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Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, a little later on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week).
Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of seven books and over 1400 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
21 chapters, 240 pages, 102,000 words. Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!

His book, Table Tennis Tips, is also out - All 150 Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, in one volume, in logical progression!!!

His newest book, The Spirit of Pong, is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis and ends up training with the spirits of past champions. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

September 22, 2016

No Blog on Friday
See “Non-Table Tennis” item at end on the Baltimore Book Festival.

New ITTF Coaching Rule
On Wednesday I blogged about this, and about the USATT Board – which I’m on – will vote on this issue this Saturday morning. If you have any comments or thoughts on this, this is your last chance – I DON’T want to hear from you after the fact if you haven’t commented before. There’s a discussion at Mytabletennis.net which I’m following and participating in, so you can post there, and I’ll see it. (Alas, I will hear from people after the fact because not everyone keeps track of the major happenings in our sport until they are directly affected, and they show up at a tournament and play a match against some kid whose coach is coaching every point.)

Here are my blogs on the topic, on August 19 (on why it’s a bad rule, with 14 reasons) and August 26 (on whether USATT should adopt it, despite it being a bad rule). Two things I plan to make sure of: 1) no matter what we do, tournament directors can opt in or out of the rule (by stating this on the entry form); and 2) we re-evaluated in December. The latter means we may adopt it, and then reconsider in December, or it could mean we postpone adopting, and reconsider in December.

This is not an easy decision. There are a few who think it’s a slam-dunk one way or the other, and when I read that, I honestly lose interest in their opinions, though I’ll listen to their arguments and make the counter-arguments myself. I prefer listening to people who can look at the arguments for both sides, and argue for why one side’s arguments are stronger than the other, and address the counter-arguments. Alas, many simply argue “their side,” ignoring counter-arguments either because they don’t know them or don’t understand them, or perhaps just hoping nobody notices. This may work for many people, but I prefer a somewhat more intellectual approach.

Here is the actual rule, with English spelling and one silly typo I pointed out previously but no one seems to be able to fix ("and and"):

3.5.1.3: Players may receive advice at any time except during rallies and and between the end of practice and the start of a match; if any authorised person gives advice illegally the umpire shall hold up a yellow card to warn him or her that any further such offence will result in his or her dismissal from the playing area (in effect as of 1st October 2016). 

Tentatively, I plan on making one of the following two motions: 

"I move that USATT temporarily adopt the new ITTF Coaching Rule, and re-evaluate and vote on it again in December, but tournaments may opt out of this rule if they state so on the entry form."

Or

"I move that USATT not adopt the new ITTF Coaching Rule at this time, and re-evaluate and vote on it again in December, but tournaments may opt to follow this rule if they state so on the entry form."

Things I Said While Coaching This Week

  • “Even Zhang Jike could make that shot.”
  •  “Life isn’t worth living if I can’t make that flip!”
  • “That was the greatest shot ever not attempted.”
  • “I’m too good to miss that shot!”
  • “If you keep practicing bad technique you’re going to perfect it.”
  • “If you stayed a little closer to the table I might be able to see your technique. Come visit sometime, okay?”
  • “Hello, 9-1-1? I’d like to report a Danielization.” (After student Daniel got still another net ball. Hey, we report things that are vandalized, why not Danielized?)
  • “If you get one more net or edge ball, I’m going to rename you Xi Enting.” (After the 1973 World Men’s Singles Champion who famously got a net and an edge to win at 19-18 in the fifth over Kjell Johansson, when games were to 21.)
  • “If you keep hitting backhands from the forehand side, you’ll have to learn to cover the other side of the table with your forehand.”
  • “Your parents called and asked me to let you know that they no longer love you and are abandoning you, and that you’ll be living full-time here at the table tennis club. You’ll sleep under a table, drop out of school, and train ten hours a day.” (Kid was very happy, though he wanted to negotiate the ten hours of training.)
  • “I can do that.” (After watching Nathan Hsu absolutely rip a backhand loop.) And I can do that – once. There’d be a very loud ripping sound as every muscle and tendon in my arm and shoulder rips and I’d spend the rest of my life in rehab.

Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion, autobiography of Danny Seemiller now available
Here’s the ITTF News Release on Dan Seemiller’s autobiography.

Most Expensive Coach in the World Revisited
In my blog yesterday, I joked about being the most expensive coach, with a student paying $266 for a 90-minute lesson, or $177/hour. (Arguably more, because that doesn’t include transportation from NY to MD, and hotel – but he was down for a business trip, so we didn’t include that.) But Len Winkler, a professional coach from Hawaii (that’s not fair!) wrote me the following:

Aloha Larry,
I beat you in cost of coaching. Although I only charge a mere $30.00 per hour, I had a guy fly here on Saturday mornings every other week from Honolulu. He flew Hawaiian Airlines ($150.00 round trip), rented a car ($38.00), drove the 70 minutes in each direction (gas, $30.00), took his lessons, took me to lunch ($30.00), drove back to airport and home ($15.00 Honolulu parking). He did this for about 6 months. Then his wife had a baby and sadly hasn’t played since. LOLOLOL
Len Winkler

Len later emailed me that this was for a four-hour lesson, so that's $120 in coaching fees. All told, it comes to $353. But $353/4 = "only" $88.25/hour. So I'm still the most expensive coach in the world!

How to Return Spin Serves in Table Tennis
Here’s the new coaching article from Expert Table Tennis.

Why the Right Shoes Are Important When Playing Table Tennis
Here’s the article from Table Tennis Spot.

Women’s World Cup
Interested in attending this international event, which takes place in Philadelphia, Oct. 7-9? MDTTC has a special group rate discount. Here’s info! The best women in the world will be there, including the top two women in the world, Liu Shiwen and Ding Ning of China, and USA’s own Lily Zhang. (I’m reposting this item from Wednesday for those who missed it. I’ll be there on Sunday – hope to see you there!)

Zhang Jike Declines 2016 Chinese Super League
Here’s the article.

Best of Timo Boll - Zhang Jike
Here’s the video (8:55).

Ping Pong Brain Boost
Here’s the newest video (34 sec) on how table tennis is being used to treat Alzheimer’s.

Frogs Playing Table Tennis
Here they are!

Boater vs. Surfer Table Tennis
Here’s the video (10 sec) as they really do this!

Non-Table Tennis - Baltimore Book Festival
Tomorrow I’ll be at the Baltimore Book Festival all day, leaving early in the morning, so no blog tomorrow. I’m on two science fiction writing panels, a book signing (at 4PM for Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions), plus a few other activities. Here’s their bio of me. My two panels (at 2PM and 3PM) are “How to Come Across as a Professional Writer When You're Just Starting Out” and “The Future of Science Fiction & Fantasy.” During my signing for Campaign 2100, I’ll also have on hand for sale my other novels, including the fantasy table tennis novel “The Spirit of Pong.” What, you, a table tennis player, hasn’t read that yet? What’s wrong with you?!!!

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September 21, 2016

New ITTF Coaching Rule and Board Discussion on Saturday
This Saturday at 9:30AM the USATT Board will have a teleconference on whether to adopt the new ITTF Coaching Rule that allows coaching between points. I think it’s a horrible rule, and yet we’d be handicapping ourselves if we don’t adopt it, so it’s not an easy decision, and I’m still undecided – though I’m leaning slightly toward adopting it, with a note in the minutes that we should take this up again at the December Board meeting so we can evaluate it. This is your chance to chime in.

Here’s what Samson Dubina wrote me about it:

It is a terrible rule and should never have been passed by ITTF.  However, as you mentioned in the blog, we need to follow the ruling if we want to have any chance to have success at the international level.  USATT really needs to have a conference call about this asap.  Myself, as well as the other US Coaches, need to be developing a system of communication with our players and have a few months to adjust and perfect the system.

Here’s my letter yesterday to the USATT Board, which includes links to my two blogs on the topic. (Some people have text-only email, so I put the links in explicitly.)

Dear Board,

The decision on the new ITTF coaching rule is not going to be an easy one, and could be the most consequential vote we make this year as it will have a major impact on the sport. I think it's a horrible rule, but at the same time I'm struggling with whether we should adopt it, since if we don't, our players will not be prepared when they play at the U.S. Open, the North American Teams, and in the various Olympic, Pan Am, and Paralympic continental trials. (Those are all run under ITTF rules.)

I have blogged about the issue twice. On August 19 I blogged about why it's a bad rule, and gave 14 reasons:
http://tabletenniscoaching.com/node/2470

On August 26 I blogged about whether USATT should adopt the rule:
http://tabletenniscoaching.com/node/2476

On July 7, the USATT Umpires and Referees Committee voted 4-0 (see Motion 2) that USATT not adopt the rule:
http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Table-Tennis/Features/2016/July/25/Umpires-and-Referees-Committee-Motions-and-Actions

"MOVED that the URC make the recommendation to the USATT Rules Committee and USATT Board that ITTF's new rule permitting coaching at times other than between games not be applicable for United States tournaments that are neither ITTF sponsored nor sanctioned."

Strangely, though they voted on July 7 to make this recommendation to the USATT Board, I do not believe they ever notified the Board of their recommendation to us. (I don't know if they notified the Rules Committee.) On Aug. 30 I asked the Rules Committee Chair (Kagin) for their recommendation on this, but was told they had no recommendation at that time.

As a professional coach who will have to coach under these new rules, I am disgusted, and am not looking forward to this. I'm fairly certain that the rule will be overturned within a few years, but we'll see.

-Larry Hodges

Women’s World Cup
Interested in attending this international event, which takes place in Philadelphia, Oct. 7-9? MDTTC has a special group rate discount. Here’s info! The best women in the world will be there, including the top two women in the world, Liu Shiwen and Ding Ning of China, and USA’s own Lily Zhang.

Looping Flips
Here’s the new coaching article by Samson Dubina.

MH Table Tennis Coaching Blog
Here are the coaching article archives of Matt Hetherington, with 31 different articles. (I think I’ve linked to them all over the last few years as they went up, one by one, but now you can browse them all at once!)

USATT League Software Ready to Launch
Here’s the USATT news item.

Full Youth National Teams for 2016-2017
Here’s the USATT Announcement of the final selections.

Most Expensive Coach in the World?
I am the most expensive coach in the world. Well, sort of! This past Sunday I had a 90-minute session with a player from out of town come in on business in DC, which is about 20 miles south of my club, MDTTC. The actual cost of the lesson was $90. However, he also spent $176 using Uber to get back and forth, so it was $266 total, or about $177/hour. That’s my new coaching rate. Any takers?

34th World Table Tennis Championships and Sportacus ‘77
This is my newest table tennis book – the 204-page program for the 1977 World Championships, which John Olsen gave to me over the weekend. It’s now the latest addition to my collection of 239 table tennis books.

Ping Pong Partyz in the DC Area
Here’s the new business – “We provide young and fun professional level ping pong players to provide entertainment for events and parties.”

Table Tennis Camp for Veterans with Disabilities in Phoenix, AZ
Here’s the USATT article.

A Museum Devoted to Table Tennis
Here’s the article in the Shanghai Daily (in English).

Quadri Aruna Hopes to Surpass Quarter-finals Record at World Cup
Here’s the article on the Nigerian star from the Nigerian Daily Post.

Japan’s Table Tennis Star Fukuhara Announces Marriage
Here’s the article. She’s marrying Taiwan's table tennis Olympian Chiang Hung-chieh.

Chinese Fans go Crazy for Fang Bo
Here’s the video (37 sec), with Adam Bobrow doing the commentary. Now imagine if that were Ma Long or Zhang Jike!

Nurse Pong, 1942
Here’s the picture from a 1942 issue of Shorpy.

Classical Music + Ping Pong =
Here’s the video (1:22)!

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September 20, 2016

Tip of the Week
Five Serves That EVERYONE Should Master.

Protect Future of Table Tennis in USA
Most of you probably received the mass emails sent out last week from “Protect Future of Table Tennis in USA” about the U.S. team selections, especially in the Mini-cadet teams (12 and under). The letter is from Rajul Sheth from the ICC Table Tennis Center (where he's done some great work), who I consider a friend, and hopefully that won’t change after this. He makes some good points, though there are some inaccurate or misleading items I could nitpick about, and there is more to the issue than what is covered in the letter.

However, there was one serious problem that really angered me, and it had nothing to do with the actual issue involved. I emailed him complaining about his naming these four 10-12 year-old kids publicly in this way (rather than referring to them by rating and as “Player A,” “Player B,” etc.). These kids did nothing wrong, and yet they are publicly being dragged through the mud, turning a dream (making the U.S. National Mini-Cadet Team) into a nightmare as he very publicly tore into the credentials of these 10-12 year-old kids. I know of some parents who are also very angry about this.

Sure, if he left the names out, some could investigate and figure out who these kids were, but few would do so, and it’s a lot more humiliating for a kid to be named directly and publicly in this way, with all these attacks on their playing record. We’re talking about kids who have trained nearly full-time for years, approached the highest levels for their age in this country, did exactly as USATT asked them to do (attending the USATT Supercamp, where they were named to the National Team due to their performance there), and through no fault of their own, this happens to them?

If you don’t like the way it was done, discuss it with or go after the ones who made it that way, but don’t go after the innocent kids.

He did praise the four kids in question in one paragraph – but a little faint praise doesn’t excuse one for then publicly tearing down their record. 

I also jumped on him for publicly naming the kids he went after while keeping himself anonymous. He promised to put his name on the next letter that goes out, so hopefully that will change. (But shouldn't it have been the other way around?) He also left out that he represents specific kids from the Bay Area, which might have been clearer if he’d put his name and position in the letter. That’s like a lawyer writing an Op-Ed for a client and leaving out that he’s the person’s lawyer - it's called a disclaimer. Hopefully in his next letter he’ll address that issue. After all, if we’re going to demand openness from USATT – and we should – we should practice it ourselves.

Rajul is right that there were problems in how the selections were made, and there needs to be much better communication between USATT and top juniors/parents/coaches/clubs. I’ve spent a LOT of time on this issue and related issues (and I’m just a volunteer), and have made my own thoughts and recommendations clear to those involved. Keep in mind that the USATT Board of Directors (of which I'm a member) has no direct involvement in this issue. The USATT CEO, the High Performance Director, the High Performance Committee, and I think the Athlete Advisory Committee are handling this, and hopefully they will resolve it so it does not become a Board issue. Board members have no authority on their own, only at board meetings via a vote. The next Board meeting is Oct. 10 in Philadelphia, though there will also likely be a teleconference before that. Hopefully all will be resolved by then. 

At some point I expect to blog more on this topic. While there were problems, there’s also a lot of false or misleading info out there as well, mostly online, including some of the stuff posted on the website linked above. Hopefully USATT will respond on this soon. However, since lawyers have been brought in (and with it the threat of lawsuits), and because I’m on the USATT Board of Directors, I can’t really comment on the specifics about the problems with the selection procedures at this time. I feel a little like this guy

Dan Seemiller’s “Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion”
You can buy it now from Amazon in Print or Kindle. Here’s the Amazon page where you can buy the autobiography of the five-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion, our greatest modern player. (Disclosure: I edited it and did the page layouts and photo work, and created the ebook.) There are already two Amazon reviews, both 5-star:

  • “This was an enjoyable read, finished the book in a day. It is an intriguing glimpse into the life of a pro athlete in a little known sport. Danny Seemiller should truly be nominated as the "Most Interesting Man in the World”
  • “Incredible stories of an incredible athlete and coach! A must read for any and all table tennis enthusiasts.”

USATT News
The USATT News page has nine new news items added since my last blog on Friday. Rather than put in nine segments here, why not go over there and browse around? Many of them feature the exploits of our top juniors overseas at the Croatian Open, where Sharon, Gal, and Adar Alguetti, Victor Liu, and Amy Wang caused quite a sensation with their winning performances.

Advice for Players Who Hit the Ball Very Hard, but Keep Missing
Here’s the coaching article by Tom Lodziak. Some good advice here.

Table Tennis Equipment – Tips for Parents
Here’s the new coaching article from Expert Table Tennis.

Jishan Liang Captures 2016 Butterfly Badger Open Crown
Here’s the USATT story by Barbara Wei. Here are complete results care of Omnipong.

Capital Area Table Tennis League
The Capital Area Table Tennis League had their first meeting of the Fall season, with all 23 teams competing (110 players in all) at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Results are at the web page, under “Divisions.” The league is for players in the Maryland, DC, and Northern Virginia area.

Wang Hao Wedding
Here’s the video (6:51). Wang Hao was the 2009 Men’s Singles World Champion, two-time Runner-up, two-time World Men’s Doubles Champion, six-time World Men’s Team Champion, and was the silver medalist in Men’s Singles at three straight Olympics, 2004-2012, winning the gold in Teams the last two times. (In 2004 they had doubles instead of teams.) He also won the Men’s World Cup three times, was Runner-up three times, and go the bronze one time. He revolutionized the game with his powerful reverse penhold attack and over-the-table banana flip. Yeah, he was a pretty good player.

Fan Zhendong replaces Jun Mizutani in the 2016 Men's World Cup
Here’s the ITTF press release.

19-Year-old Fan Shocks Olympic Champ Ma to Win China Open
Here’s the ITTF press release.

Para Table Tennis Legend Partyka Leads Poland to Team Gold in Rio
Here’s the ITTF press release.

Didukh Recovers from Cancer to Lead Ukraine to Paralympic Glory
Here’s the ITTF press release.

Tiago Apolonia Causes Uproar at China Open
No, he didn’t win the tournament, but watch the video (54 sec) of the fan’s reaction to him after his match!

U.S. Men’s Coach Stefan Feth and Comedian Judah Friedlander Shooting Video at Facebook HQ
Here’s the video (25 sec). Their average rating is 2151: one is 2695, the other 1607, but he’s funnier.

Paralympics Legend Ibrahim Hamato
Here’s the caricature of the world’s top armless player! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) For those who missed it, here’s video (2:43) of him by the ITTF.

Timo Boll – “I’m Playing in the Rain!”
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) Strangely, that’s him on the left, playing right-handed, with the umbrella in his lefty playing hand, while his opponent is playing lefty.

Great Table Tennis Show!
Here’s the video (8:21) – you DON’T want to miss this! It is performed by the Taiwan Normal University Table Tennis team and some guests. During the show they do all sorts of spectacular tricks, from table tennis with pots & pans, tambourines, and even boxing gloves and baseball bats, to speed multiball and all sorts of dancing and musical stuff mixed in.

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September 19, 2016

I’m pretty tired right now, and I need a vacation. Plus I’ve got a todo list that goes from here to Beijing – even now Ma Long and Ding Ning are examining the lower parts of it and cowering in fear. (I think the item “Make America so great at table tennis the Chinese quit and take up shuffleboard” is the part that scared them.) Plus today is Adam West’s 88th birthday – the original Batman from the 1960s TV show and mayor of Quahog in Family guy – a national holiday if there ever was one. So no blog today – back tomorrow. 

September 16, 2016

All About Table Tennis Books
As readers here know, Dan Seemiller’s autobiography came out this past week, Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion. It’s what all the “cool” kids table tennis players will be talking about at the club now, so go get your copy now. Don’t make us send you to the nerdy kids table. (See how that works for both schools and table tennis clubs?) Here is the text from the back cover:

Dedication, Determination, Heartbreak, and Achievement

If you are in the Olympic sport of table tennis, then you know Danny Seemiller, USA’s greatest modern champion. In “Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion,” the five-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion takes you through his 50 years in the sport, from the early days of training, the breakthroughs, the agonizing defeats and the great triumphs. You’ll learn why the three-sport star – baseball, basketball, and football – changed his focus to table tennis. You’ll experience his trips around the world, from being marched at gunpoint to achieving his boyhood dream of defeating the Chinese.

But playing is only half his story. Danny, a long-time coach first in Pittsburgh and then in South Bend, Indiana, was the U.S. Olympic and World Team Coach for ten years, and was named the USOC Coach of the Year for Table Tennis three times. He served five years as president of USA Table Tennis, ran dozens of major tournaments through the years, and was instrumental in bringing the 2018 World Veterans Games to the United States. He is a member of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame, and in 2012 became the youngest recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

This is his story.

However, there other books out there for those of you who have already ordered and read Dan’s book in the three days it has been out. I collect table tennis books, with 239 in my table tennis books collection. I also of course write table tennis books – here are my books. (Buy them!!!) Here’s a short compilation of relatively recent ones. I’ve included a few older ones in the history/biography segment.

Table Tennis Instructional Books

Table Tennis History and Biography Books

Table Tennis Novels

Other Table Tennis Books

Paralympic Table Tennis
Here’s the ITTF Paralympic Page. Like the Olympics, they are in Rio, Brazil, and are Sept. 8-16, so they finish tomorrow.

Olympic Champions Ma & Ding Return to Action at China Open
Here’s the ITTF press release.

China Open
Here’s the ITTF page for the event, Sept. 14-18 in Chengdu, China.

Capital Area Table Tennis League
The new season of the Capital Area Table Tennis League starts this Saturday! The first meeting will take place at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. This is for players in the Washington DC/Maryland/Northern Virginia area. This seas there are 23 teams and 110 players. I originally founded the league, or at least got the ball rolling in its development, but others quickly stepped forward and have been the real driving force, in particular Commissioner Stefano Ratti. However, Stefano is spending a season in Italy, and in his absence Mossa Barandao (with scheduling) and acting commissioner Rich Heo and the rest of the committee have stepped up and done an incredible job. The league committee is made up of Richard Heo, Larry Hodges, Wen Hsu, Mossa Barandao. Darwin Ma, John Olsen, and Stefano Ratti.

How Well Do You Know Your Table Tennis?
Here’s the new quiz from Pong Universe by Matt Hetherington.

 "My Coaching Table"
Here’s the video (13 sec) of Coach Brian Pace showing the newly built Broward Table Tennis Club in Davie, Florida, and his coaching table. It’s like having your very own cubicle!

2016 German League: Daniel Habesohn vs Tiago Apolonia
Here’s the video (4:40, with time between points removed). Apolonia of Portugal is #17 in the world. Habesohn of Austria is world #95.

Ping Pong Boring
Here’s the video (3:14) of a new compilation of table tennis trick shots!

Losing is Like God Blowing His Nose on Me
Here’s the cartoon! On Wednesday I gave the Eric Boggan quote, and wrote, “Somewhere out there is an artist who can illustrate this in a cartoon.” Steve Worthington stepped forward!

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September 15, 2016

Years of Training Have Destroyed My Reactions
Okay, this may seem misleading. During my development years I did the usual intensive drills that conditioned me to react properly to nearly any given shot. Let me emphasize one word here: nearly. Now opponents may play at speeds that I might not be able to react to, or catch me off guard with placement and spin, but even there I’d usually react properly, just not always quickly enough or with just the right racket angle.

Some of my students have picked up on a certain flaw here, which I think affects me more than most. When someone throws something at me that I’m not used to, all that conditioning falls apart. It means I basically have two choices – I can go for a “regular” shot, and likely miss, or I can change to a safe shot, usually just fishing or weakly blocking it back.

For example, one of my students (a righty) has been developing this inside-out backhand loop that goes down the line, breaking away from a righty opponent. Now against a regular down-the-line shot, whether it’s a block or a loop, I’d react almost instantly with either a block, a smash, or a loop. It’s instinctive, and I can do all three with equal ease. But when he throws this inside-out backhand sidespin loop at me, I basically freeze up – my subconscious doesn’t know what to do. And so I usually just hold my racket out and block it back weakly, or step back and fish it back, or often react so slowly that I don’t even get to it.

Another student discovered that if he steps around his forehand and plays a backhand from the forehand side, and hits it down the line to my backhand, I often watch it go by before I react. None of my training prepared me for that shot!!!

I faced a more extreme example of this many years ago. In the very first tournament I ever played after they went to 11-point games I n2001, in a best of five, I faced an 1800 penholder – but he was the first penholder I’d ever faced with a reverse penhold backhand. (This shot was basically unknown until the 1990s, and rare right into the 2000s.) I couldn’t react with a regular backhand against the shot, and over and over I’d sort of put it back weakly, and he’d smash a winner before I had a chance to back up and make an effective lob. Next thing I know I’m down 0-2 to this 1800 player. I was about 2270 or so and hadn’t lost to a player under 2000 in over 20 years, and now I was on the verge of losing to an 1800 player. I finally switched to pure fishing and lobbing every time we got into a rally and managed to win in five. Afterwards I found a local with that backhand and practiced until I was used to it.

I think most top players adjust faster than I do to such things. I adjust tactically very quickly, but in the heat of a fast rally, it’s hard to overcome what your brain has been wired to do. I think part of the problem is that I didn’t do much multiball training in my early years, as that really prepares a player to simply react to fast incoming balls; I mostly did one-on-one training, and so learned to react against the shots those players gave me.

But one of my pet theories is that at most levels, players way underestimate the value of throwing in such variations. I’ve seen it done even at high levels. There’s one top USA junior who often throws opponents off with a sidespin chop return of serve (he’s not a chopper) that seemingly just gives the opponent an easy loop – but over and over opponents mess up against it because they’ve never trained against such a shot.

Ma Long Training
Here’s the new video (3:35).

Ask a Pro Anything - Jonathan Groth
Here’s the video (6:41) from Adam Bobrow. World #27 Groth is from Denmark. Wait’ll you see the dance moves!

More Articles on North American Team Championships
Here’s the ITTF page – but it’s confusing as there is also the JOOLA North American Teams in Washington DC.

$100,000 World Championship of Ping Pong
The World Championship of Ping Pong will be held Jan. 28-29, 2017, in London, with $100,000 in prize money for this Sandpaper event. Yes, sandpaper! You can get the latest news from their Facebook page.

Great Highlights Reel
Here’s the video (1:34) of some great rallies.

Ibrahim Hamadtou at the Paralympics
Here’s a new video (55 sec) of the armless player, who holds the racket in his mouth and serves by tossing the ball up with his feet.

Playback Pong with Power
Here’s the cartoon.

Funny Cats Playing Ping-Pong
Here’s the video (2:20) that compiles a number of cats playing (or more likely interacting with) table tennis.  

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September 14, 2016

Dan Seemiller’s Book and A Tale of Two Quotes
So . . . have you bought “Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion” yet? Why not? This is the story of our greatest modern champion. Warning – some people won’t like some of the things he says. But I’m more interested in what we can learn from the book.

Here’s an interesting quote from page 129 of the book, where Dan says, “I normally don’t get nervous, I’m too busy thinking about strategy instead of the score.” This is one of those things I’ve harped about here and in my books, that if you think about tactics between points, you won’t be thinking about winning or losing, the score, what’ll happen if you lose, etc., and so won’t get nervous (or as nervous). It’s one of those basic things that sometimes takes years to learn, and many never learn it. Contrast that with an actual exchange that took place during my coaching last night:

Me: “Since you can do this shot in practice, what happens in a game?”
Student: “I get scared and miss the shot.”
Me: “Then let’s practice getting scared and missing the shot.”

Now I was joking with that last part – though not completely, as you always want to practice what you do in matches, though perhaps not getting scared and missing – but the point is that many players get scared and so can’t play. They are too worried about winning and losing, and so can’t think or play straight. Instead, if they focused on what they want to do – tactics – then they would play much better.

And just for the record, there were many other great quotes in the book. Here’s perhaps my favorite!

Eric Boggan (2-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion, #18 in the world, and Dan’s rival for many years), on page 133: “To me, losing is like God blowing his nose on me.” Somewhere out there is an artist who can illustrate this in a cartoon.

USATT News Items
There are a LOT of new items on the USATT news page. I started to put together segments on each, but decided it’d be better to just direct you there.

MDTTC September Open Ratings and Write-up
Here they are – that was fast! I ran the tournament on Saturday and sent the results in that night. They were processed on Tuesday morning. And as I relentlessly last night tried to convince 7-year-old Stanly (now rated 1366), “There is nothing more important than ratings. Not family, not school, not food, nothing. It is the single most important thing there is. Period.” Alas, he has a smart phone with games on it, and so you know what he considers more important. (I did a write-up of the tournament in my blog yesterday, and it’s now up as a USATT News Item.)

How to Read Spin Serves in Table Tennis
Here’s the new coaching article from Expert Table Tennis.

Footwork: Training vs Warm-Up Article and Video
Here’s the new coaching article and video by Samson Dubina.

USATT’s North American Championships Page
Here’s the page, with results, pictures, and video. (This is a bit confusing as this is not the North American Championships where they have singles championships. They only had USA vs. Canada team championships to decide who would represent North America and the World Cup. USA won both men’s and women’s.)

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - August 2016
Here’s the video (14:15).

Table Tennis is the Olympics’ Most Revealing Sport
Here’s the article about how the difference between an Olympic table tennis player and a casual player is described as the biggest gap among Olympic sports.

Omron's Table Tennis Robot FORPHEUS Certified by Guinness World Records
Here’s the article.

Poland's Partyka Claims Fourth Consecutive Paralympic Singles Gold in Rio
Here’s the ITTF Press Release.

12-year-old Cerebral Palsy Athlete Makes Paralympic History
Here’s the article from Pong Universe.

A Little Chinese National Team Doubles Smashing vs. Lobbing
Here’s the video (30 sec).

Game On! The Monolith Ping Pong Table
Here’s the article and pictures.

Table Tennis Replaces Baseball as an Olympic Sport
Here’s the meme.

Chimpanzee Playing Table Tennis?
Here’s the video (13 sec) – I think this is real!

Non-Table Tennis - 80th Short Story Sale
Yesterday I sold “The Electrifying Aftermath of a Demon Thrice Summoned” to Galaxy’s Edge Magazine. They are one of the “pro” magazines that pay well. (I’ve sold 14 to the “pros.”) The humorous story is about the U.S. president and the person running against her, with each summoning the demon to wreak havoc on the others campaign – with an “electrifying” conclusion in the U.S. Senate the third time he is summoned. The poor demon just wants peace and quiet so he can read the works of Dante and Faulkner, but finds himself loose in the world of these evil humans, where he can do good or seek revenge. What does he do? (Their current issue has my story "Manbat and Robin," another humorous one about a bat that thinks it's a superhero.) 

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September 13, 2016

Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion by Dan Seemiller
It’s out! Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion is the autobiography of five-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion Dan Seemiller (who along the way also won Men’s Doubles 12 times, Mixed Doubles seven times, and was the U.S. Men’s Coach at the Worlds and Olympics for many years). The book is 218 pages with 96 pictures. I did the editing, photo work, and page layouts. Dan turned out to be an excellent proof reader, finding many typos that I missed. Maybe it’s that perfectionism that made him such a strong player?

At the very end of the book is a “Who is Dan Seemiller?” section which I wrote. Here it is – and after reading this, go out and buy yourself a copy! (Right now there’s only a print version. Later this week I’ll put together an ebook version.)

I first met Dan Seemiller at one of his Pittsburgh camps in 1977, my second year of play. Let’s just say that I was in awe as he and his brothers (Ricky and Randy, plus Perry Schwartzberg) demonstrated and explained the various techniques. I went to another of his camps in 1978. The day before he badly sprained his ankle, and he showed up with the leg in a full cast so he could still move about to coach – and in a challenge match, hobbling about mostly on one leg, he still managed to win a challenge match against the U.S. #1 junior player, Rutledge Barry! Those Seemiller camps formed the basis both for my own game, and for my future professional coaching career. Little did I know that, one day, I’d be assisting Dan at his Pittsburgh camps in the early 1990s, and learning how to run my own camps. I’d also be his coaching chair during his USATT presidency. (And now I’m editing and doing the photo work and page layouts for his autobiography – wow!)

Dan is considered by most the greatest modern U.S. player, going back to the 1950s. He’s done it all at the highest levels – player, coach, tournament director, club president, and president of USA Table Tennis. He even has a grip named after him – the “Seemiller grip.” There’s a reason he was the youngest person ever awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2012 at the age of 58. Even now, as I write this, he’s still actively playing – easily the best over 60 player in the U.S. – while coaching at South Bend and helping USA Table Tennis run training camps for their top juniors. Plus, he was instrumental to bringing the World Veteran Games to the U.S. in 2018, something he’s very excited about – setting it up, running it, and playing in it. (Want to read more about Dan? Google “Danny Seemiller Hall of Fame” for Tim Boggan’s write-up.)

Dan’s Record

  • 5-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion: 1976, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983
  • 12-time U.S. Men’s Doubles Champion: 1976-1983, 1990-1991, 1994, 2009
  • 7-time U.S. Mixed Doubles Champion: 1976-1978, 1981-1983, 1988
  • U.S. Men’s National Team Coach, 1999-2009
  • U.S. Men’s Olympic Coach, 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens
  • 3-time USOC Coach of the Year for Table Tennis
  • South Bend Table Tennis Club Head Coach 1996-present
  • President of USA Table Tennis, 1990-1995
  • Hall of Fame Inductee, 1995
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, 2012

Maximizing Benefits from Multiball Training in Table Tennis
Here’s the new coaching article from Matt Hetherington.

2016 Thailand National Junior and Cadet Training Camp
Here’s the photo album of the camp. 20 Athletes are preparing for the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships. Eleven coaches working the camp include 8 from the ITTF Level 2 Course that USA’s Richard McAfee is teaching.

How Table Tennis Champions are Produced in China
Here’s the video (46 sec) – that’s some serious multiball!

North American Championships
USA defeats Canada in both Men’s and Women’s Teams, and so Team USA will represent North America at the 2017 World Team Cup.

Butterfly MDTTC September Open
By Larry Hodges, tournament director
Maryland Table Tennis Center • Sept. 10, 2016

Another Saturday, another tournament – isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? The Butterfly MDTTC September Open had 55 players in seven events. New MDTTC coach Zhang Yan, unrated but seeded at what turned out to be an under-rated 2550, took top honors, defeating fellow MDTTC coach Chen Bo Wen (“Bowen,” 2563) in the final, 11,3,-10,6,11. Zhang was up 10-8 in that third game; at 10-9 they had a monster counter-looping rally that just would not end, with both players ranging farther and farther to their right (both are righties) as they hook-looped back and forth with as much sidespin as topspin. Bowen won the point as Zhang stood, hands on hips and looking disgusted after the point, but it was only a momentary setback.

Klaus Wood showed that he’s ready to make the jump from 2350 to 2450. He won Under 2350 event without losing a game (over George Li in the final), and in the quarterfinals of the Open came back from down 0-2 in games and 8-10 match point in the fifth to have his own 11-10 match point before losing to Roy Ke (2441).

George Nie once again won Under 2000, this time in a squeaker over Darwin Ma, 9,9,-3,-4,9.

Ali Paryavi, who took part the week before in the four-day ITTF Cadet Camp at MDTTC, won Under 1700 over Hossam Alkadi in a huge comeback from down 0-2 in games and who knows how many match points in game three, -11,-9,14,9,6.

Stanley Hsu nipped chopper/looper John Miller in the final of Under 1350 (-9,10,9,11), with a deuce-in-the-fifth squeaker in the semifinals over Thierry Viboux, 9,-5,-3,12,10. Stanley also made it to the final of Under 15, losing to Walid Alkadi in the final, 5,8,8.

Lixin Lang, who assisted in running the tournament, in his free time once again won Over 50 over Thomas Sampson, 7,8,-5,2.

A great thanks goes to sponsor Butterfly, to MDTTC, to referee Paul Kovac, and to Lixin Lang and Wen Hsu for helping run the tournament. Here are complete results, with a summary below.

Breaking News (added later) - the ratings for the tournament were processed on Tuesday morning - here they are!

Open Singles – Final: Zhang Yan d. Chen Bo Wen, 11,3,-10,6,11; SF: Zhang d. Nathan Hsu, 8,6,10,-10,9; Chen Bo Wen d. Roy Ke, 8,9,-7,9,9; QF: Zhang d. George Li, 8,8,4; Chen Bo Wen d. Spencer Chen, 5,8,7; Ke d. Klaus Wood, 7,5,-9,-6,11; Hsu d. Eric Li, 11,-11,9,-10,6.
Under 2350 – Final: Klaus Wood d. George Li, 6,6,7; SF: Wood d. George Nie, 3,-5,7,4; Li d. Tiffany Ke, 8,12,6.
Under 2000 – Final: George Nie. D. Darwin Ma, 9,9,-3,-4,9; SF: Nie d. Xinsheng Michael Huang, 8,6,6; Ma d. Joshua Gong, -8,5,10,11.
Under 1700 – Final: Ali Paryavi d. Hossam Alkadi, -11,-9,14,9,6; SF: Paryavi d. Ara Sahakian, 10,7,6; Alkadi d. Adrian Yang, 4,5,7.
Under 1350 – Final: Stanley Hsu d. John Miller, -9,10,9,11; SF: Hsu d. Thierry Viboux, 9,-5,-3,12,10; Millder d. Jeff Howes, 9,2,-2,8.
Under 15 – Final: Walid Alkadi d. Stanley Hsu, 5,8,8; SF: W.Alkadi d. Hossam Alkadi, 7,2,5; Hsu d. Ryan Lee, -6,7,10,9.
Over 50 – Final RR: 1st Lixin Lang, 3-0; 2nd Thomas Sampson, 2-1; 3rd Yunhua Gong, 1-2; 4th James Wilson, 0-3.

Chinese Community Center Once Again Proves Ideal Host
Here’s the ITTF article.

British Bayley Avenges First Round Defeat to Take Home Paralympic Gold
Here’s the ITTF press release.

Great Rally
Here’s the video (33 sec) – watch them take turns on offense and defense!

Great Britain’s Will Bayley Stands on Table After Capturing Gold in Rio! 
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

How Table Tennis Players are Seen
Here’s the six-picture meme!

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September 12, 2016

Tip of the Week
The More Two Players Drill Together the Better They Drill Together.

Tactical Coaching Can Be a Wonderful – or Terrible – Thing
This past Saturday I ran the Butterfly MDTTC September Open. I’ll have a write-up and photos ready hopefully tomorrow, but here are the complete results. It was an exhausting weekend. On Saturday I was at the club at 7:45AM, and didn’t leave until about 9PM, over 13 hours later. I did manage to compile all the results and send to USATT that night, so they will likely be processed in the next couple of days.

During a short lull I watched a match between an experienced player who earlier this year had switched from a mostly looping game (with inverted on both sides) to chopper/looper (with long pips on the backhand). I watch him play against a young junior player, and the chopper won the first, 11-9, and so things looked good for the chopper. But between games the junior received some very good coaching. I didn’t hear the coaching, I simply saw the change in tactics the rest of the match.

First, the junior began to play a bit more patiently, pushing deep to the backhand, forcing the chopper to push with the long pips. It’s tricky pushing low with long pips – it can’t create much backspin to make the ball travel on a line, and the chopper had only started using it this year – and every few pushes would pop up some, and the junior would jump all over that. As noted, the chopper had gone to chopping only

Second, the junior began to attack the middle. That is important when playing choppers – it’s their weakest spot – but here it worked for a different reason. The chopper still had attacking instincts, and often counterlooped very effectively when the junior attacked his forehand. But when the junior attacked the middle, the chopper often tried to counterloop, but now he was rushed as he moved to his left (he’s a righty) – and so he made many misses and weak loops that the junior jumped all over, plus it put him out of position. (A more conventional chopper would cover the middle with the long pips, forcing the junior to go more to the forehand if he wanted to see the chopper’s forehand – which would make it easier for the chopper to counterloop.)

Result? The junior likely won because of the between-games coaching. The coaching helped both because of the two specific tactics above, and because it allowed the coach to keep stressing these things. Played without a coach, I’m pretty sure the chopper would have won.

Most of us accept this type of thing as part of the game, that players get coaching between games, and so some have an advantage in this way. It’s only between games, so the interaction is at least kept to a minimum. But as you probably know, this all changes on Oct. 1, when the new ITTF coaching rule comes into effect and coaches can coach players any time between points. Yes, it’s madness. I blogged about this on August 26, and about whether USATT should adopt this on August 19. I’ll likely blog about this more this month.

5 Steps for Mastering Service Deception in Table Tennis
Here’s the new coaching article from Matt Hetherington.

Balls: The Common-Sense Way to Adjust
Here’s the new coaching article by Samson Dubina. As he notes, we’re currently in a state of chaos where there are a number of different balls out there that play differently. This didn’t use to be a problem – it used to be that the differences between balls were minimal.

Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here’s the video (3:45) of a player demonstrating the serve, first in real time and then in slow motion. (It’s in Vietnamese, but you can watch how he does it.) Of especially interest is he does the two most important variations, with the same motion: deep to the backhand (at the start), and then short to the forehand (about 45 sec in). If you can master this (or any other good serve) where you use the same motion and then either go deep to the backhand or short to the forehand, you’ll be able to work many players over as it’s not easy covering these two extremes.

Belarus Open
Here’s the ITTF page for the tournament held this past weekend, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here’s the latest article, Jang Woojin takes Men's Singles trophy after incredible comeback

Kickstarter for New Table Tennis Shirt
Here’s the page where Steve Worthington is doing a Kickstarter to put his table tennis design on a shirt.

Amazing rally at the ITTF World Tour Belarus Open
Here’s the video (24 sec).

Devos Makes History as Youngest Male Paralympic Table Tennis Champion
Here’s the ITTF press release.

Unbelievable Paralympic Diving Return
Here’s the video (23 sec) – the best part is the reaction of the opponent, who actually turns away thinking she’d won the point. See her face at the end when she realizes the ball came back!

Coaching Cerebral Palsy Table Tennis
Here’s the video (6:31). I think it’s in Hungarian – can someone verify? (Update: Bernard Lemal informs me it's in Russian.) 

Prince Harry Dons Angry Birds Hat for Table Tennis Match at Music Festival
Here’s the article and pictures of the English prince playing table tennis in a funny hat! (It’s from 2012.)

Yes, Martians Play Table Tennis
Here’s the picture! At least Marvin the Martian does in this pin. As of this writing, there are five of them on sale at ebay for $9 each. (Here’s another picture of Marvin playing table tennis.)

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September 9, 2016

As You Think, So Shall You Become - Revisited
Yesterday I posted this Bruce Lee Table Tennis graphic – and the Bruce Lee quote in the heading, “So you think, so shall you become,” very much applies to table tennis. Most players have self-images of their game, which puts them in a comfort zone. And nearly everything they do re-enforces this, and so they stay in this comfort zone, rarely developing anything new. Sure, they play around with other shots, and practice them, but not in a long-term, serious way. I’ve seen loopers who can’t block react by spending even more time working on their loop rather than mastering the block. I’ve seen players who are great blockers but constantly lament their lack of attacking skills – and spend decades playing as a blocker rather than taking a few months of that time where they develop and incorporate attacking skills. These players are unable to think of themselves as something better, and so are unable to become better. And that’s what Bruce Lee was referring to.

In fact, for players who stay in their comfort zone rather than strive to leave it, I will paraphrase the Bruce Lee quote: “So you think, so shall you remain.”

Those who become great players have a different way of thinking. If they see something that someone else does better than they do, they are certain they can do better and become determined to top it. They may not always become better at it, but they become as good at it as they can possibly be. The best up-and-coming juniors see what the world-class players do, and are convinced they can do better – and so strive to do so. “So you think, so shall you become,” and because they think they can, they become it.

I remember coaching a top 12-year-old whose strength was blocking. He was in a close match against an older, higher-rated looper, and the match was 2-2. Between games I told him he needed to forehand block into the opponent’s wide forehand to draw him out of position, and – but I was interrupted. The kid wanted nothing of this. He was certain he could win by counterlooping with his opponent, apparently oblivious to the fact that the opponent was a much better counterlooper. But he was determined, and so we changed our tactics to make sure the opponent had more difficult loops to counterloop – and lo and behold, the 12-year-old left behind his blocking persona and won by looping everything. A year later he made the USA Cadet Team.

I’ve gone through similar thinking. Fortunately, I’ve always felt that if I put my mind to something, I could master it. When I first showed up at the New Carrollton Table Tennis Club in 1976 at age 16, and saw real table tennis for the first time, I was at first shocked at how much better everyone was. (I was #41 of 43 on the ladder, ahead of a 12-year-old who had also just started and an 8-year-old girl.) But whatever I saw, I was certain I could also master. At the time I was basically a keep-it-in-play type, with an occasional pick-hitting forehand. (I was also holding the racket with the thumb down the middle, using the other side for both forehand and backhand, basement style. Jim Mossberg quickly fixed my grip.)

I remember watching Bob Kaminsky smacking in forehand after forehand against chopper Herb Horton, and told myself, “I can do that.” (At the time I didn’t even realize Bob was hitting with short pips, while I had inverted.) So I spent a huge amount of time working on my forehand hitting, and turned it into a huge strength. At the 1976 U.S. Open, my first big tournament, I saw how Dragutin Surbek (#3 in the world, who would win men’s singles) could cover the entire table with his forehand, and told myself, “I can do that.” And so I became a forehand specialist, running around hitting forehands every chance. (Surbek was actually a looper, but I copied his footwork, and that of Kjell Johnannson, as a hitter.) When I saw Ricky Seemiller serving people off the table, I told myself, “I can do that.” I practiced my serves for half an hour a day, six days a week, for three years, and developed very good serves.

By driving myself to surpass these players in their own strengths, I achieved a 1954 rating in 2.5 years. But then I hit a wall. I was getting looped off the table by opponents, who were turning my hitting game into a blocking game. I told myself, “I can do that,” and was determined to become a looper. Here I ran into problems. Anyone who has seen me play can attest that I’m pretty stiff when I play. What they might not know is that I was just as stiff as a teenager as I am now. (I was once told by a doctor it’s a medical condition. My muscles are so dense that I sink like a rock in water – I sometimes show off in pools by walking around on the bottom on the deep end, or doing pushups on the bottom.) But I spent years working at it, and after about two years (where my rating dropped to about 1800), it began to pay off, and I developed a pretty decent loop, at least for a 2250 player. (If you ignore the stiffness and jerkiness, my technique is actually very good. Though that’s a lot to ignore.)

I never moved as fast as Surbek, or served as well as Ricky Seemiller, or looped as well as many of my opponents – but by striving to match and surpass them, I developed these things to a very high level. (I think I may have matched Bob Kaminsky’s forehand – but his peak years were many years before I saw him.)

So what is the self-image you have of your game? Do you stay in your comfort zone - “So you think, so shall you remain” - or do you have higher ambitions, realizing that the very act of telling yourself, “I can do that,” will lead to great improvement, even if you never do it as well as the one you are copying? “So you think, so shall you become.” Remember it, both for table tennis and for other aspects of your life as well.

Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder: How do you react to a loss?
Here’s the new coaching article from Samson Dubina.

Status of “Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion”
We should finish it today, and if all goes well, print copies of Dan Seemiller’s autobiography will be out in a week or so! 218 pages, 96 pictures, great reading! Stay tuned. (Next week I’ll put together the ebook version.)

Some Nice, Easy Counterlooping
Here’s the video (43 sec). The site is in Chinese, but the video is in table tennis. If you want to learn to counterloop, just watch this and copy. Don’t they make it look easy? But seriously – you can learn by watching, because done properly, and with practice, it isn’t that hard. Don't think you can do this? See Bruce Lee quote above.

Table Tennis Tactics - Serve and Attack
Here’s the coaching video (12:18).

Zha Wenting Captures Women’s Singles Title at Butterfly LA Open
Here’s the article by Barbara Wei. Links to three other articles on the tournament by Barbara were in my Sept. 6 blog.

Internet Sensation Ibrahim Hamadtou Becomes a Paralympian
Here’s the ITTF press release, with links to video, on this spectacular armless player.

Belarus Open on the ITTF Pro Tour
Here’s the page where you can get results, articles, pictures, and video. The tournament is Sept. 7-11, finishing this Sunday.

Austin Table Tennis on TV
Here’s the video (2:03).

Table Tennis Robot Home Upgrade for Continuously Varying Speed
Here’s the video (64 sec) – this is both fascinating and hilarious!

The Sound of Table Tennis
Here’s the animated video (44 sec). 

A Little Underwater Table Tennis . . . with Sharks?
Here’s the picture!

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