China's TV ratings
So what's the most watched sporting event in China, the most populated country in the world? The all-Chinese Men's Singles final at the recent 2011 World Table Tennis Championships. Nearly 100 million tuned in to watch Zhang Jike defeat defending champion Wang Hao. This topped the previous record, when China's Li Na lost to Kim Clijsters in the final of the Australian Open way back in January.
Let's remember that table tennis is practically the national sport of China. They didn't put table tennis on TV and the country went table tennis crazy; the country was already table tennis crazy, and now they are discovering it on TV. Table tennis isn't a particularly good TV sport - it's more of a participation sport - though it's often good as a "novelty" event on TV. But whenever it's been on TV, the initial good viewership seems to die down quickly. There just isn't a large enough base of table tennis people in the U.S. or other non-table tennis countries - right now - to create a base of table tennis viewers.
On the other hand, there are something like 15-20 million recreational players out there in the U.S. just waiting to become serious players (and future table tennis on TV viewers?) if we just find a way to convert them to serious players. Perhaps national leagues (like in Europe) and training coaches to set up junior programs are the way to go?
Kid in China feeding multiball
In China, juniors learn to feed multiball to each other, as this kid demonstrates in this video (7:08). This allows them to give each great training. He starts by feeding fast topspin side to side. At 0:48, he switches to backspin - notice how he now lets the ball bounce on the table to give a more realistic shot. (I recommend this for topspin as well, unless you are feeding a very advanced and fast player and need to push him. Note that when the coach feeds multiball to the junior, he always lets the ball bounce first.) Note the various combinations in placements and spin used to simulate real points, and see if you can get someone to do multiball training with.
In only semi-table tennis news, I'll be attending the Nebula Awards this weekend in Washington DC, where they give awards for the best science fiction & fantasy writing. (Most of the top SF & fantasy writers in the U.S. will be there - do you have a favorite?) I'll be jumping back and forth between that and nine hours of private coaching or group sessions at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, so it's going to be a hectic weekend. The table tennis angle? Edmund Schubert, editor of Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show (that's its name, really!), one of the premier online SF magazines, is a pretty good player, about 1300, and probably better at one point. I hit with him at a convention a couple years ago, and I expect he'll be here - I may take him to the club. On Friday morning and afternoon, I'm on tours (with a number of other SF and fantasy writers) of the NationalMuseum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. I practically grew up in the latter - both of my parents had offices there for many years, and I sometimes did homework while sitting against the wall under the giant blue whale.
And now for some crasscommercialism - why not buy a copy of "Pings and Pongs: the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges," an anthology of my 30 best published stories? (Yes, when I'm not coaching or writing about table tennis, I'm writing science fiction & fantasy.) There's actually a ping-pong fantasy story ("Ping-Pong Ambition"), and several stories mention table tennis in passing. Of course, if you only want table tennis stuff, then get a copy of Table Tennis: Tales & Techniques.
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