The Summer Universiade is an international university sports and cultural event that is staged every two years in a different city. These games draw many thousands of student-athletes together to compete, making it one of the largest multi-sport events in the world. The name is a combination of the words “University” and “Olympiad”.
This years event was hosted in Naples, Italy and representing Team Canada was National Team Athlete Matthew Lehmann from Manitoba. One of 8 athletes competing in this multi sport event for Table Tennis. We did an interview with Matthew.
How does it feel to walk into the stadium as Team Canada at the Opening Ceremonies?
Walking into the stadium was an incredible experience, and a highlight of the games for me. Being in the large group of all of the Canadian athletes in our matching red polo shirts was really cool, and provided a team atmosphere that table tennis players rarely get. As we entered the stadium and “Canada” was announced, there was a roar from the over thirty thousand spectators in the stands. That is a moment I will never forget.
How did the competition go?
The competition was really tough. I didn’t know what to expect because an entry list of players and countries was only posted the day before the tournament began. The tournament had many top international players so it was a great experience to be there as well. A highlight of the competition was mixed doubles with Alayna Chan. We had never played together before, but had always said that one day we would have to play together. We played a team from Sweden with national team players so we didn’t have high expectations going in. We ended up losing 3-2, 11-8, which was a really good match for us. In singles I was happy to make it out of my group, before losing to a strong player from Chinese Taipei.
Being in University and that there is not much competition going on for professional athletes, what would you like to see in future Table Tennis Canada?
I’d love to see a good league and/or tournament system for all university students in Canada. Something to keep athletes motivated to continue playing after high school. A Canada University Games would also be really good. I hope that for next Universiade (Chengdu 2021), Canadian table tennis will put more focus on promoting the event and helping the players perhaps with a team preparation camp and coaching support.. I am so thankful that during this season of change at Table Tennis Canada, that participation in Universiade was made possible. It’s an incredible and prestigious event to be a part of (the second biggest multi-sport games in the world, second only to the Summer Olympic Games) and I will be training hard to be at Chengdu 2021!
Thank you very much Matthew and all the best for you!