Clara Sabina was a former national champion in table tennis in her country of origin, Cuba. She can now add a Canadian national championship to her achievements but in another racket sport — pickleball.
Sabina, who now calls Nanoose Bay home, won a gold medal at the 2018 Canadian Nationals Pickleball Championships held in Kelowna recently with partner Claudia McLean from Chemainus. They were the best in the women’s 4.0 doubles division.
They are two of five Vancouver Island pickleball players who became Canadian national champions. The other three were Damaris and Peter Brix from Victoria, who won the mixed 4.0 doubles. Peter Brix won silver in the men’s 4.5 singles and Carol O’Brien of Victoria finished second in the women’s 4.0 singles.
The three-day national championships attracted over 700 players wanting to compete but only 430 spots were available. It featured singles, doubles, mixed doubles and had an Open and Senior Open division.
Sabrina was congratulated by members of the Parksville Oceanside Pickleball Society last week, who celebrated her gold medal achievement at the lacrosse box at the Parksville Community Park.
“I feel so incredibly proud of her,” said society president Hugh Bohm. “Clara’s doubles partner Claudia [McLean] meshed very well with Clara and certainly did more than hold up her end in the final match.”
Bohm, a certified pickleball instructor, said Sabina is the top female player in Parksville Qualicum Beach. He pointed out that Sabina has evolved rapidly into a star pickleball player through hard work and her keen ability to absorb all the advise she gets from people about strokes and strategy.
“When she told me that she was going into the gold medal match it certainly came as no surprise and any concerns would evolve around her doubles partner’s ability to play her best and that certainly was the case,” said Bohm.
Bohm said he was amazed at Sabina’s hunger for rapid growth in skill development as they set weekly drills that she work at an exhaustive phase.
“So much so that you can no longer separate this teacher from the student,” said Bohm. Another example of Sabrina’s sponge like absorbing ability is demonstrated in her teaching improvement, Bohm pointed out.
“Clara is a member of my volunteer teaching crew at the RDN’s Oceanside place pickleball sessions,” said Bohm.”She, this year, became my co-teacher and is working hard towards certification in the International Pickleball Federation’s professional teaching program.”
Before switching to pickleball, Sabina spent 15 years on the Cuban national table tennis team and was Cuban national Champion in the 80’s. She was also Cuban junior womens national coach.