Chelsea is a champion
By Edison Jefford
Chelsea Edghill has a natural competitive character, and it is perhaps the sole
reason why she has her lean frame towering above her peers in a country that has its limitations when it comes to the exposure of players and the different styles available for competition.
We sat down for 15 minutes for an exclusive interview since she became the lone medallist on an enterprising national junior table tennis team of over 20 players at the Caribbean Championships in Cuba, and it was difficult for the top player to hide her passion.
Edghill is a competitor and it may be the one attribute of her personality that makes her a beacon for the sport in Guyana. Chelsea is a champion in every meaning of the word; losing in whatever she engages is not an option; she must win, and that inspires her performance.
“I need to train more, get more table time, improve physically and I need to be exposed to much more tournaments, training camps and to play much more different styles of players in Guyana,” Edghill answered when asked to assess the level of her game at the moment.
Playing against the region’s strongest and more prepared junior players from hosts, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, Edghill’s silver medal performance was a beacon of light for the Guyanese contingent that was plummeted to darkness against the techniques of the seasoned countries.
In the Girls U-15 finals, despite a valiant effort against Idalys Lovett Valdez from Cuba, who had training stints in Germany before the Caribbean Championship, Edghill lost 8-11, 10-12, 7-11 and 8-11 in a performance that was remarkable given Guyana’s all-round showing.
She believes she could have beaten Valdez to win the gold medal and would not concede that the Cuban is better than her even though Valdez was the top ranked player in the contest. She would rather admit that she lost because of lack of exposure to different techniques.
“It is so limited here in Guyana; you play the same person here one, two, three, four times and it gets boring after the second time. It’s really hard like that, you start in the U-15, you go to the U-18, then the U-21 and it’s the same players you’re likely to meet all the way through, you cannot improve like that if you are playing one style over and over,” Edghill complained.
Her sojourn at the Caribbean Championships two weeks ago has led her to believe that she must be exposed to a Latin American circuit as soon as possible. Asked how she will balance playing on a circuit and her education at the Bishop’s High School, Edghill said that her research showed that there are circuits available during the summer and Christmas breaks.
She informed that her club, the Malteenoes Sports Club, where she trains under the guidance of former national men’s player, Idi Lewis, and female player, Lisa Lewis, is very serious about her development and exposure to as many regional tournaments as possible.
“If I could get like four (circuits) a year, I know I will remain on par with my international peers. When I go to the competitions, persons from the CRTTF (Caribbean and Regional Table Tennis Federation) keep telling my managers ‘oh why you don’t get her on the circuit’, but if there is no sponsorship, I really can’t go anywhere,” the 14-year-old Edghill indicated.
“Tennis is really expensive. You have gears; my blades are over US$100, when I get older, my blades will become over US$300 and my rubbers are US$50 per side, not to mention my playing sneakers and other training stuff,” she continued, making the point that the gap between her and accessing international circuits really depends on the necessary funding.
Edghill has had steady growth since she won the Caribbean Championships’ U-13 gold medal in 2010, the same year she won the National Sports Commission ‘Junior Sportswoman of the Year’ Award after other dominant performances in and out of Guyana.
However, most pundits, including three-time national table tennis champion and Guyana Table Tennis Association (GTTA) General Secretary, Godfrey Munroe believes that Edghill must get the relevant training overseas to help her remain on par with the region. The failure to do so may result in some disparity as she moves up to compete in the older age groups.
But that’s futuristic. Asked what her immediate goals are, the passionate athlete said that she will medal at Latin American Championships in Mexico in July that will ensure that she qualifies for the Caribbean team. What is certain is that Chelsea’s solo efforts keep the Golden Arrowhead on its flag-pole in the sport.