…historic performance from Cummings, Britton/Franklin at Commonwealth Games Table Tennis
By Rawle Toney in Birmingham
IT was a historic night for Guyana in Table Tennis, as Natalie Cummings reached the Round-of-16 at the Commonwealth Games, following her breathtaking win over Ruqayyah Kinoo.
In one of the most intense matches at the Commonwealth Games (so far), Cummings was sensational in her seven-match (4-3) thriller against her highly-ranked opponent from Mauritius.
Her victory marked the first time any Guyanese has progressed to the Singles Round-of-16 at the Commonwealth Games.
It was Cummings’ third time representing Guyana at the Commonwealth Games and it was clear that the diminutive athlete was playing towards reversing her 2014 and 2018 fortunes, where she exited in the Round-of-32.
Cummings was on-point in the first game, winning 11-5, but lost the second 8-11.
Buoyed by the cheers from the vociferous Guyanese contingent in the stands at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, Cummings clinched the third game 11-9.
Kinoo showed her experience to win the fourth game 9-11 as the see-saw battle continued.
With the games 2-2, Cummings took the fifth 11-5.
However, just when everyone thought that things were favouring Cummings, Kinoo once again levelled the match with a 6-11 win in game six.
In the final game, Cummings showed pure class to come from behind to win 12-10 in an absolutely amazing match.
No Guyanese has ever gone that far in the Singles event of the Commonwealth Games.
The usually candid coach, Idi Lewis, was surprisingly lost for words, only describing Cummings’ performance as “simply beautiful”.
Today, Cummings will face 16-year-old Anna Hursey of Wales.
Cummings’ performance sparked life in the Guyanese table tennis team, which had a series of unfortunate events on the day.
Shemar Britton and Christopher Franklin then added to the country’s historic run, with victory in the Men’s Doubles which ironically came against Mauritius’ Baboolall Muhammad and Brian Chan Yook Fo.
Against their African counterparts, Britton and Franklin won 3-1 (11-8, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6).
Asked about the country’s performance at the Commonwealth Games, Coach Lewis said the players are doing better than expected, but bemoaned the lack of investment in sports in Guyana.
“When you take into consideration the team’s preparation coming into these games and coming up against more heavily-funded athletes at these games, I think they’re performing way beyond expectations right now,” Lewis said.
He added, “When you talk about being on-par, everything comes back to funding. It’s hard to get away from that aspect. There’s no shortage of talent in Guyana and that’s not just table tennis.”
Lewis stated that in comparison to the players at the 22nd Commonwealth Games, Guyanese athletes, particularly those based in the Land of Many Waters, are overachieving.
The popular table tennis coach is calling for a drastic change in the approach to sports in Guyana, noting “you see some athletes this year and when you see them back next year, you’re seeing the gap widening. We’re still able to hold our own, but the gap is widening every day, so we need to change the way sport is being governed and the investment into sports.”