When you think of table tennis coaches in the NWT, you would almost instantly think of Thorsten Gohl.
That would make sense, considering he’s been one of the driving forces behind getting the sport noticed in the territory for the past few years.
For the Arctic Winter Games this month, though, Gohl won’t be directing things. However, he will still be on board as the assistant coach. Instead, the team will be led by one of the country’s finest players from Quebec.
Emilia Cabrera Mallette has made the trip North — she arrived in the territorial capital on Jan. 1 — and has already started working with Table Tennis North in Fort Providence to prepare the team of six from Yellowknife and Fort Providence for the Games in Wood Buffalo, Alta.
Gohl, who’s also Table Tennis North’s executive director, said he reached out to Table Tennis Quebec as he has some connections in that part of the country.
“Emilia was asked about it; she’s an up-and-coming coach and a former national team player,” he said. “She’s going to be working with our Arctic Winter Games athletes and our classes in Fort Providence. It’s a perfect fit for us and it’s great to have the Arctic Winter Games coach in the community and working with the kids.”
Mallette said she had no problems with the cross-country travel, unlike multitudes of other travellers, and is excited to get down to business.
“I saw the e-mail (from Thorsten) and it looked like an amazing opportunity,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to working with the kids and helping create great memories for them.”
Mallette is a former member of both Team Quebec and Team Canada with plenty of domestic and international tournaments under her belt.
Something Mallette said she was pleased to see was how well the players she’s worked with thus far have a grasp of the basics of the sport.
“I was surprised and happy with that,” she said. “My goal isn’t to change much, but try and introduce some new tactics and show them some footwork. I want them to keep the style they already have, but you can always add something new.”
Mallette will be busy over the next few weeks, including a training camp this coming weekend in Fort Providence, followed by a camp in Yellowknife Jan. 13 to 15 and one final camp in Fort Providence Jan. 20 to 22. The Canada Winter Games trials will also take place during the camp this weekend; Gohl said the team should be announced by Sunday.
Mallette will only be coaching the Arctic Winter Games team, but said she’s excited to help get those athletes who make the Canada Winter Games team be prepared.