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ITF qualifying event for junior tennis players — Under 18 — opens at Lions Park

jeff@samoanews.com
The East Pacific Qualifying event for 2012 opening ceremony was held yesterday at the tennis courts in Lions Park. The beginning games were delayed due to rain. The event will continue until Friday. American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga are competing for spots to represent the East Pacific at the Pacific Oceania Junior Championships (POJC) in Fiji next month. [photo: JH]

Despite the rain, opening ceremony for the International Tennis Federation (ITF) qualifying event for players under 18 — was held yesterday, at the Lions Park tennis courts. Players from American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga are competing for spots to play in the Pacific Oceania Junior Championships (POJC).

The POJC will be played August 6-10 in Fiji. The top 4 qualifiers in each age group (Under 18, Under 15 and Under 12) in the boys and girls divisions will qualify to represent the East Pacific at the championships.

The tournament, hosted by the American Samoa Tennis Association, comprising 72 players, is scheduled to run through the week, concluding on Friday. The event was last held in American Samoa in 2008, according to the president of the ASTA Billy Young.

Special guest speaker Lt. Governor Faoa Sunia welcomed, on behalf of Gov. Togiola and the people of American Samoa, “all of our guests from off island.”

(The governor is currently off island for a series of meetings.)

“I want all of you young players to know that sports and sporting events rank very high in our priority with the governor. Our youth is blessed by the good Lord with good athletic ability. The hope is that you learn the sport of tennis and maybe you will find yourself a good future, because we know with your Samoan heart you can excel. I will be rooting for each and everyone of you,” he said.

Also at the tournament was the ITF Development Officer for the Pacific Oceania Region Gene Ridgway, who welcomed all of the coaches and players to the East Pacific Qualifying for 2012, and noted, “It is a pleasure for me to be here in American Samoa. Thank you to the American Samoa Tennis Federation for hosting us this year and for being very patient with us all. Good luck everybody.”

Samoa News had a chance to speak with some to the young visiting players, who all stated that this was a great opportunity to be here to play in this great tournament.

“I am so happy to be here. I want to thank my two coaches who I have been training hard with. I also want to thank everyone back in Tonga and here in American Samoa who have been supporting us with great words of encouragement,” said 15-year old Simuoko Afemui from the Tongan Tennis Team.

After the selection is made from the top players in this tournament to represent East Pacific next month in Fiji, another team will then be selected that will be the Oceania Team to play against New Zealand and Australia.

ASTA president Young pointed out that “this is a beginning of a really important step for our kids to get to that next level of their development as tennis players.”

“We are really are trying to encourage and build our numbers here in American Samoa. Tennis is one of the best sports for kids because it is for boys and girls of any size and it is good for them in helping them to get in shape,” he said.

“We have been lucky because we have been able to develop our players. This is also about education because we have two players that have scholarships to colleges in the United States who will leave in two weeks. Hopefully we will be able to keep this going. I wish all of the players the best of luck throughout the week,” said Young.

Samoa News will keep its readers informed throughout the week of the results of the tournament.



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