Jim Butler call
Yesterday I got a call from Jim Butler. He's been reading my blog and liked what I'd written about him in my blog yesterday. It turns out he's been training extremely hard for three months, almost every day, though often with much weaker players. I told him that when I first heard he'd beaten both Peter Li and Han Xiao at the Cary Cup my mouth had dropped to the floor, but after that, nothing he did would surprise me. (Of course, part of the jaw-dropping part was I didn't realize just how much training he'd been doing.)
Jim and I go way back. I wasn't ever his coach (though I've coached against him, practiced with him, beat him in tournaments when he was a little kid, as well as written about him extensively), but I was the manager (later director/assistant coach) of the resident training program at the Olympic Training Center from 1985-1989, and Jim was there for a year (Fall 1988-Spring 1989, turning 18 during his stay). I still remember grounding him for breaking curfew. Sure, all he did was stick his arm (and then his finger) out the door after curfew, but he did it over and over, and, well, you know.... (Hey, how many national champions have you grounded?)
The current status of U.S. players is somewhat unique. Historically we've usually had 1-3 players who dominated, with a bunch of others chasing them, usually unsuccessfully. At one time Jim Butler was one of those players, battling for dominance with Sean O'Neill and later David Zhuang. At the moment we've got a lot of up-and-coming teenaged players; players in their twenties who are at or near their prime; and older players who are still competitive - but no one is dominating. There are about 8-10 players who could win the Nationals right now without my jaw dropping. Jim just joined the mix - and if he gets back to his past 2700 level, watch out!
More bad news for those 8-10 - Jim says he's working on his backhand loop to go with his backhand smash. Just before he stopped playing competitively in the early 2000's he actually developed a pretty good backhand loop against backspin. I'm not sure it's a good idea for him to backhand loop in topspin rallies as well, since it takes away one of the two scariest parts of his game - his backhand smash. (The other scary part is his serves.) However, Jim knows his game better than anyone else, so we'll see how this develops.
There's a good chance we'll be running a "Super Camp" at MDTTC sometime in the future, for the best players and junior players in the country. Maybe I'll be giving Jim a call.
Spring Break Camp at MDTTC
Yes, it's Spring Break here in Montgomery Country, Maryland, April 2-6, and you know what that means - Spring Break Camp! It's primarily for local juniors, since they are out of school, but it's open to anyone from anywhere, and to all ages. (Non-juniors must be prepared to train with lots of juniors who seem to move at light speed.) I'll be coaching at the camp along with Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun.
USATT Hopes Program
For top USA juniors born in 2000 or 2001. "The USATT Hopes Program vision is to also identify young players that have developed solid mental, technical and physical skills and provide educational and training opportunities to them. In addition, the vision also includes important educational opportunities for their coaches and parents."
Liu Nai-Hui joined NJTTC as a coach
2011 U.S. Open Women's Singles Champion Liu Nai-Hui has joined the New Jersey Table Tennis Club as a coach.
Susan Sarandon to bring table tennis to the screen
Actress Susan Sarandon talks about her upcoming movie, "Ping-Pong Summer" (0:33). This is NOT a joke! (Video starts with a commercial that's longer than the Sarandon video, but it's worth it.)
Susan Sarandon explains why ping-pong rocks
Susan Sarandon playing table tennis
(These are from the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page, which I maintain.)
photo1 photo2 photo3 (with talk show host Jimmy Fallon) photo4 (actress Olivia Munn on right)photo5 (L-R: talk show host Jimmy Fallon, actor Artie Lange, Sarandon, actress Olivia Munn) photo6 (L-R: Table Tennis Superstar Mikael Appelgren, Actor/Comedian Judah Friedlander, Sarandon, Table Tennis Superstar Jan-Ove Waldner) photo7 (singer Lil Jon on right) photo8 photo9 (Maria Menounos on right) photo10 (with tennis players Mike & Bob Bryan)
Cary Cup and ICC State Open Photos
Every week another chapter of Tim Boggan's latest History of U.S. Table Tennis goes online at the USATT home page. This week chapter 30 of Volume 11 went up. And lo and behold, here's an excerpt! (This was also printed in my book, Table Tennis: Tales & Techniques.)
Think this is a strange story? Here's Larry Hodges' "Real People" (TTT, Dec., 1982, 12):
In an International sport such as Table Tennis, you meet a wide variety of characters—some good, some bad; some who never stop smiling, some who have hot tempers. Occasionally, if you're exceptionally lucky, you come up against a real whacko or two….
I'm walking along the University of Maryland Campus when I see this Chinese fellow carrying a table tennis racket. After asking him the obvious questions, I find he's the National Champion of Taiwan! Just last year, in fact. We stop off at the Campus snack bar for pizza and start talking. It seems the National Taiwanese Team is touring the U.S.—the rest of the Team is back at the hotel. We talk table tennis for a bit, then I invite him to play me over at the table in my dorm. 'Sure,' he says, 'but I'll beat you pretty bad. Nobody in the U.S. is any good.' So I get set to play one of the top players in the world.
I beat him 21-2.
I'm in a sports store, looking at the table tennis rackets, when an older fellow comes up, wants to be helpful. 'Here,' he says, 'let me show you how.' He teaches me the forehand stroke and (15 minutes later) is well into the backhand when I start wondering, 'Who is this guy?' On asking, I find I am speaking to the current U.S. Senior Champion, a former U.S. Men's Champion. 'Beat the World Champion once," he says to me. Well, there's a display table set up, so we start to hit some.
He can't score a point.
I meet a guy from the University of Maryland who says he's a tournament player—over 1700—and claims to have beaten me in a tournament. 'Don't you remember?' he asks. 'No,' I say. Well, he starts playing me for money—literally forces $20 on me. I get his name and later find his rating in Topics.
Then there's a certain guy in a certain large city I met who says he's the best player in the world. Says he's beaten the Seemillers, the Boggans, the Chinese—everybody in fact. 'Gee,' I say, what's your rating?'
'100,000,' he says.
Wacko, huh? But lest you think I made up these stories, let me assure you, they're all true—factually true.
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