Financial woes force Israel Table Tennis Association to cease activity
Current financial crisis has its roots in 2010 decision by the Borovitz Committee to treat table tennis as an individual, not team, sport.
Over the past few months, the warm glow of the upcoming Olympic Games has enveloped Israeli sports. But for several athletic disciplines, reality is very different.
The Israel Judo Association, for example, had been in dire financial straits until Israeli judokas came back from last month's World Championships with a haul of four medals. Other associations, however, have not been so lucky.
At a press conference Tuesday, the Israel Table Tennis Association announced that it was ceasing all activity immediately and would not be sending players to international tournaments.
The current financial crisis afflicting Israeli table tennis has its roots in the 2010 decision by the Borovitz Committee, which was appointed to look into the funding criteria for Israeli sports, that table tennis should be treated as an individual, not team, sport. This meant all of the various table tennis competitions which pitted teams against each other lost a large part of their funding.
According to Ran Konik, general manager of the association, the state has slashed its funding for the sport. "Last season, the government gave us NIS 400,000. This season, our funding has been cut to just NIS 200,000. We have been working tirelessly to get the decision overturned - but without success," he said.
Konik maintained that the association had no choice but to halt activity. "We simply couldn't see a way to continue operations. This government has killed Israeli table tennis," he charged.
One of Israel's all-time table tennis greats, Marina Kravchenko, who reached the final eight at the 2004 Athens Olympics and who now coaches young players at the Wingate Institute, is still hopeful a solution to the crisis can be found. "It pains me to see the sorry state of Israeli table tennis," she said. "I have dreamt for years that one of the kids I coach will make it to the Olympics, but the way things are going, that will never happen. But I still believe and hope that extra funding can be found somewhere."
The immediate upshot of yesterday's decision is the cancellation of Israel's participation in next month's European Youth Championships in Austria. This will be a blow to 15-year-old Nicole Trosman, one of the great hopes of Israeli table tennis for the 2016 Olympics.
First in the European youth rankings, Trosman is now in China, where a team of professional coaches is instructing her. In a few weeks she is expected home, where an uncertain future awaits her. Given the dire state of Israeli table tennis, however, no one should be too surprised if she ends up representing a different country in the future.