Dennis La Rose is the undisputed king of para table tennis in Trinidad and Tobago. But the Carenage Blasters player is not satisfied with dominating at home. He wants to achieve on the international stage.
La Rose has set his sights on the 2014 Para World Table Tennis Championships, in Beijing, China, next September. To compete in the global event, he must accumulate enough points at specified qualifying tournaments, and is targeting the November 7-11 Tango Cup XI in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the December 3-8 Mike Dempsey Memorial in San Diego, California, USA, and the December 9-16 Parapanamerican Championships in San Jose, Costa Rica.
However, La Rose’s plans to fly the T&T flag in Beijing next year could come to naught if he does not get funding. He told the Express that a number of fund-raisers have been staged by Blasters, including a walkathon and pastry sales.
“I need points from all three tournaments to qualify for the World Championships, but we haven’t made enough money to send me. I need money for airfare and accommodation.
“I also submitted a request to the Ministry of Sport. About four weeks ago I dropped a letter for the Minister, and I’m waiting on a reply.”
La Rose attended the 2012 edition of the Mike Dempsey Memorial, competing in Class 7 with the aid of a walking stick. He is hoping, though, to get a specially designed wheelchair which would allow him to play in Class 5.
La Rose, who was afflicted with polio as a toddler, explained that playing table tennis standing is taking a toll on his body. La Rose is also the Blasters and national junior team coach, and apart from his own training, spends many hours on the table working with his young charges, including 15-year-old Aaron Wilson, the reigning Tobago Open men’s singles champion.
“My legs are going,” said La Rose. “They’ve been hurting me recently.
“Through donations and fund-raisers,” he continued, “the club has been able to raise TT$7,000 towards the wheelchair. But the cost of the wheelchair is US$2,300 (TT$14,743), plus shipping.”
Parents of the young players at Blasters have been very active in the fund-raising ventures. Money is also being raised for the club’s first-ever awards function.
“It’s a long time we’ve been trying to get this to come off. Finally, we’re getting it to happen on December 21 at the Carenage Community Centre. Kenwin Small and Ashley Quashie should be our two top awardees. In 2008, Kenwin won the Caribbean junior title in Guyana, and has never been properly recognised for that achievement.”
La Rose said the Carenage Blasters club is focused on holistic development of the players, and not just their table tennis skills.
“We have a Homework Centre at T&TEC Sports Club (Wrightson Road, Port of Spain) every Tuesday and Thursday, where players do homework before starting their physicals and then their board work.
“We have between 20 and 25 players at T&TEC between the ages of seven and 20. And on Mondays and Wednesdays, we have between 12 and 15 players at Carenage Community Centre. On Saturdays, we train either at T&TEC or Carenage.
“Among the upcoming Blasters players,” La Rose ended, “are 12-year-old Luc O’Young and 10-year-old Dylan Lee.”
Anyone who would like to support La Rose in his bid to put T&T on the para table tennis map can contact him at 732-5544.