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Eyes Focus on Teenagers but Star Names of Yesteryear, Major Attraction

Proceedings in the Eurosib Russian Junior and Cadet Open commence in St Petersburg on Tuesday 25th November; understandably eyes focus on the teenagers in action but later in the week, attention will turn to two star names now retired from the international scene.

Jean-Philippe Gatien of France and the host nation's Andrei Mazunov are both present in the historic city and on Thursday 27th November will be involved in exhibition matches alongside current Russian international Viachaslev Burov.

Notably, earlier this year Viachaslev Burov was in fine form on the GAC Group 2014 ITTF World Tour, in Belarus. He reached the quarter-final stage of the Men's Singles event where colleague, Vasily Lakeev ended progress.

Well Documented
The efforts and achievements of Jean-Philippe Gatien are well chronicled; a silver medal in the Men's Singles event at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, followed by being crowned World champion one year later in Gothenburg, gives him a legendary status in the sport of table tennis.

He raised the profile of the sport in France to new heights, as to some extent did Andrei Mazunov, the runner up in the Men's Singles event at the European Championships in Paris in 1988.

European Youth Championships
Both are players from whom all the youngsters on duty in St Petersburg can learn; they have trodden the treacherous route from promising junior to senior celebrity.

Arguably Andrei Mazunov is the prime example.

At the European Youth Championships in 1981 in Topolcany he was the Cadet Boys' Singles winner, three years later in Linz he was the anointed Junior Boys' Singles champion.

Once again the annual tournament is supported by Eurosib, one of the leading private rail operators in Russia and an official car dealer.

The tournament is in memory of Nikolay Nikitin who founded the company; he was the first President of the St Petersburg Table Tennis Federation. Promoting a healthy lifestyle and encouraging young people to participate in sport was always high on his agenda and remains paramount to Eurosib policy.

He passed away in 1999.

Efforts Recognised
In recognition of his efforts, a proposal was made to host the Nikolay Nikitin Memorial Tournament; it was first held in 2000; the goal being to encourage a healthy lifestyle amongst young people.

A well-established tournament it is now in its 15th year; in 2015, the event will be included in the ITTF World Junior Circuit.

Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor