Richard McAfee Visits Maryland
Yesterday USATT Hall of Famer, ITTF Trainer, and former USATT Coaching Chair (2009-2013, until USATT term limits forced him out) Richard McAfee, from Denver, CO, visited the Maryland Table Tennis Center. He was in town to do a coaching video with JOOLA USA.
So yesterday afternoon I stopped by JOOLA USA in Rockville, Maryland, which is also headquarters for North American Table Tennis. I hadn't been to their new offices, and so Googled the directions. I followed them exactly - and found myself in a construction site. The paved road had ended and I was driving on a muddy road, worried my tires would sink in and get stuck. I kept driving for 50 yards or so, then stopping and wondering if this right, then driving another bit, and stopping again. I kept wondering, is owner Richard Lee trying to save money by housing everything in half-constructed buildings, with muddy quagmires for streets and parking? Finally I called Richard Lee (president of JOOLA USA and NATT), and discovered the Google directions were off - they had me make a left-hand turn near the end rather than turn right. So I turned back and quickly found the place. I apologized to Richard for even thinking they might have set up offices in the muddy wonderland I'd visited. Unfortunately, my tires and the sides of my car were now all muddy.
The actual place is impressive, with lots of office space, a meeting room, large kitchen area, and a big video room. About a dozen people worked there full-time, each with their own office, some of whom I already knew - Richard and Wendy Lee, Michael Squires, Steven Chan, Rich Heo, and Katherine Wu. Out of the office at the time were Tom Nguyen, Greg Cox, and Mary Palmar. Richard McAfee was working with Rich Heo on the video.
Then I took Richard over to see my club, the Maryland Table Tennis Center. (Richard Lee and Katherine Wu, both of whom developed as players there, joined us shortly afterwards.) We watched as a number of our top juniors trained with coaches/practice partners, and discussed their technique. Then I took Richard M. to dinner at a local Japanese & Korean restaurant. (Teriyaki chicken for me, some sort of shrimp and vegetable dish for Richard.)
When to Call Time-Outs
2013 U.S. Open Challenge Series
USATT will organize the ITTF Challenge Series/World Tour to be held during the US Open and will include the following events: Women's singles, Men's singles, and U-21 Men's and Women's singles. Players in these events must be entered by USATT. Here's further info.
Why Chinese Players Are #1 in the World
Here's a short article and video (2:28) exploring this topic, which mostly showcases their training techniques, especially physical training. If you want a more extensive look on some of the reasons China dominates, here's an article I wrote with Cheng Yinghua on the subject for the July/August 2005 USA Table Tennis Magazine, "The Secrets of Chinese Table Tennis…and What the Rest of the World Needs to Do to Catch Up.
Exceptional Table Tennis Skills Around A Table!
Here's a Facebook video (36 sec) with two players doing a pretty good exhibition - on a mini-table! I think anyone can see this, even if you are not on Facebook or "friends" with the players, but if you can't, let me know and I'll try to find another version.
Vancouver Canucks Play Pong
Here's a video (2:04) of hockey players Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider playing table tennis in what appears to be the team's clubhouse as they prepare for the NHL playoffs. They're pretty good!
Goofy and Mickey
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This weekend I played a practice match with a fast up-and-coming junior who had never challenged me before. In the past he'd had trouble with my serves, usually too passive, so I was able to attack at will. This time he came at me very aggressively, attacking most of my short serves with his newly developing backhand banana flip. When I served side-top, he jumped all over them aggressively. When I served backspin, he spun them off the bounce aggressively, a bit softer but spinnier. When I served short to his forehand, he reached over and flipped with his backhand. What to do?
This is actually a textbook case, and the answers were obvious. Here are three ways I dealt with this.
First, I went for more extremes. Instead of side-top serves, I went with pure topspin, and instead of side-backspin serves, I went with pure heavy backspin. Having to deal with the extremes meant that he began to put the topspins off the end and the backspins into the net.
Second, I began throwing low no-spin serves at him. He'd often read them usually as backspin and lift off the end. Or because they were dead, he sometimes put them into the net. It's amazing how players put no-spin serves both off the end and into the net, but that's what happens.
Third, I drilled him with short serves to the forehand, deep serves to the backhand. The key is to use the same motion. If he's going to reach over and use his backhand to return my short serves to his forehand, then he's going to have great difficulty covering a deep spinny breaking serve to the backhand. When he guards against that, then I go back short to the forehand. This combo was especially effective when I gave him short reverse pendulum serves to the forehand, which break away from him, making him reach even more.
The kid played a great match, and I'll have to keep my eye on him as he gets better and better. As it was, I came from behind 4-8 to win the first 11-9, and then won the next two more comfortably. As I explained to him afterwards, he's now at that stage where because he's challenging me, he'll lose worse at first because now I'm playing him a lot more seriously. We'll see where he is a year from now.
Update - Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers
I only publicly announced Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers was available yesterday, and already 26 copies have sold. Of course, the real sales surge (hopefully) will come after I advertise in USATT Magazine (1-page color ad) and possibly their web page, and possibly other places. I'll look into that next week after I'm done doing the page layouts for Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13.
I'd like to post about the book in online forums as well, but not right now. If I post on an online forum, people will have questions, and if I try to answer those questions, Tim (who's sitting right next to me impatiently waiting to get to work) will no-look forehand smack me back to work. Sometime next week I'll post on the various forums and look into other areas to advertise, such as England and Australia, and other online websites.
I'm also getting a few blurbs from prominent TT people I can use. Here are some others I've come up with that I probably won't use.
Blurbs for My Book I've Decided NOT to Use
Feel free to comment with your own!
Dealing with PTSD Through Ping-Pong
Here's an article and video (2:29) on how one Vietnam Vet dealt with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with table tennis, specifically featuring a clinic run at the Zing Table Tennis Club in Denver by Richard McAfee, assisted by Duane Gall, Peter Christofolo, and Mike Mui. (Here's an ITTF article on the clinic.)
Zhuang Zedong Obit
The Ping-Pong Queen
Here's an article about Susan Sarandon and ping-pong.
Waldner - Persson Exhibition
Here's a video (1:29) of some points from an exhibition by Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson.
Anime Women Playing Table Tennis
Here's his Hall of Fame bio.
Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13
We've now finished 16 chapters, 267 pages, with 540 graphics placed. We're on pace for 29 chapters, 482 pages, and 956 graphics. This would be the most graphics by far - the last volume had the most at 837. (But he's actually been pretty consistent as the last seven volumes all ranged from 800 to 837.) We will probably finish the "first draft" on Friday. I'll be busy coaching all weekend while Tim proofs everything. On Monday (Feb. 18) we'll input changes, and by Tuesday it'll be ready to go to the printer. Copies should be available soon afterwards. We hope. (Here's where you can find more info on Tim's books - Volumes 1-12 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. And no, I don't get any commission from his sales!)
Tim Boggan and the BBC
On Sunday and Monday Tim was interviewed live on the BBC and will be again on Wednesday, via phone, about Zhuang Zedong's death and Ping-Pong Diplomacy. Each time he most wanted to include how Zhuang had asked, when he heard that Glenn Cowan had died, if Glenn had been well remembered at his funeral. He was told, well, not as you might think a historic celebrity should be remembered. Zhuang was sorry to hear this, and said, "When I die, everyone in China will know." According to Tim, the relationship between Glenn and Zhuang was largely historic and symbolic rather than any close show of friendship itself. (Note - Ping-Pong Diplomacy was seminally started when Cowen was invited onto the private Chinese bus, and then later he and Zhuang exchanged gifts. You can read more about it in Tim's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. V.)
Tim Boggan Resigns
After many years of service, Tim Boggan has resigned from the ITTF Media Committee. Here is his resignation letter.
After much thought, and more regret, I've decided, as of now, to resign from the ITTF Media Committee.
I'm not going to the World Championships in Paris, or any other. Perhaps my age is showing (I’ll be 83 this year), but traveling abroad and playing conscientious reporter for a week is just becoming WORK—and I’ve already got enough of that.
I want to focus the more on my History of U.S. Table Tennis –intend to keep writing, as I have since 2000, a new book a year (my Vol. XIII will be in hand by April Fools' Day). I'll also keep researching and making Banquet presentations on behalf of our U.S. Hall of Fame candidates—that's generally a month’s effort. (The new inductees make it a total of 138 Profiles I've done on those enshrined.) And also I'll continue writing (though not as much as before) obits and articles for our USTTA magazine—as in my "Reisman Rembrance" for the current issue, and my coverage of Mike Babuin's Cary Open in an upcoming one.
It's been more than 40 years since I became affiliated with the ITTF (as a U.S. Delegate to the 1971 Nagoya World's). And in those four decades I must have been to, and reported on, 25 or more World or International Championships. I've had the unusual opportunity to meet many interesting people and to see many interesting sights/sites that I certainly wouldn’t have otherwise. For this I'm very grateful.
I thank all those who've helped me to have this rich experience, and will fondly remember my long involvement with the ITTF for the rest of my life.
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Marty Reisman, Feb. 1, 1930 - Dec. 7, 2012
The great showman of the hardbat age, as well as in the sponge age (but always with hardbat or sandpaper), died on Friday at age 82. The sport will never be the same.
Marty had a huge influence on my life. In fact, he ruined it! How did he do that? Here's my write-up from Table Tennis Tales & Techniques on how I got started on table tennis, my first meeting with Marty, and his response.
How Marty Reisman Ruined My Life
By Larry Hodges
Back in 1976 (age 16), I was on my high school track team as a miler. I went to the library to get a book on "Track & Field." I happened to look to my left ... and there was a book on table tennis, "The Money Player," by Marty Reisman! I had been playing "basement" ping-pong at a neighbor's house, and spur-of-the-moment checked the book out. From it, I found out about USATT (then called USTTA). I contacted them, found a local club, and went there. I got killed, but I stuck with it, and a few years later became the best at the club. I later became a professional table tennis coach and writer, and from 1985 on, I've been full-time table tennis almost continuously in various capacities. In 1991, I was hired as editor of USATT's national magazine. About a year later, at a tournament in New York, I met Marty for the first time (although I had probably seen him before), and told him this story. His response? "Great ... another life I've ruined!"
Volkswagen 2012 World Junior Table Tennis Championship
They started yesterday, and are in Hyderabad, India, Dec. 9-16. Here is the ITTF home page for the event, which has the schedule and results, articles, and pictures. Team USA has a Boys' Team (Grant Li, Teddy Tran, Kunal Chodri, Kanak Jha) and Girls' Team (Lily Zhang, Prachi Jha, Isabel Chu, and Crystal Wang). In doubles, the boy's teams are Li/Chodri and Tran/Jha, and the girls' teams are Zhang/Jha and Chu/Wang.
Faking a Shot
Here's a video from PingSkills on faking a shot. One key thing they say early on: "It's really important first that you get the basic shots right." But once you have the fundamentals, this is one of the most under-used tactics in table tennis from the intermediate level up. For example, even against advanced players when I serve backspin, I can see where they are going to push or flip well before they contact the ball - rarely do player change directions at the last second. This makes it much easier to attack. Instead, at the last second just change directions and watch the havoc it creates!
ITTF Coaching Seminar in Singapore
Here's the ITTF story on the recent ITTF Coaching Seminar in Singapore that was taught by USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee.
Want to Bring World-Class Table Tennis to U.S. Television?
Here's where you can learn about this. Excerpt: "Reflex Sports and Alpha Productions, two well known names in US table tennis, are planning a series of action-packed, fast-paced 1-hour shows of World-Class Table Tennis for broadcast on U.S. Network TV! These will include action from the WTTC, World Junior Championships, World Cup, Pro Tour, European Championships & more!"
ITTF Video World Cup
Here are the five finalists at the ITTF Video World Cup. They average from around two to four minutes, so you can watch them all in about fifteen minutes.
Table Tennis Dream
I had another of those weird table tennis dreams last night. It started as I landed with a group of others at Los Angeles Airport for some huge international tournament. (I have no idea why it was Los Angeles.) After getting off my flight - carrying four huge bags - I stopped at a restaurant. The others with me disappeared, and I found myself at a table with Matt Damon, who was explaining health care to me, but using table tennis terms like "2-1 drill" and "Falkenberg drill." I finally got away from him, and was suddenly at the playing hall, still lugging around four huge bags.
People kept asking me to hit with them, and I kept saying I can't, I have to do my blog. So I'm sitting there at a table in the middle of the hall, surrounded by my four huge bags and lots of tables as players competed, furiously trying to think of something to write about in my blog.
Then I was told the tournament was over, and I realized I had to catch a bus to the airport. I randomly got on a bus, which drove for a while, then let me off at a hotel. I checked in. Almost immediately after getting to my room I realized it was the following morning, 7AM, and I had a 6AM flight back home! Somehow I thought I could still catch the flight. Then I realized I'd left two of my huge bags at the playing all, and two at the previous hotel. (I have no idea how that happened since I'd been lugging all four about with me until now.) I ran to the lobby, and while eating breakfast with a bunch of table tennis players, Dan Seemiller was suddenly sitting across from me, and he said, "Larry, you can catch a taxi to the playing hall, pick up your bags there, then take the taxi to the hotel, pick up your other bags, and still catch your flight."
Right about now I realized that since it was 7AM (it still was 7AM), and that it was too late to catch the 6AM flight. But Dan started calling me a chicken, so I grabbed my four huge bags (which had reappeared), and rushed out to catch a taxi to go pick up the four huge bags (which were apparently both with me, and at the playing hall and previous hotel, at the same time). After tossing all four huge bags into the trunk of a taxi, I closed the trunk - and the taxi took off without me! I ran after it, yelling for it to stop, and then I woke up in a sweat. It took me a few minutes to realize I wasn't in Los Angeles anymore.
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I'm going to use an example from tennis (what I call "court table tennis"), which I played for years as a hobby. I have a very good forehand in tennis, but a weak backhand. Opponents would often try to bang it out with me, going after my backhand, but I was quick to step around and pound a forehand, usually attacking their wide backhand. Unless they were very good (4.0 or better level in tennis ratings, which is my level when I'm in practice), few could respond with a strong down-the-line backhand winner, and so I'd get a weak return, which I'd pound again, and so I dominated these rallies. Often opponents, faced with my strong forehand attack to their wide backhand, would in desperation throw up a high-bouncing topspin - but because they were usually in an awkward position as they tried to run my shot down, it was often weak and land short, and I'd smack it in for a winner.
One day I played someone who did something different. From the very start of the rally he'd throw up these high, topspin shots. Because he did this on the first shot of the rally, even off my serve, he wasn't attempting an awkward on-the-run shot, and so his shots, though defensive, were decisive, landing deep on my court and bouncing out past the end-line. This forced me off the court, where my forehand isn't so dangerous (since he'd have lots of time to react to it). He moved me side to side, wide to my forehand, then wide to my backhand, over and over, and there was no way I could run these balls down with my forehand all day. Result? My forehand became ineffective and he found my even less effective backhand. Then he'd start pounding shots into my backhand. He won.
The lesson here is that many players play defense only in desperation, and so it's not very effective. At the higher levels, defense doesn't work very well, but when you do it, it must be decisive, not just a "throw the ball up and hope" desperation return that rarely works.
Suppose your opponent is attacking, and you are looking to counter-attack. However, the opponent makes a strong shot wide to your backhand, and you are unable to counter-attack. And so you probably make a weak return, and lose the point. Instead, once you realize your opponent is going to attack, don't look to counter-attack (unless, of course, your whole game is based on attack and counter-attack, which might be a weakness in your game); look to make a decisive and strong defensive return, whether it be a block, a chop, or off-table topspin defense. If you are generally an attacker and get a ball to counter-attack, most likely your reflexes will take over anyway and you'll counter-attack.
Watch the best defenders (blockers, choppers, and topspin defenders), and you'll see that they rarely make desperation shots; their defense is as decisive as an attackers, and because of that, often just as effective.
I have four bags of Snickers and three bags of Milky Way left over from Halloween. What the heck should I do with it? I guess I'll do what I always do, and bring it to the club to either give out, or put it on tables when I'm feeding multiball to kids, who get to have whatever they knock off the table.
There is an irritating reason why I have so much candy left over. I own a townhouse and live on the third floor, renting out the first two floors to someone. I was giving out candy (I'd paid for it) when the renter came home, said he'd take over. I go upstairs at 7PM, watch TV for an hour. I come down, discover he's left, and the door was locked the entire hour, no candy given out. I'd heard the doorbell ringing over and over, but assumed he was answering. I actually went outside and yelled, "I've got lots of candy left over! Come and get it!" A few came over, but it was now after 8PM and the "rush" was mostly over.
A Ping Pong High
Here's an article in The Hindu about USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee's three recent ITTF Coaching Seminars held in India. The Hindu is the third largest English-language newspaper in India with a readership of 2.2 million.
Kevin Garnett versus Wang Hao
Here's basketball star Kevin Garnett in China playing Wang Hao (2:05). Note that the right-handed Wang Hao (2009 World Men's Singles Champion, 2008 & 2012 Olympic Men's Singles Silver Medalist, Chinese National Team Member) plays him left-handed! The table tennis ends with them shaking hands 45 seconds into the video.
The Battle: The Art of Pong
Here's a hilarious video (1:53) put out by the staff at JOOLA USA. "An ode to 70's Kung Fu Film Flicks. Watch Steven's journey to become the best table tennis player and defeat his Arch Rival Michael." That's Steven Chan (rated 2426) getting trained by Master Tom Nguyen (JOOLA's equipment guru and martial arts enthusiast), with Michael Squires (rated 2083) playing the "Arch Rival."
Gangnam Style Ping Pong
Here's Adam Bobrow in a video (47 seconds) from an exhibition match at the Chancellor Cup in Manila, The Philippines. He pulls off a great shot, and then goes into a dance routine. (Remember his "Excessive Celebration" video (71 seconds)?
Non-Table Tennis: My "Favorite" Halloween Memory
World Weaver Press published the favorite Halloween memories from three of its authors, including mine. They recently published Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales, which included my story "The Haunts of Albert Einstein."
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Tip of the Week
MDTTC October Open
I ran the MDTTC Open this weekend, a rather exhausting ordeal since I also did four hours of coaching. Here is my write-up and results of the event, followed by the usual blog stuff.
$2600 Butterfly MDTTC October Open
MarylandTable Tennis Center
Gaithersburg, MD • Oct. 20-21, 2012
By Larry Hodges
This month there were extra large trophies waiting for winners of most of the Sunday events, in addition to $2600 in prize money mostly given out in Saturday events at the October Open at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. The larger trophies went over very well, and hopefully will attract more players in our next tournament, sometime early in 2013.
Wang Qing Liang, rated 2621, defended his title from last month, once again defeating fellow MDTTC coach Chen Bo Wen, rated 2516, in another 4-2 battle, this time at -9,10,-9,7,8,5. There's an old adage that choppers tend to get better as the match goes on as they adjust to the opponent's attack, and that's exactly what happened. By the end of the match there seemed no way to get through Wang's chopping defense, and his forehand loop was as spectacular as ever when he'd swoop in against a push or counterloop from off the table. Chen had actually spit matches with Wang at the recent Badger Open, knocking Wang's rating down from the 2642 he'd achieved mostly from making the semifinals of Men's Singles at the U.S. Open. Wang won $1000 to Chen's $400.
Both had semifinal battles. Former MDTTC junior star Richard Lee (rated 2424 and the long-time owner of North American Table Tennis) led 10-9 and 11-10 in the first (going for the possibly the most powerful forehand rip in the history of the universe at 11-10 that just missed) and 10-8 in the second before losing at 11,10,7,8. In the other semifinals, Larry Abass (rated 2320) came from way behind to win the first against Chen, and then made it to deuce in the fifth game, but in between it was all two-winged looping penholder Chen, winning at -9,4,5,4,10. Abass, who also used to be a big two-winged looper (but shakehand style), is now using one millimeter sponge on his backhand, which he uses to backhand loop against backspin but mostly chop against topspin. He caught both Chen and many spectators by surprise with his excellent chopping game, including Raghu Nadmichettu in the quarterfinals. Between him and Wang, the chopping game is alive and well in Maryland. Lee and Abass each pocketed $200 for the semifinals.
Hung Duy Vo, who'd lost the final of Under 2350 last month (to Raghu Nadmichettu), mostly dominated Under 2300 this month for $200, defeating Nasruddin Asgarali (who won $100) in the final, -8,11,6,8, and Roy Ke (age 13, rated 2188) in the semifinals, 7,7,-7,5. Asgarali took out Lixin Lang in the semifinals, 8,-10,6,4, allowing him to return to his greatly appreciated help at the desk.
Chen Qiming won Under 2150 ($150), 7,7,-10,-9,4 over Arsha Kuds ($75), whose comeback from down 0-2 in games fell short. But Kuds then surprised everyone by making the quarterfinals of the Open with wins over Hung Duy Vo and Lixin Lang. Both finalists did Houdini comebacks in the semifinals, with Chen coming back against Lilly Lin, -5,-8,7,11,6, and Kuds against Richard Bowling, -9,-7,6,9,6.
The semifinals of Under 2000 was a battle of experienced veterans against aspiring juniors, with the veterans prevailing in five as Mahesh Balagangadhar defeated Jason Wei (14), 5,-7,5,-6,8, and Gordon Gregg defeated Amy Lu (U.S. #3 Under 12 girl at 1852), 4,-8,7,-7,9. In the final, it was Balagangadhar ($100) over Gregg ($50) with his Seemiller grip variation that seems to give junior players so much trouble.
Mohamed Kamara won $80 by defeating Princess Ke ($40 for the U.S. #4 Under 12 girl at 1821 until she turned 12 in August) in the final of Under 1850, -9,6,11,-9,6.
Timothy La, with his two-winged smashing game, seems to like to go five games. This month he changed the trend from last month (where he kept losing five-gamers), to prevailing deuce in the fifth, defeating David Goldstein in the Under 1600 final, -8,7,4,-8,11, and stopping Alexander Beaulieu's comeback in the semifinals, 8,9,-9,-12,12. In the other semifinal, Goldstein defeated Kyle Wang, 3,-8,4,9, to the great relief of the control desk, since Kyle was holding up many matches by making the semifinals here, and also...
...winning Under 1350 over Michael Zangwill, 7,7,11. Kyle, 13, had a semifinal battle with Daniel Yang (12), -9,4,9,-4,6, while Zangwill defeated an exhausted Ken Chia in the other semifinals, 4,4,2. Why was Ken Chia exhausted?
Leon Bi won Under 1100, exhausting the inexhaustible Ken Chia in the final, 5,8,6. Leon, however, could only lament how he'd been in a three-way tie to advance out of both his Under 1350 and Under 1600 round robins, only to finish in third each time by a single game as two advanced. Not bad for a 12-year-old with a rating of 637 before a full summer of training!
Special thanks goes to tournament sponsors Butterfly and Llewellyn Realtor James Wu.
(NOTE - Click on the names below for a photo of the finalists, or all four semifinalists in the Open.)
Open - Final: Wang Qing Liang d. Chen Bo Wen, -9,10,-9,7,8,5; SF: Wang d. Richard Lee, 11,10,7,8; Chen d. Larry Bass, -9,4,5,4,10; QF: Wang d. Richard Doverman, 4,10,9; Lee d. Nathan Hsu, 6,6,6; Abass d. Raghu Nadmichettu, 6,6,8; Chen d. Arsha Kuds, 8,17.
Under 2300 - Final: Hung Duy Vo d. Nasruddin Asgarali, -8,11,6,8; SF: Vo d. Roy Ke, 7,7,-7,5; Asgarali d. Lixin Lang, 8,-10,6,4.
Under 2150 - Final: Chen Qiming d. Arsha Kuds, 7,7,-10,-9,4; SF: Chen d. Lilly Lin, -5,-8,7,11,6; Kuds d. Richard Bowling, -9,-7,6,9,6.
Under 2000 - Final: Mahesh Balagangadhar d. Gordon Gregg, 10,8,-10,8; SF: Balagangadhar d. Jason Wei, 5,-7,5,-6,8; Gregg d. Amy Lu, 4,-8,7,-7,9.
Under 1850 - Final: Mohamed Kamara d. Princess Ke, -9,6,11,-9,6; SF: Kamara d. Mort Greenberg, 9,4,11; Ke d. Tony Li, 8,4,3.
Under 1600 - Final: Timothy La d. David Goldstein, -8,7,4,-8,11; SF: La d. Alexander Beaulieu, 8,9,-9,-12,12; Goldstein d. Kyle Wang, 3,-8,4,9.
Under 1350 - Final: Kyle Wang d. Michael Zangwill, 7,7,11; SF: Wang d. Daniel Yang, -9,4,9,-4,6; Zangwill d. Ken Chia, 4,4,2.
Under 1100 - Final: Leon Bi d. Ken Chia, 5,8,6; SF: Bi d. Douglas Harley, 2,7,7; Chia d. Michael Borek, -4,8,-7,7,4.
The European Championships, though of course somewhat upstaged by the MDTTC Open, were held this weekend in Herning, Denmark. Timo Boll of Germany won Men's Singles for the sixth time, this time over surprise finalist Ruiwu Tan of Croatia, while Viktoria Pavlovich of Belarus won Women's Singles for the second time, over Yi Fang Xian of France. Here are ITTF articles on it, and here's the home page for the event, with complete results.
Simple Tactical Advice
"Tactics isn't about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent. Tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work." This is the advice I regularly give. I've expanded on this in my upcoming book, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide," which will be out in December.
Rajul Sheth for Silicon Valley Entrepreneurship of the Year Award
He's one of the nine nominees - go here to vote!!! The awards will be presented on Nov. 18. Here's a description of the award: "Silicon Valley Awards 2012 'Making a Difference' is all about the people who live in Silicon Valley and who make a difference in one way or another to help the Valley grow and become a better and richer place, culturally and professionally. The objective of the SVA 2012 'Making a Difference,' is to recognize these individuals in Silicon Valley who epitomize the Silicon Valley culture, its philosophy; these people work in a way which creates successful endeavors.
ITTF Coaching Seminars in India
Here's another ITTF article about the last of the three ITTF Coaching Seminars run in India by USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee.
Pongcast Episode 17
Here's their latest video (12:07), this time showcasing the 2012 China National Championships and the 2012-2013 Chinese Super League. (Did you know the Chinese Super League was originally put together by Xu Huazhang, the former Chinese National Team Member who lived in the U.S. for much of the 1990s, at one point achieving a rating of 2777? He lived and trained at MDTTC, and shared a house with me for two years.)
The Lord of the Ping?
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Tip of the Week
A Commuting Weekend - Table Tennis and SF
I spent the weekend shuttling back and forth between coaching at the Maryland Table Tennis Center and being a panelist at the annual Capclave Science Fiction Convention. By great luck (or was it?), Capclave was held at the Hilton in Gaithersburg, about five minutes from MDTTC. I managed to cancel or postpone some coaching that conflicted with panels at Capclave. By simple good luck, my morning coaching on Saturday and Sunday were with beginners, meaning I didn't get all sweaty and so was able to just change into normal clothes and rush over to Capclave. So here's how my weekend went. (Panels are usually one-hour affairs where 3-5 writers or others talk about a topic in front of an audience.) Here's my online Capclave Bio - note the table tennis ice cube mention!
Panelists are allowed to display their books, and so I displayed on a mini-bookstand in front of me my collection of SF & Fantasy stories, "Pings and Pongs," and explained the title pertained to my table tennis background - which usually brought a few questions.
I'm normally in a 5-7 PM Elite Junior session, but I was able to get out of it. I was in one Capclave panel, on "Comic Relief" (in science fiction), from 4-5PM. Here's a picture of the panel - L-R: Me, Lawrence Schoen, Doug Fratz, and James Maxey. We talked a lot about the comic relief in "The Big Four" (Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings), and other humorous characters. The rest of the night I attended other panels and toured the Dealer's Room, with its extensive number of booths selling books and other SF & fantasy items.
I coached a junior class from 10:30AM - Noon, then changed, ate a quick lunch, and rushed over to Capclave for my 1-2 PM panel, "21st Classics," which was on what books since 2000 will become classics, and why. (Lots of nominations!) Then I rushed back to MDTTC, changed back to my TT clothes, and coached from 2:30-4:30. (In that session we did a lot of the improvised multiball drill I describe in this week's Tip of the Week - see above.) Then I went home, let my dog out and fed her, showered, and was back that night for a few panels, including my own late-night one from 11-12PM, "Shortest Fiction," which was on flash stories (under 1000 words) and twitter stories (under 140 characters or less). Here's a twitter story I wrote and sold: "Droid for sale. Minor space damage, memory wiped. Pesky hologram feature disabled."
Sunday morning I coached a beginning 7-year-old from 10-11AM, and watched him make a big breakthrough when he hit 45 backhands in a row (live, not multiball). Then I changed, ate, and rushed over to Capclave for my 12-1PM panel, "My First Time," about the first SF and fantasy books we read and how they brought us into the world of SF and fantasy reading and writing. (For me, it was three very specific books. For SF, it was "The Forgotten Door." For fantasy, it was "The Ghost of Dibble Hollow." For horror, it was "The House on the Square," a short story in "Chilling Stories from the Twilight Zone.") Then I went back to MDTTC to coach from 3-7PM. I finished off the day eating a late dinner while watching the third season premier of "The Walking Dead" on TV.
Ginny's...Where East Meets West
The television program "Ginny's...Where East Meets West" did a 30-minute feature on Maryland table tennis recently, where they interviewed Wen Hsu (MDTTC officer and Nathan Hsu's mom), Barbara Wei (former member of U.S. Junior Girl's Team), and Nathan Hsu (2011 U.S. Junior Olympic Under 16 Boys' Gold Medalist). The show is about the intersection of the East (i.e. table tennis) and the West (i.e. table tennis in the U.S.). Yes, it's in English!
ITTF Coaching Seminar #2 in India
2012 Chinese National Championships
So who was in the final of the Chinese Men's Singles Championships that finished yesterday? World #1 Zhang Jike? World #2 Ma Long? World #3 Xu Xin? World #4 Wang Hao? World #5 Timo Boll? (No wait, he's from Germany!) World #6 Ma Lin? World #9 Wang Liqin? World 14 Hao Shuai? World #16 Chen Qi?
None of the above. After they were all eliminated, the two left standing, and showing the depth of Chinese table tennis, were Fang Bo (world #69) and Zhou Yu (world #85). Here's the shortened video of the final (12:14), with Zhou winning 4-1.
Here's a picture of Czech star Dana Hadacova (world #97, #86 in July) playing ping-pong on a mini table at her wedding with her new husband. Anyone know who the husband is? (My quick googling didn't find anything.) She seems to go by two last names, Hadacova and Cechova (which is how the ITTF lists her) so presumably one was her previous name, and the latter is the name she took on after marrying. (Here's her official home page.)
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Tip of the Week:
I'll tell you about my weekend, and then you tell me about yours. Mine was about evenly split between table tennis and my outside interest, science fiction & fantasy writing, along with some Baltimore Orioles baseball.
FRIDAY: Friday is ancient history now, and I only vaguely remember what I did after doing the blog in the morning. I was a practice partner for our junior program that night (5-7), and unfortunately set our junior program back ten years by going 5-0, with wins over a pair of 2200 players (both 3-0, though one wasn't a junior) and a 2300 player (3-1). As I told the 2300 player, "I'm going to get a swelled head." (I'm too old and stiff to compete at that level anymore!)
SATURDAY: I coached a beginning junior class from 10:30AM to Noon, coached two others players from 2-4 PM, and then went home. (I twinged my chest and shoulder near the end of this session, which is worrisome.) Normally we have a 4:30-6:30 training session, but with Coach Jack in China until the end of October (vacation) and with most of the club taken over by the local Coconut Cup tournament (a local mostly-Chinese event, over 100 players), we cancelled it. I spent the rest of the night reading "Behold the Man" by Michael Moorcock. Isn't that how normal people spend Saturday nights?
SUNDAY: I coached a junior from 10-11AM (chest and arm seemed okay), then went home and raked leaves from my lawn and had lunch. I coached two kids from 2-4:30 PM, one a beginner, the other a rapidly advancing 7-year-old girl who is now looping from both sides off backspin, and who successfully for the first time served backspin so the ball came back into the net. Then I taught a beginning junior class from 4:30-6:00. (Judah Friedlander, a standup comic and a star from the TV show "30 Rock," came in for a few hours. I've coached him a number of times.) Then I was a practice partner for the last half hour of our 4:30-6:30 training session, where I played (and won!) two matches. Then I sped home to watch the Baltimore Orioles go to 2-2 in the ninth against the New York Yankees (first game of the playoffs) before giving up five runs and losing 7-2. Along the way I managed to watch The Simpsons and Family Guy.
MONDAY: This was a busy day, mostly SF stuff. Besides a very short table tennis blog entry, I read and critiqued two short stories for a writer's group coming up that night. I wrote half of the Tip of the Week for this morning ("Training Cycles," see above). I did laundry. I did the Junior Class Accounting (takes some time!). I put together five pages of notes for the Capclave Science Fiction Convention coming up this next weekend here in Gaithersburg, Maryland. (I'm a panelist.) At 6PM I drove up to Frederick for a meeting of the Frederick Writer's Group, which meets twice a month on Mondays. I got there 90 minutes early (intentionally) and worked more on this week's Tip while munching on a Russian Reuben sandwich and hot chocolate. The meeting itself was 8-10PM, where my fantasy story ("The Nature of Swords") and two others were critiqued. Mine came off really well - I was pretty happy - and soon I'll put in some of the suggestions and start submitting it. Here's the opening paragraph:
The two floating swords parried and thrust as they battled through the corridors of the ruined castle. Dust and cobwebs swirled in the musty air as the steel on steel clashing continued up a stairway and into a large room that once had been a kitchen, with rusty pots and human bones littering the floor by a broken table covered in dust.
Then I raced home and managed to catch the last few innings as the Orioles defeated the Yankees, 3-2. Then I stayed up late putting in some of the suggestions for my story, finished the Tip of the Week (though I'd end up rewriting much of it this morning, alas), and before going to bed, did a quick rewrite of one section of my upcoming book, 'Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide." (The writing is basically done; I'm doing the page layouts now.) Then put together a "secret" package to send to Judah Friedlander (more on this later on!). Then I read the newspaper, read the last 20 pages of "Behold the Man," and went to bed at 3AM.
Three ITTF Seminars in India
Here's an ITTF article about the three ITTF coaching seminars that USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee is currently running in India.
Table Tennis Down Memory Lane
Here's a trip down memory lane for table tennis players, with vintage video (6:40) from the hardbat era.
Pamela's Essay - Hitting with the President of China
Here is a college essay from Xiyao "Pamela" Song on her playing table tennis with Hu Jintao, the President of China. Pamela, a former player from the Maryland Table Tennis Center, is now a student at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Two years ago, at age 16, she was #4 in the U.S. in Under 18 girls with a rating of 2361.
The ball spun off the paddle and hit the table.
The president hit the ball back.
That would be the president of China, a country of 1.4 billion people.
The setting would be an exhibition match of the best ping pong playing.
There I was, at the age of 11, looking across the green table and staring into the brown eyes of China's top political leader, Jintao Hu, at the center of an arena surrounded by hundreds of people. I knew I wanted to be the best. I practiced for hours each day to get on this stage.
With a paddle in one hand and a small ball in the other, I posed to hit my first serve to President Hu. Thoughts raced through by mind. "Should I go easy and let him win the first point? Or, should I capture the opening point?" Diplomacy told me one way, but my competitive instincts told me another. I decided to go for the point, and hoped that Mr. Hu would understand. Mr. Hu served. I held my paddle tightly and smashed the ball with a nimble waist twist. Thunderous applause followed. Clearly, this was my moment of glory, not his. I won that point and several more. Before leaving, he called me to his side and encouraged me.
"Fly high, my little girl; and never shy away from opportunities. There is a vast blue sky opening for you." Hu said, putting his hand on my shoulder.
I took his advice. When I was 15, I flew to America.
I knew life in America would be challenging and hoped it would provide me more space to fly. The challenge to learn English seemed as heavy and bulky as the luggage that I'd brought from China. But, as I unpacked my suitcase, I began to find ways to learn English. Armed with the little insufficient basics of "Chinglish", I seized every opportunity to become fluent in English. I kept a personal diary to enhance my writing and even borrowed audio tapes; even my sister would get annoyed by hearing my iPod play "Unite 1, Lesson 1…" I can still remember vividly how excited I was when I could distinguish between "ring" and "rain," and how thrilled I was when I was able to order a cup of tea at Starbucks in English for the first time.
I feel accomplished about my achievements thus far and am now ready for my next set of challenges to study at Penn State with a goal of becoming a scientist or doctor. I hope to make a significant contribution to U-Madison by sharing my Chinese culture, personality traits and experiences, and to serve as a bridge between China and the rest of the world. Mr. Hu was right. Fly high and never shy away from opportunities. My wings have become much sturdier and more powerful as I open them up, soaring higher and farther, to embrace this vast blue sky of possibilities.
Stone-Age Table Tennis
Maybe these cement tables in the park are the secret to China's success?
Non-Table Tennis - Humorous Ghost Stories
I did a guest blog this weekend for World Weaver Press on Humorous Ghost Stories as part of their Haunted October Blog Tour. They just came out with a new anthology, "Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales," which includes my humorous ghost story "The Haunts of Albert Einstein." (You can also buy it on Amazon.)
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Someone posted on the about.com table tennis forum on how difficult it must be to coach footwork in the U.S., since most coaching here is done one-on-one rather than in groups. Because of this, he thought that coaches can't really see what the student is doing, and so can only coach strokes, not footwork.
It's a good point, but it's not really a problem for good coaches. You teach footwork one-on-one by having the student do it without the ball, where you often do it together, with the student matching the way the coach does it and making corrections as necessary. If you have a student shadow practice footwork this way regularly, they learn it. Then, when you get to the table, you can tell by their body posture and positioning if they are doing it correctly.
The most important aspects to stress are foot and body positioning; balance (which involves moving with your feet, not with your hands, i.e. reaching); and the idea that you don't decide whether you have to move, you assume you will always have to move.
Yesterday Was a Bad Day (mostly non-table tennis)
Let's see, Obama didn't perform well in the debate, the Orioles lost, the Yankees won, two of my three TT students cancelled, I had a headache half the day, a new online video of our club got our web address wrong (see below), the sole of my shoe broke, and from my todo list I didn't update the "Celebrities Playing Table Tennis" page or work on the Codex contest SF story I started last night. Can we have a Groundhog Day replay?
County Cable Montgomery in Maryland runs a regular TV segment called Parks Rec n Roll. They did a feature on racket sports here in Montgomery County, featuring tennis, badminton, racquetball, and of course table tennis at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. The entire video is 30 minutes long, but here are the table tennis segments, which are a little under six minutes total. The video features me, Tong Tong Gong, Derek Nie, Crystal Wang, Amy Lu, Nathan Hsu, Wen Hsu, Timmy La, Chen Bo Wen, Mort Greenberg, and Sammy Snitskovsky. (One little problem: at 28:05 it puts the MDTTC web address on screen, but they got it wrong, putting in "org" instead of the "com" in www.mdttc.com.) Here are links:
Ariel Hsing for USOC Female Athlete of the Month
You can vote online for USOC's Female Athlete of the Month. Ariel is up against 19 other athletes - but she's currently in the lead! Okay, she has 8 votes, two more than three of her competitors (hmm, 6-6-6?), so it's still early. Ariel's had a good month, as verified by this ITTF article. You can also vote for Male Athlete of the Month and Team of the Month, though strangely there aren't any table tennis players there.
Day One: I am getting ready to start day two of the ITTF-PTT Level 1 Course in Ajmer, India. There are 14 coaches taking part and we are mixing in some of the local juniors during some of the practical sessions. The facility we are using is a full-time table tennis academy with 14 tables, wood flooring, good lighting, and a large conference room/class-room. There is also an attached hotel where I am staying. Most of the coaches are very experience and some have travel 36 hours by train to reach the course. Ajmer is an ancient and beautiful city.
Day Two: I just finished day two of the Ajmer, India ITTF-PTT Level 1 Course that I am conducting. The second day is the hardest one (physically) for me as it is on "on the table". We have had a group of 12-16 kids hanging around watching our course in the afternoons and it seems that they do not receive coaching. There is a very high level (national team members) of junior training at the academy but these kids are not good enough to be in the coaching group. Today, I couldn't stand the longing in their eyes any longer and after our 6 hours of course work, I stayed and did another session for these kids. One of the other coaches in the course also helped out. What fun! There is nothing more gratifying than to watch sheer joy in the faces of kids playing a sport they love. Now for a much needed rest. I understand that more kids will be coming tomorrow so I will try to continue our little training group while I am here.
Table Tennis Boosting - Our Version of Doping?
Here's an article in the Huffington Post from August about table tennis boosting. I haven't tried boosting myself, but I should probably do it just to see what it's like. (I'm retired from tournaments so it's not like it's going to "boost" my rating!)
The Real Housewives of New York City Play Pong
In last night's finale, the characters in the show visited Spin New York to play table tennis with Marty Reisman and others. Here's the report from Table Tennis Nation.
What's Really on His Mind on a Date
Another Weird Table Tennis Dream
Last night I dreamed I was playing in the North American Teams. I'm not sure who my teammates were; they were sort of shadowy. As I went out to play my first match, I realized I was carrying a thick sheaf of papers and a keyring full of keys. So rather than play the match, I decided I needed to go home to drop these things off. I ran outside and began jogging. Then I seemed to go through a montage of cars, buses, and running through an airport. Finally I arrived "home" - except the house was from the haunted house picture I had just yesterday made my computer's background picture. I ran inside and pushed the elevator button for the 15th floor (which doesn't make sense since the haunted house didn't have 15 floors, but perhaps it was bigger on the inside). I kept waiting and waiting impatiently, worried that if I didn't hurry I'd get defaulted from my match. Finally, I got to my room, which seemed some sort of dormitory room, I think from my years at the Olympic Training Center. I opened the door with the keys and went to a mirror. Looking into it I saw that I was wearing the funny hat that Q wore when we first met him in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I tore it off, tossed the keys inside, and left, closing the door as I went out, thereby locking myself out with the keys inside. (But I didn't realize this at the time.) I went outside and began to run as fast as I could, worried again that I'd get defaulted. I ran faster and faster in a panic, and finally, in a nervous sweat, arrived back at the Teams. I hurriedly went out to play the match, and found that the other guy was there, waiting for me. I then realized I was still carrying the sheaf of papers I'd had at the beginning. I decided to use them as my racket, and got set to play. Then I stopped, realizing just then that I'd locked myself out. I began to panic again, thinking I had to run home again to get my keys, and that's when I woke up.
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Keep a Player's Attention and Thinking
Want to bore a six-year-old? Feed him multiball and have him hit forehands for a long time. Want to inspire a six-year-old? Put a giant frog toy on the table and tell him to hit it.
Want to bore a sixty-year-old? Have him do nonstop repetitive drills without explaining anything. Want to inspire a sixty-year-old? Have him to a range of drills that cover what he does (or hopes to do) in an actual match, from repetitive drills to perfect strokes to random drills to mimic game play, and explain the purpose of each drill and technique.
Keeping a player's interest is one of those things coaches have to learn to do. If you just spew out instructions in a bland way and just do repetitive stuff, you'll lose them. You don't treat everyone like a six-year-old or a sixty-year-old, of course - it has to be both age-appropriate and personality-appropriate. Some are more analytical than others, and some just want to hit the ball. Younger players often just want to hit the ball, while older players tend to be more analytical. Yet even younger players have their analytical side, and like to think about certain aspects of the game as long as you don't overdo it. Show them something they want to learn to do, and they'll want to know how it's done.
The more the player thinks, the more interesting it is to him as he learns. Older players often enjoy learning the thinking side as much as the actual playing side - tactics, why specific techniques are better than others, mental training, etc.
Table tennis is a game of contradictions. One of them is that you need to think a lot if you want to improve. At the same time you have to clear your mind when you are in an actual rally and let your trained reactions take over - i.e. don't think.
ITTF Level 3 Coaching Course
USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee is attending an eight-day ITTF Level 3 Coaching Seminar in Malaysia. Here's the ITTF article - Richard is the tallest one in the back in the second picture. Here are more pictures.
Paralympic Junior Camp
Here's info from USATT on an upcoming Paralympic Table Tennis Junior Camp, to be held Nov. 24-27, 2012, in San Diego, for Paralympic players under age 18. (I had to Google the location since it was given only as "BalboaPark Activity Center and Town & Country Convention Center.")
Allen Wang Highlights Video
Here are highlights (2:20) from Allen Wang winning the North American Cadet Championships in Cary, NC, Sept. 1-2. (Allen came down and trained with us at MDTTC for two weeks this past summer.)
Dimitrij Ovtcharov's Serve
Here's Olympic Bronze Medalist Dimitrij Ovtcharov's backhand serve. Or is that a forehand serve, since it looks like he's about to hit it with the forehand side? I don't know. I can't even spell his name without cutting and pasting it. Here's a slow motion video (3:30) showing the serve from various parts of the table - the first one is from the forehand side! - which verifies he hits it with the regular backhand side of the racket. Maybe I should teach him my own version of this.
Monks Playing Pong
Here are monks in red and pink playing table tennis. The Chinese wouldn't have a prayer against them.
Table Tennis Club Advertisement
Nathan Hsu created two hilarious video ads for the table tennis club he started at his school, both about 37 seconds long. The first version was deemed "inappropriate" for school due to the violence implied. Here's the second version that was allowed. The videos star Nathan and Andy Zheng as "the little kid." Don't get beat up by a little kid!!! (My favorite part in both videos - see the part where Nathan looks in through the door.)
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The Maryland Table Tennis Center was featured in a story in the Montgomery Gazette this morning. I'm quoted several times. Make sure to click on the pictures! We've been featured in various media hundreds of times over the years.
How does one go about getting press coverage of your table tennis events? It's not difficult, but it does take some time. First, have something to feature. It can be an actual event (tournament, clinic, big league match, etc.), a person (player or coach), or just table tennis in general. (All reporters need an "angle.") Get a listing of all the local media by Googling your city and state along with "newspapers," "TV stations," and "radio stations." Go to their web pages and compile a list of contact emails. Then write a press release about your event, person, or table tennis in general, and send it off.
If you have a really big event, contact the national press - CNN, MSNBC, FOX, USA Today, Associated Press, etc.
If you don't get any nibbles, do it again a week later. You may have to hit them a few times before you get their attention.
How do you write a press release? Just write about what you hope to feature. Make sure to include all the info - the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Then check it for spelling and grammar - there are few quicker ways to turn off literary types (and anyone from a newspaper, TV, or radio considers themselves "literary types") than with misspellings and awkward grammar. Write clearly and focus on the facts and anything that you think might interest people. Let them do the color - after they've come and interviewed you!
Sean O'Neill named U.S. Paralympic Table Tennis Coach
Here's the story. Sean was previously the U.S. Paralympic Table Tennis Coach from 2004-2008.
ITTF Coaching Seminar in Atlanta
Here's a story about the ITTF Coaching Seminar that USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee is running. (I ran one last April, and plan to run another one at MDTTC in Gaithersburg, MD, tentatively scheduled Aug. 26-30. Let me know if you are interested.)
"As One" breaks 1.2 million
Over 1.2 million in South Korea have seen the new film "As One" in the ten days since its release, according to the Yahoo story. The movie chronicles the joint Korean team that won Women's Teams at the 1991 World Championships. Apparently that's a lot for Korea. I wasn't able to find when the movie opens in the U.S. - anyone know?
King of the Table Matt Kuchar
Matt Kuchar is the best player in the PGA, according to tweets by fellow golfer Jason Dufner. However, Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy "would give him a good match." Here's the story from Table Tennis Nation. (As noted in previous blogs, I may be coaching Hardy soon. More on this when it's finalized.)
Profile of the Over 80's
Here's a video (3:48) that features eight players from around the world (with 703 years between them, ranging from 81 to 99 years old, including players from England, Australia, Sweden, and China) competing in Over 80 in the World Veteran Championships in Inner Mongolia. Over 3500 players compete in the tournament.
Here's a CNN story from Monday (2:11) about modern offices in Silicon Valley with all sorts of perks - including table tennis!
Paulini and the Ping Pong Song
Here's a new song from Paulini - the Ping Pong Song (2:43)! Sample lyrics: "You're playing ping pong with my heart." Okay, probably not the greatest table tennis song - the first comment underneath says, "For the sake of humanity, please someone shoot this woman." The greatest table tennis music is, and always will be, "Magic Ball," the theme song to the 1989 World Championships (3:09).
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