IN an emotional showdown, the NMMU table tennis team paid a fitting tribute to their late coach Rajen Ryan by winning the intervarsity contest last weekend.
The 53-year-old Ryan, a table tennis enthusiast who both played and coached, tragically suffered a fatal heart attack a week before the intervarsity and "died with his bat in his hand" according to Kurt Adams, the team's interim assistant coach and A team player.
Up against Rhodes, Fort Hare and Walter Sisulu, the NMMU team were determined to win the tournament for Ryan. "We've got a lot of incentive," tournament administrator Thembelani Magodla said before the event.
Ryan was playing a match with members of the NMMU team in a tournament when he was struck by the heart attack.
"On the day that he died we played an outstanding match. Basically we had a chance to win the league. Rajen played and won his match but he died before the results were released," Adams said.
Ryan's passing came as a shock to his teammates and family. "He was as fit as an 18-year-old. After his game he went for water and then collapsed," he said.
Ryan's son, Prishen, was promoted to fill his father's position on the NMMU A team in their first event since his death. The team played in T-shirts with the inscription "We love you, Coach".
NMMU also won the table tennis tournament in both 2011 and last year.
It was also the first time a women's tournament had been included in the schedule.
"It's hard to find ladies who want to play. But we have teams this year. They're getting some play time, which is important," Magodla said.
The results were:
Men A: NMMU 7 Rhodes 0, UFH 5 WSU 2, NMMU 7 WSU 0, UFH 5 Rhodes 2, NMMU 6 UFH 1, WSU 0 Rhodes 7; final ranking: 1 NMMU, 2 UFH, 3 Rhodes, 4 WSU
Men B: NMMU 7 WSU 0
Women A and B: UFH 3 WSU A 4, NMMU 4 WSU B 3, UFH 3 WSU B 4, NMMU 7 WSU 0, NMMU 4 UFH 3; final rankings: 1 NMMU, 2 WSU, 3 UFH