am to approximately 9pm.

Athletes from Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Guyana, Venezuela, Uruguay, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Paraguay, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Colombia compete in the tournament.

Players from the United States and Canada are not competing because they are included in another elimination route.

The Latin American Qualifier in Rosario was due to take place last year but was postponed due to the pandemic.

According to reports in recent days, there were numerous athletes, especially from countries from the Caribbean, who could not compete in Argentina. For most, it was due to travel restrictions implemented by their home nations in response to the second wave of Covid-19 infections recorded in almost all of the Americas. Others who could make the trip opted out because complying with the restrictions upon their return home wasn't worth it if they had no chance to qualify for Tokyo.

All the singles matches will be played on the first four days of the Qualifier, while the doubles will be played on the last day. There will be three gaming tables and nine training tables, according to a director of the Argentine federation.

The tournament, the most important of this sport in the Americas in 2021, "is held under the bubble format, with constant testing and strict health protocols," he reported.

Written and reported by Miguel Hernandez

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