by Olalekan Okusan
Before Larbi Bouriah represented Algeria at the Olympic qualifiers held in Tunisia early this year, he just wanted to play his last match for his beloved country. However, he gained one of the four tickets available in Tunis, much to the amazement of the Federation of Algeria Table Tennis (FATT).
“It has been long I have played for Algeria and I just decided that I will feature in the African Cup and Olympic qualifiers as the final match for Algeria because I knew I was getting old and I needed to give the young ones chances but as things panned out in Tunis, I picked one of the tickets to Tokyo and I am still in shock because I never has the intention that I could make it.” Larbi Bouriah.
However, COVID-19 pandemic has halted the preparation of Bouriah but with the return of sport in France, the 37 year old is hoping to commence his preparation officially on Monday 17th August in his base.
According to a report published on Algeria Press Service (APS) on Wednesday 12th August, Bouriah is receiving the needed support from Algeria through FATT.
“I will resume training on August 17, with an adapted and personalised physical preparation on the programme, for a week with my trainer, Younes Lehouar. I will continue, on August 24, with a technical recovery course at the training centre of Boulogne-Billancourt, where I will work all year round in anticipation of the Olympics,” Larbi Bouriah.
In France, Bouriah will benefit from internships abroad, which will be supervised by FATT and based according to the official calendar of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), yet to be decided.
Like the rest of the Algerian athletes, qualified and eligible for the Tokyo Games, Bouriah tried, as best he could, to train at home, according to the means available.
“During the confinement, where all the rooms were closed in Paris, the technical practice was cancelled, and we were content to talk at home, with muscle building sessions to stay more or less active,” Larbi Bouriah.
A volume of 20 hours of technical training per week during normal periods in the centre at Boulogne, equipped with all the amenities, Bouriah intends to gradually refine his preparation, to reach the best of his abilities.
“For the technical side, I will work in optimal conditions and I will have the opportunity to self-assess myself with world class sparring partners from several countries; this will help me improve and find my level,” Larbi Bouriah.
Ranked no 294 in the ITTF listing for April 2020, Bouriah hopes that he will be without injuries during the training.
“If I do an optimal and serious preparation for a year, that will be enough for me to reach my best level in Tokyo, and this is my first objective. In Tokyo, it is clear that I am not going to play for a medal, for several reasons. Firstly my advanced age, then the presence of very high level table tennis players, therefore better off,” Larbi Bouriah.
However, this will not prevent him from duly honouring his country, with the aim of scaling the first round at the Olympics, a stage never reached by an Algerian player in their four appearances at the Games.
“To become the first Algerian table tennis player to pass the first round is also my goal in Tokyo. It is doable, with a lenient draw and especially if I arrive at the Games fit and in top shape,” Larbi Bouriah.
To be able to achieve this objective, the FATT is working hard to ensure its athlete is provided the necessary resources as well as surrounded with the best working conditions.
Moreover, Bouriah is delighted with the commitment displayed by FATT officials who, he assured, “are very receptive to requests, including integration into the Boulogne preparation centre”.