August 30, 2021

Tip of the Week
How To Play Fast-Attacking Junior Players.

I believe the table tennis singles events are done - and USA won two medals, with Ian Seidenfeld winning a gold and Jenson Emburgh a bronze. Tahl Leibovitz lost 11-9 in the fifth in the quarterfinals. (Semifinalists get medals.) Here's the schedule, with table tennis scheduled for Aug. 25 - Sept. 3. Here's more info on table tennis at the 2020 Paralympics. (It's still considered 2020, just postponed one year.) Below are some links.

USATT Coverage of Paralympics

Paralympic Coverage by Steve Hopkins

ITTF Pan American Under 11 & Under 13 Championships
Here's the info page. They will be held Oct. 18-24, 2021, in Cuenca, Ecuador, population 330,000. USA will likely have up to 16 players going - four in each age event: Boys and Girls, Under 13 and Under 11. There will also likely be four coaches and a team leader going. I've already volunteered to go as the coach of the Under 13 Boys' Team, but they haven't made selections yet. The reason I volunteered for this one is that at the Under 13 Boys' Team Trials, players from my club (who I've worked with extensively) finished #1, 3, and 6. (Stanley Hsu, Mu Du, Ryan Lin.) Since #2 finisher Patryk Zyworonek isn't going, so that means the top two finishers will be Stanley and Mu Du. Finishing #4 and #5 were He Xianyao and Krish Gandhi, so if they both go, they'll join Stanley and Mu Du on the team. (If one of them doesn't go, then Ryan Lin would be able to go. But I know all of them well - including their games - and can work with any of them.)

We had a 90-minute Zoom meeting last Friday night on this, with nearly 30 parents, players, and coaches attending. It was hosted by High Performance Director Sean O'Neill and High Performance Manager Daniel Rutenberg (who I believe is going as Team Leader). Before that we also received an info letter from Sean.

Players will be in four events: Singles, Doubles, Mixed Doubles, and Teams. As emphasized at the meeting, in the Teams, we are playing to win, so we would be playing our strongest players. This doesn't mean the #1 and #2 player would always play - the coach has to see how well the players are playing and make a judgment call. But - and this is key - regardless of who plays in any specific team match, or even if a player doesn't play at all, they have ALL equally earned the right to be on that team, and are all just as much a part of it. The goal is Medals (hopefully Gold) for them all!

USATT will be providing uniforms and the team leader, and paying the entry fees. Alas, the players and coaches have to pay their own way - it's self-funded. So if I do get selected, I'd have to pay for my flight, hotel, food, and any other expenses. Being insane, I'll probably do it. It's either that or stay home and play shuffleboard. But hopefully I'd get a snazzy uniform!

HOWEVER . . . there's a huge complicating factor that didn't come up in the Zoom meeting, presumably because nobody knew about it. After the meeting, I looked up the elevation of Cuenca - and found that it's at 8,400 feet!!! Playing table tennis at that elevation is almost insane - it's very different than playing at sea level. The air pressure is about 74% compared to sea level, and oxygen content is about 15%, compared to 21% at sea level. The thin air means the ball plays VERY different. Roughly speaking, the ball jumps at you far quicker than you expect; topspin balls don't drop as fast, so the ball is often higher than you expect; the ball doesn't curve as much; there's more spin on the ball (since there's less air to slow it down), so players constantly misread serves while struggling against spinny loops or backspins; and "short" serves don't just go long, they go way long. Basically, all of your trained instincts and reflexes are going to be off at first.

I've played at high altitude, and it takes a lot of training to adjust to such changes. For example, nobody from sea level can play effectively in Colorado Springs, CO (6,000 feet) without at least several days of practice. Your typical shot in Colorado Springs goes over a foot deeper than you expect. And we're talking 8,400 feet!!! A key thing to adjusting to high altitude play is to put aside any frustrations and take it as a challenge. But to meet such a challenge effectively means getting enough practice to adjust. (Interestingly, many players, including me, find it much easier to adjust to low altitude than high altitude. It's going up that's much harder to adjust to.)

By a strange coincidence, Samson Dubina just created a new video, Playing Table Tennis at High Elevation (7:02). He estimates it takes one day to adjust to every thousand feet of elevation. Based on that, we'd need eight days, which likely isn't feasible. But I think we need three days (two sessions per day) at minimum to be at least competitive. Others will be in the same situation - but many players from South American likely play at high elevation, or can more easily go to such a place to train, and so will be more used to it. The Ecuador locals will be feasting on those who just show up to play without serious high elevation training first. (I was at various times the manager/director/one of the coaches for the Resident Training Program for Table Tennis in Colorado Springs, 1985-1990, and there were many examples of players who came up and simply couldn't play without extensive practice.)

I've communicated the problem to the HPD and HPM, and requested that they look into our team going down early so they can get, at minimum, three full days of training at that elevation. (The coaches can run those sessions.) Hopefully this will be feasible. I've also looked into the possibility of sending our players to train in high elevation clubs in the US - there are several possibilities, especially in Colorado. But one of the Maryland parents looked into that, and trying to add a trip to Colorado before going to Ecuador dramatically increases the cost and time. So, I'm hoping we can keep it simple, and perhaps arrive in Cuenca on Oct. 14, train Oct. 15-17, and then be ready to play Oct. 18-24.

The original plan, before we knew of the elevation, was to arrive on Oct. 16, practice on the 17th, and play on the 18th. There is little chance of playing effectively if we went with that, and I'd recommend to the parents and players that if that's the only option, it's not worth going. It'll be setting our kids up for a predictably bad experience. For many (and I think all of them), it would be their first time representing USA in international competition. Hopefully we can turn it into a great experience.

US Open and Worlds
Still no news on when or where the US Open will be, other than mention at the last USATT board meeting that it would be around the second week in December "as always." There's no entry form or other info available. I'm pretty sure we've never gone this long without even basic info on the Open or Nationals, not to mention no entry form.

Similarly, with the first World Championships to be in the US (Nov. 23-29), there are many who are interested in attending as spectators - but again, no news. (Here's the World's ticket page, which is essentially blank. I found the page by Googling, since it's not listed on any USATT page I can find. Here's the ITTF Worlds info page, but no ticket info there either.) There's nothing in the USATT Tournament Page or Tournament Calendar. There was an ITTF/USATT news item on July 15 that said, "Fans will be able to attend the event with tickets going on sale this August." Technically, it's still August for two more days, but really? Instead of telling us they will be on sale in August and then just keeping everyone on hold, let us know when they will actually go on sale.

The bigger problem here is COMMUNICATION. I've blogged about this a number of times - USATT gets an F in communications. The bigger problem here isn't that the entry form for the Open isn't available or that the tickets for the Worlds aren't on sale, though both are problematic. No, the bigger problem BY FAR is that USATT chooses to keep us in the dark on these issues. If there's something that's delaying these issues, then TELL US. I've blogged about this repeatedly. C'mon, USATT, you have a news page - talk to us!!!  

=>BREAKING NEWS - US Open will be in Las Vegas, Dec. 17-22. Here's the USATT news item. (It was posted Friday night, Sept. 3.) 

World Ping Pong Championship
Here's the info page! This hardbat tournament is being held in Sugar Land, Texas, just outside of Houston, on Sunday, Nov. 21, two days before the World Table Tennis Championships begin in Houston. Steve Claflin, a former top junior star, is running it. You can enter via Omnipong. As I write this, there are 28 entries - including Jimmy Butler, AJ Carney . . . and Larry Hodges! Yep, I plan to go. The rest of you can battle for second. :) Alas, I have a 2248 hardbat rating, and that makes me (so far) only the 12th seed. But anyone who wants to win this thing will have to face the wrath of Hodge, the current US Over 60 and Over 40 (seventh time) Hardbat Champ! (Not to mention two Hardbat Singles titles at the Nationals and Open way back in 1991-92, and 14 Hardbat Doubles Championships.) I'm normally a sponge player, but will have to find some time to practice some hardbat soon.

MDTTC Open and Westchester Teams
Next weekend I'll be coaching on Saturday at the MDTTC Open in Gaithersburg, MD; on Sunday coaching at the Westchester Teams just north of New York City; and then, on Monday (with two MDTTC juniors and parents), visiting the 9/11 Museum. (I visited the 9/11 Memorial when I was in New York City the week of Aug. 16-21, but wasn't able to fit in the 9/11 Museum.) Hope to see some of you at the tournaments!

Reads Per Blog
Some of you might have noticed that my blog no longer shows the number of reads. It gets around 30,000 each time. But ever since I did an update to Drupal 9, the reads haven't showed up - and I haven't yet figured out why. It's on my todo list, but there are a lot of other things ahead of it.

Google Table Tennis Game
Today's Google heading (Monday, Aug. 30) features a table tennis game - but they put you through a hassle first. Using the arrow keys, go onto the island, and you'll come to the "Olympic" table tennis game. Enjoy!

My Texas Table Tennis Road Trip
Here's the article by Will Shortz. Yeah, that Will Shortz. Besides his puzzling background (enigmatology, to be specific), he's the owner of the Westchester Table Tennis Club, and as of today, has played table tennis 3,253 consecutive days, not missing a day since Oct. 3, 2012.

New from Samson Dubina

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

New from Ti Long

Overcoming Challenges
Here's the article by Natalie Chan.

Forehand Loop & Cover The Table With Patryk Zyworonek
Here's the video (2:02) with commentary by Brian Pace.

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

Videos (some overlap with the above)

Filip Zeljko vs Kanak Jha (Selected) | Saison 2021/22
Here's the video (4 min) of this German Bundesliga match.

New from Steve Hopkins
(See also his articles on Paralympics above.)

Tournament Refund Policies – No Way! No How!
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

New from Edges and Nets

2021 ITTF Czech Open
Here's the ITTF page for the event held Aug. 21-25 in Olomouc, Czech, with results and articles.

Here's their news pagevideo page ("World Table Tennis") and home page.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

Thin Table Pong
Here's the video (10 sec)!

Here's the video (15 sec)!

Cat Ping Pong Shirt
Yes, it's what you have all been waiting for!!!

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