Ariel Hsing

January 8, 2013

The Schools Petition

Hopefully by now you're one of the 951 people who have signed the petition to "Include and recognize the sport of Table Tennis Aka 'Ping Pong' as part of a school's athletic curriculum of choice." I first blogged about this back on Dec. 13 the day after it was created by the enterprising Joel Mitchell (and I was the fifth person to sign), and I blogged about it again on Jan. 4 (Friday). It's now featured on the USATT home page. I think it's great that we're working together on this. 

Unfortunately, to get a response from the White House we need at least 25,000 signatures by Jan. 11, which is this Friday. We're only 24,049 away!!! (And in the time it took me to write this blog, we got two more signatures - we're up to 953!)

So let's be honest; unless someone famous (hi Susan Sarandon) gets this on some extremely watched TV show, we're not going to get those 24,000+ signatures in the next three days. But suppose we did? Are schools really the answer?

Schools are Not the Answer (Not Yet)

I would argue that schools may be Step Two in developing our sport, but not Step One. And we're a long way from even getting started on Step One, which is to develop the sport ourselves so the schools will be interested in taking us to the next level. Sure, someone might put together a school league or club, but the key is that one of us - a table tennis person - has to do it, not the school itself. They are quite willing to make use of the few people we have who can do this. But until we show them table tennis is a growing sport that everyone else is doing, they won't jump on the bandwagon. In other words, schools are not the way to go until we are a larger sport. The way to grow junior table tennis in the country is through club programs, as is done all over Europe. Here are the problems with going through the schools, in no particular order:

1. School systems are not interested in adopting a small sport and making it big. That's our job. When we are a bigger sport, then they will be interested.

2. School systems are not interested in adopting a relatively expensive sport like table tennis (tables, nets, rackets, balls, constantly breaking and needing replacement, lots of storage space needed for tables) unless the sport is already popular. They can toss the kids a soccer ball, basketball, etc., and it's easier and cheaper, and they already have facilities for these and other large sports.

3. No sport in the U.S. has ever gotten big through schools, although a number of big sports got bigger because of schools. (Lacrosse got big through colleges, but they are the exception, and we're talking about high school, middle school, and elementary school here.)

4. Table tennis has not gotten big through schools in any country in the world, except for communist countries like China where the leaders (like Chairman Mao in China) ordained it the national sport. (And Obama doesn't have that authority.) Worldwide, and especially in Europe, players start out in junior programs at local clubs, according to Stellan Bengtsson, Jorgen Persson, and dozens of others I've spoken with over the years. Every player and coach from Europe I've spoken to says the same thing. In the countries in Europe where table tennis has gotten big, there are school teams, but they are relatively unimportant there, since most of the players train at local clubs, where there's a professional coach and players from local schools, instead of just one school. Stellan said he didn't think a single member of the Swedish team started out at a school or ever trained seriously at one, unless it was part of a table tennis club separate from the school.

5. The best we can do with schools is set up some ping-pong clubs, but few are going to fund a real coach. So while the kids play ping-pong, it's just a game like Parcheesi to them. They don't take it seriously and they rarely if ever join USATT.

USATT has a long history of sending coaches to train teachers at large Physical Education Symposiums, but little ever comes of it. The teachers simply don't go back to their schools determined to set up serious junior programs. They go back and sometimes set up tables for a few sessions in PE, where the kids just play games.

At first thought, schools seem like a great way to grow the sport, and it looks good to the membership (so those who are big on going to the schools get elected), and so generation after generation of USATT board members have made schools a priority. The return on investment is incredibly small. (The old argument is often made, "It's better than nothing." If we are thinking small and want to stay small, then this is the way to go.)

This is one of those frustrating things through the years as we so often try to get someone else to fix our problems, i.e. hoping the schools will make us big, or Bill Gates or some other big sponsor will fund us, etc. We have to build our sport from inside before schools and large sponsors will be interested.

The key to junior development - both elite and grassroots (i.e. large numbers) - is to recruit and train coaches to set up and run junior programs, something that is done in successful table tennis countries all over the world.

Keep in mind that the goal is junior development. Schools and club programs are merely a means to this end. Too often people get attached to the means to the end rather than the end itself, and so we never reach the goal. Developing junior programs at clubs will raise us to the next level, and then we can approach school systems, and they will take us seriously. Then they can take us to an even higher level. But we have to do the groundwork first, like every other sport that got successful.

USATT Board Election Status & Update

Here's a notice from USATT on changes on the USATT Board.

The USATT Athletes Advisory Council recently held an election and as a result Han Xiao was elected to serve on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Athlete Advisory Council replacing Ashu Jain and Para athlete Edward Levy was elected to serve as the second Athlete Rep on the USATT Board of Directors.  The National Collegiate Table Tennis Association recently informed USATT that Kagin Lee will serve as their representative on the USATT Board of Directors.  Kagin replaces David Del Vecchio in this capacity.  The Nominating and Governance Committee met in late 2012 and as a result voted that Anne Cribbs and Peter Scudner should continue to serve as Independent Directors on the USATT Board of Directors.  The one remaining Board seat to be filled is currently in a membership wide election that will conclude on Jan 21, 2013.  The announcement of that election result and the posting of the complete composition of the Board of Directors for the next two year term will be made on February 4, 2013.

At this time we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Ashu Jain and David Del Vecchio for their outstanding contributions to the governance process of USATT through their service as Board Members for the last two terms.  Thank you, Ashu and thank you, David!

Xu Xin New #1

Here are the new ITTF world rankings. Zhang Jike and Ma Long have been trading back and forth for a while as the #1 man in the world, but now there's a new gun in town. Yes, they are all Chinese, as is #4 Wang Hao, #6 Ma Lin, #7 "sort of Chinese" Chuang Chih-Yuan of Taiwan, and #9 Wang Liqin. But Germany's up there, with #5 Timo Boll and #8 Dimitrij Ovtcharov. On the women's side, the top four are also Chinese, with Ding Ning #1 for the 15th consecutive month.

USA doesn't have anyone in the top 100 in Men's rankings, but has three players in the top 100 in the women's - #76 Gao Jun, #88 Arial Hsing, and #96 Lily Zhang. USA is ranked #47 and #16 in Men's and Women's Team World Rankings.

USA is pretty strong in girls' top 100 rankings. In Under 21 Women, USA has #19 Ariel Hsing and #23 Lily Zhang. In Under 18 Girls, USA has a strong showing: #5 Ariel Hsing, #6 Lily Zhang, and #61 Prachi Jha. In Under 15 Girls, USA has #48 Diane Jiang, #54 Tina Lin, #69 Angela Guan, #75 Joy Lin, and #77 Crystal Wang. (Crystal is only 10, and is from my club, MDTTC.) In the Under 18 Girls' Team Rankings, USA is #4 after China, Japan, and Romania. (CORRECTION: As pointed out by Aaron Avery, USA is actually in a three-way tie for 2nd with Japan and Romania, but with the head-to-head tie-breaking system used by ITTF, they are #2. See the 2 in the left column - not sure why they have them listed fourth.)

We're not quite as strong on the boys' side. In Under 21 Men, USA has one ranked player - Wang Qing Liang, the chopper/looper from my club who made the semifinals of Men's Singles at last year's U.S. Open. In Under 18 Boys, he is also our only ranked player, at #37. We're a lot better in Under 15 Boys, with eight players: #33 Li Hangyu, #39 Kunal Chodri, #41 Kanak Jha, #55 Chen Bo Wen (from my club!), #63 Allen Wang, #68 Jonathan Ou, #75 Li Fengguang, and #99 Krishnateja ("Krish") Avvari. In Under 18 Boys' Team Rankings, USA is #35.

1400 Articles

I recently discovered I now have over 1400 published articles! Total is 1405 in 138 different publications, including 1263 on table tennis. This does not include blog entries. (If I did, it would put me over 1900!) It does include the weekly Tip of the Week, which is published not only here but also as a news item in the Paddle Palace Blog.

Yesterday's Todo List

Remember all that stuff I had on my todo list yesterday? (See second item.) I got it all done except for finalizing the entry form for our upcoming MDTTC tournaments. (I'm redoing the scheduling.) I expect to do that this morning.

USA Paralympic Team

Here's info on the 2013 USA Paralympic Team Procedures.

First USA ITTF Level 2 Coach

Congrats to Jef Savage of The Table Tennis Centre of Mercersburg, PA, who this past week became the first USA coach to be certified as an ITTF Level 2 coach. (Here's a news item on it.) I've worked with him a bit, and did his five hours of "supervised" coaching. The irony is that although I'm a USATT Certified National Coach, I'm only an ITTF Level 1 Coach. I may go for Level 2 certification later this year. (I was one of the first two ITTF coaches in the U.S., along with Donn Olsen.)

Woman of the Year

Ariel Hsing was named Table Tennis Woman of the Year by Table Tennis Nation. Read about her great year!

From Hardball to Hardbat

Here's an article on Adoni Maropis and his rise from TV villain (the evil Abu Fayed from season six of "24") to table tennis prominence in the hardbat and sandpaper world.

Zhang Jike vs Wang Liqin

Here's a nice match (7:07) between the current world champion Zhang and the past 3-time champ (and still #9) Wang in the Chinese Super League. (Wang is on the near side at the start.) Time between points has been taken out, so it's non-stop action! What can you learn from this match?

2012 Through Our Paddles

Here's a look at the past year - through ping-pong paddle images!

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December 5, 2012

Table Tennis Robots

It's that time of year again - time to buy table tennis player table tennis stuff for Christmas! And what better table tennis present than a table tennis robot? Below are some videos describing the various robots that are out there. (You can also buy Butterfly and Newgy robots from Maryland Table Tennis Center - contact Wen Hsu.)

There are basically two types of robots - programmable and non-programmable. Programmable ones cost a lot more, but are a lot more valuable. They allow you set the robot to go side to side, for example, putting the ball alternately in two spots. Or perhaps two to one spot, then one to another. Or just about any other combination. Some can even give backspin and then topspin. With these robots, you can do just about anything.

Non-programmable robots are fun, and good for basic training. They generally can only hit the ball to either one spot, or randomly. I think some may be able to go to two spots - if so, get that one, so you can do side-to-side drills. But you can also do footwork drills with the ball going to one spot. For example, put the ball to your backhand, and alternate backhands and forehands.

You can also have a non-programmable robot hit the ball randomly all over the table by having it oscillate. However, I don't value that too much. In table tennis, you react to the ball coming off the opponent's paddle. Here you have to react to the ball coming out of the robot, which is quite different - and so you could actually develop the habit of hesitating in a real game, where instead of reacting quickly to the direction of an opponent's stroke, you hold back and don't react until you actually see the ball coming at you. So I find robots best when doing more rote drills, where you practice the strokes and footwork, and do the random and more game-type drills with a practice partner or coach.

I use robots regularly in my beginning junior class - the kids love them. They are good for the following:

  • Drilling the basics for beginning and intermediate players. You can practice every shot in the game, from loops and drives against both topspin and backspin, to flipping or pushing against short backspin, to chopping, and pretty much anything else.
  • Footwork drills and physical training (especially if it's a programmable robot that can do various footwork drills).
  • Serve practice (with the convenient net to catch the balls).

Readers, any comments on any of these robots?

Paddle Palace Robots

iPong from JOOLA (3 types)

Newgy Robots (5 types)

Smartpong from Butterfly

Killerspin

AMDT and Oukei (and others) from Megaspin

Amicus and TTmatic (and others) from Ping Pong Depot

2013 North American Cup Host City/Club Bid

Here are the bid specs to bid for this first-time tournament, to be held April 20-21, 2013.

Ariel Hsing Receives American Flag

Here's a picture of USA Women's Singles Champion Ariel Hsing being presented the USA flag that flew at BAGRAM Air Force Base in Afghanistan on the eleventh anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, during Operation Enduring Freedom, on Sept. 11, 2012.

Highlights Video

Here's a nice highlights video (2:08) that'll get your blood going - lots of action and stirring music.

Don't Shorten the Table, Raise the Floor!

But I'm worried what happens if this kid has to move to cover the wide corners.

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December 3, 2012

Tip of the Week

The Backhand Loop and Hit One-Two Punch.

Time-Wasting Stuff

This last month I've had so many things to do, and so many didn't get done because of too much time-wasting stuff. This has had a detrimental effect on finalizing my new book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers (which should be done before the Nationals, but I probably won't have copies there), doing some video coaching and analysis, and various MDTTC and other table tennis activities. Here are some of the things that have wasted my time the past few weeks.

  • I spent much of last week with a cold.
  • Thanksgiving, the Teams (three days), and the exhaustion that comes from it.
  • I'm always getting requests for table tennis info. Some of it is easy and doesn't really take up time. Others are more time consuming. For example, someone wanted to know what year the USATT ratings started. That took some research - as near as I can tell, the plan came out in 1972, and they were published for the first time in 1973. (I started in 1976, so this was just before my time.) Even Tim Boggan didn't know of the top of his head, so I did the research myself, mostly by going through his history books.
  • A guy on Facebook posted a note attacking Chinese students. Apparently there's this group that believes that the vast majority of Chinese college students in the U.S. are infiltrators sent here by the Chinese government, they are nearly all economics majors, and that they are here to take over the U.S.  I asked what his evidence was, and pointed out that I work with many of these Chinese students, and they seem pretty normal to me. The response was about two days of all-out attacks on me by two idiots, who claimed I was a backer of the Chinese and Korean governments and other made-up stuff. What a waste of time that was. I can no longer even see the attacks as the two later blocked me. Much of it was later deleted by Facebook after I complained - there was some nasty stuff.
  • Christmas shopping.
  • Working and reworking out dates for the MDTTC Tournament schedule. We actually worked them out a while ago, but there were some conflicts, and we had to change most of them.
  • It seems every time I'm about to get some work done, I get an unexpected coaching request. Well, at least they are paying for it!
  • Too many good movies out there. You can't seriously expect me to continue to exist without seeing Argo, Flight, Killing Them Softly, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Red Dawn, Rise of the Guardians, Skyfall, and Wreck-It-Ralph? (We can ignore the Twilight saga, of course.) Yeah, I use movies as a break, and see about one a week. (Always with a small popcorn, easy on the butter, and a small cherry coke.)

The Physical Side of Table Tennis

Here's an article by Seth Pech, The Physical Aspect of My Table Tennis Game. He talks about endurance, speed, and strength, why they are needed, and how to develop them.

Mike Dempsey Memorial Open Page

Here's the home page, with results, articles, and photos.

USA Junior Girls Reached #2

In November, the U.S. junior girls team, led by Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang, were tied with Japan for #2 in the world in junior girls teams, behind China. Here's the world team ranking list (set it for U18 Girls and for November). In the new December rankings, they dropped to a tie for fifth with Hong Kong

USA Sandpaper Team

Sandpaper stars Ty Hoff and Adoni Maropis (yeah, the actor who nuked part of California in "24" and later became a national hardbat champion) will represent the U.S. at the 2013 World Championships of Ping Pong, Jan. 5-6, 2013, in London. Here's the news release.

Dr. Phil vs. Billy Bush

Here's the ping-pong battle of the Titans (4:06) - the two TV talk show hosts go at it here. Check out Dr. Phil's ping-pong ball shirt!

Tower Table Tennis

If you thought lobbing was a dangerous way to score a point, try lobbing in this high-altitude game!

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November 27, 2012

Tip of the Week

Serving Short to Forehand and Long to Backhand.

JOOLA North American Teams

I spent the weekend mostly coaching at the Teams in Baltimore. Since my family lives on the west coast (Oregon and California), I spent my third straight Thanksgiving with Tong Tong Gong and his family - they served a vintage Thanksgiving meal with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry juice, an incredibly good bread that's a family recipe, and a number of other items, including a few Chinese dishes. (They also had 17 relatives over.) I ate more at that meal than I have at any meal in years - and I mean this literally. Since they live only 20 minutes from the playing hall, I stayed at their house for the weekend, as I did the last two years. (I live an hour away.)

The number of teams was down a bit, from last year's 196 to 158. Part of this is because of the new Butterfly Teams in Columbus - see segment below. Some have written that that tournament had no effect on the Teams in Baltimore, but that's absurd - I know of at least 10-12 teams that regularly play in Baltimore that went to Columbus this year, and that's just the ones I know. I'd guess they lost at least 20 or more teams to Columbus. At $800/team, that's at least $16,000 in lost revenue.

While I'm never happy playing on cement, as most matches at the Teams (both Baltimore and Columbus), Open, and Nationals are played on, there's not a lot that can be done about that. However, I was happy to see (yes, that's a pun) that the lighting was greatly improved this year, as part of a renovation at the Baltimore Convention Center. The tournament ran on time, with two tables assigned to every team match we played. They also had much better prizes this year, giving out nice crystal prizes to the division winners that the players seemed happy with.

Here's a picture of the Division One Champions, Atlanta Table Tennis Academy, holding the crystal prizes. (Picture is care of Tom Nguyen from North American Table Tennis.) L-R: Tournament President Richard Lee, Feng Yijun, Liu Jikang, Li Kewei, Coach Wang, Timothy Wang, Wang (Eugene) Zhen, and Referee Bill Walk.

However, this will be the last year it'll be in Baltimore. Next year it's moving to the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at the National Harbor, just south of Washington D.C.

Because I was there primarily as a coach, I didn't see much of the finals - just the last match in fact. I played as a part-time player for the NOVA team, playing in three ties where I beat a couple of 2150 to 2200 players and several 1950 players, went five with a 2300+ player, and lost to a 2050 player who moved me around on the slippery cement and then smashed over and over. When I did win points, it was usually off my serves, which gave everyone fits and covered up for my growing lack of mobility. Alas, I don't practice any more (I'm just a coach), and at 52 I'm too stiff and slow to play the way I used to. In my mind, I'm still greased lightning, but once at the table....

It is a grueling tournament, designed for true table tennis warriors. Play began Friday at 9AM, with most teams playing team matches at 9AM, 11AM, 2PM and 4PM, with these matches deciding what division you would get into. (Most teams played two higher teams and two lower teams, though of course this was adjusted for the highest and lowest teams.) On Saturday teams played five more team matches (9AM, 11AM, 2PM, 4PM, and 7PM), and two more on Sunday (9AM and 11AM), with crossovers at 2PM and 4PM. This is a true players tournament.

Tong Tong, just turned 15, didn't start out well, and I'm not going to get into that. He played well on Saturday night, and if he plays like that he might be in the mix for the USA junior team trials coming up in three weeks. He's been on the cadet team the last two years - top four in country - but is now ineligible, but has three years to try out for the junior team. I coached him here, and will be coaching him and Derek Nie at Nationals. Derek, 11, will be trying out for the mini-cadet and cadet teams.

I coached Derek in a number of his matches, and he had a great tournament. He came in at 2139 (from a high of 2170 recently), and pretty much blitzed everyone. He beat about ten players between 2100 and 2200 with, I think, only one loss in that range. He beat three or four players in the 2250 range (one of them from down 5-10 in the fifth), and he beat a 2438 player. He, Crystal Wang, Heather Wang, and Bernard Lemal combined to win Division 3, going 7-0 in the round robin and then winning the crossover semifinals and final for a combined 9-0. (So Crystal won crystal!) I'm wondering if Derek is the first person ever under 70 pounds to beat a 2400+ player?

Derek's best mach might have been the win over the 2438 player, but his gutsiest took place in the Division 3 Final. He was up against I think a 2180 player who could attack from both wings as well as lob over and over, and who played very smart. Derek led most of the first game but lost 11-9. He led 9-8 in the second and was basically lobbed down three straight points. Between games we talked tactics, then I told him if he wanted to win this match, he'd have to win it here (I tapped his head) and here (I tapped his heart). He nodded, and I knew we were in for a long match. Derek won the next game somewhat close, and the fourth easily. In the fifth, the opponent made a diving, lobbing return on the edge, looped a winner, and then got a net dribbler to go up 3-0. After a timeout, Derek only gave up one more point as he won, 11-4.

Crystal, 10, also had an amazing tournament. (I coached a few of her matches.) She beat a 2500+ player, a number of 2250 players, and I don't think lost to anyone below her 2245, though I'm not sure of all her matches. I'll talk more about her when the ratings are processed - but almost for sure she'll achieve the highest rating ever for a 10-year-old, boys or girls, probably well over 2300. There's a chance she or Derek may be adjusted to an absurdly high rating - we'll see. I'm wondering if she's the youngest player ever to beat a 2500+ player?

One strange incident took place. Derek was in a battle with Ray Mack, a 2150 player, and led 10-8 in the fifth. He went for his towel and drink bottle and took a sip. An umpire who was walking by interrupted the match, telling Derek that it was not legal to drink during the towel break every six points! Many or most players regularly do this; I've been doing it for 36 years. While the rules do not specifically say you can take a drink during the break every six points, I've never seen an umpire forbid it. I checked with the tournament referee, Bill Walk, and he agreed that it was okay to take a brief drink during the towel break. It was a rather scary moment when the umpire interrupted the match as it could have disrupted Derek's focus. The umpire got into an argument with Derek's parents and teammates while Derek walked about, looking perplexed. As it was, he scored the next point. I don't think umpires are supposed to interrupt matches in progress to enforce perceived rules violations.

As noted, I didn't see much of the action taking place on the feature courts where the top players were playing. I saw bits and pieces, but not one entire match. I did see the last few games of the last match in the final, where chopper/looper Chen Weixing kept coming from behind before finally losing close in the fifth as Atlanta Table Tennis Academy defeated Team JOOLA, 3-1.

It was a fun but exhausting weekend, which culminated in my getting a mild cold yesterday, though it seems to have mostly gone away already. Maybe I was just tired, though I went through a bunch of Kleenex yesterday. Here are the final division results - playoff results are at the end.

Butterfly Teams in Columbus

While the JOOLA North American Teams were held in Baltimore, the Butterfly Teams were held in Columbus, Ohio. Here are the results, and here's a listing of the players on each team so you can match them with the teams in the results.

Ariel's Speech

Here's Ariel Hsing's acceptance speech as San Jose Female High School Athlete of the Year (3:11). Ariel, 17, has been the U.S. Women's Singles Champion the last two years, and is a 2012 Olympian.

Table Tennis Legends

Here's a video (54:27) of old-time legends playing in the English Table Tennis Association 70-year anniversary gala in 1994. Names include Istvan Jonyer, Gabor Gergely, Klampar Tibor, Milan Orlowski, Janos Takacs, Jacques Secretin, Vincent Purkart, Ferenc Sido, Janos Fahazy, Mihaly Bellak, Tibor Kreisz. Perhaps most interesting is 73-year-old Ferenc Sido (6'4", 240 lbs at his peak, yet still able to move around and chop!), the last hardbat player to win Men's Singles at the Worlds (in 1953, also making the final in 1959). He is shown from 0:52 to 4:54.

Time-Stopping Exhibition Video

This video (1:39) starts as a regular exhibition, with a behind-the-back return, etc., but watch what happens about 13 seconds in!

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November 21, 2012

Quick Note on Malware

Most or all of the malware warning problems I blogged about previously seem to be gone, but there might still be some traces left of whatever got the site blacklisted on Google. If you are reading this, you arrived here successfully, so all's well with the world.

Merit Badges for Table Tennis?

As noted in my blog on Monday, there's a great proposal on the USATT web page (by Diego Schaaf and Wei Wang) to award "merit badges" for achieving various rating levels. Read it over and see what you think.

I've always argued that players take ratings way too seriously, and that they are, in general, a very bad thing for junior players. (Here's my article Juniors and Ratings.) Because of ratings players (especially juniors) tend to focus on immediate results instead of long-term improvement; it makes them nervous when they play as they worry about their rating (and this nervousness becomes a habit); and it often causes them not to play tournaments so they can protect their rating (thereby losing valuable tournament experience and so falling behind their peers).

I've always found the bridge system to be intriguing. In bridge, you cannot go down in rating; you only go up. This gives incentive to play more as you try to go up. It's not as accurate a system, but it incentive to compete. Given a choice between an inaccurate system with zillions of players (such as the American Contract Bridge League with 160,000 members), or a more accurate one with 8000 (USATT says hi), I have 152,000 reasons to go with the less accurate system. (This is a simplistic version of a more complex argument I won't go into here.)

The strength of the proposed system by Diego and Wei is that it gives incentive to keep playing as you get merit badges for going up, but unlike rating points, they aren't taken away when you go down. Sure, you might blow your current rating, but you'll still have that merit badge to show how good you were, plus every time you go out there you know there's a chance you might have that great day where you beat everyone and win ANOTHER merit badge!

As I wrote in my blog on Monday, similar suggestions have come up in the past, but three things always stopped it: 1) What should be awarded for these achievements - belts, like in martial arts? Pins? Badges? Certificates? etc.; 2) Few ever put together an actual proposal such as this eon, and 3) No one ever follows up on it.

There is the question of who pays for the merit badges, but that's a no-brainer to me. It's the responsibility of the player who achieves the new level to apply and pay for the merit badge. If it's not worth the small payment needed to pay for the badge and the office time to deal with them, then it's not worth their having.

There's also the transition period - at the start, why not let players send in proof of their highest rating achieved? It's all online since 1994, and before that there are magazines that can be copied. (Sorry, USATT doesn't owe you that. But I'm sure there are USATT members who might help out with this at the start.)

I hope someone from USATT follows up on this.

Last-minute coaching and preparation for Teams

Lots of last-minute training for the Teams in Baltimore and Ohio! I'm writing this blog the night before (Tuesday night) because I have to be up early to coach this morning. (Or should that be tomorrow morning since I'm writing it tonight, the night before the morning that the blog goes up? Never mind.) I've even got some coaching on Thursday. (I expect to blog on Thanksgiving morning, but perhaps a shorter one.)

I'm primarily going to be coaching, but I was talked into playing as a part-time fifth player by two of my students. I'm only committed to playing about one team match per day. The rest of the time I'll be coaching. (I'm mostly coaching Tong Tong Gong. At the Nationals I'll be working with him and Derek Nie.)

ITTF Video World Cup

There are now 17 entries in the ITTF Video World Cup. Take some time and watch them - they're pretty good. Of course the one I most like is "TTism (in slow motion)," by Richard Heo. Why? Because I'm in it!!! (I show up for about three seconds at 1:29, cheering silently and motionlessly for Raghu Nadmichettu, who is celebrating a win silently and motionlessly. That segment was filmed at the Maryland Table Tennis Center.) Here's the info page for the contest. First and second places are $5000 and $2500. Deadline to enter is Nov. 30. Oh, and it turns out you can vote once every 24 hours! So vote, and vote often.

2013 USA Team Trials

Here's a short news item from USATT: "The 2013 National Team Trials will be held on February 7-10, 2013, at the Top Spin Club in San Jose, CA. Prospectus and entry form will be posted on USATT webpage."

Reverse Forehand  Pendulum Serve

Here's an article and photo sequence on a version of the reverse forehand pendulum serve by world #27 Sayaka Hirano.

Ma Long Dong a Split?

Now here's a great picture of China's Ma Long looping from the backhand corner. Not sure if he's going to recover for the block to his wide forehand.

Table Tennis iPhone App

Here's the new TTProPlanner Promo - "for those of you who would like to plan/review your Table Tennis training" - on video, or read about it at the app store.

Terese Terranova in Broward County Hall of Fame

Here's a short article from Table Tennis Nation on wheelchair player and coach Terese Terranova's induction into the Broward Country Hall of Fame.

The Passion of Table Tennis

Here's another new highlights video (4:18). This one starts off by building tension as we watch the players get up and prepare for the tournament.

Ariel Hsing, Athlete of the Year

Here's a video about a minute long showcasing Ariel Hsing as the 2012 San Jose Female High School Athlete of the Year.

The Ping-Pong Dance on ABC Good Morning America

Here it is! (It's about one minute long, where they show Adam Bobrow doing one of his patented celebratory dances after winning a point.)

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October 29, 2012

Tip of the Week

The Falkenberg Drill.

Malware Illusion

If you are using Chrome as your browser (as I do), you may still be getting some malware warnings when you come to this site. It's an illusion, since Google inadvertently listed this (and many other sites I've found) as having malware problems recently, and Chrome is still picking up on this for some reason. (Explorer, Firefox, and other browsers are not.) I'm calling my server today to find out how best to fix this problem quickly. It turns out the site never had any malware at all. None. Zilch. Clean as a fresh sheet of table tennis sponge.

Hurricane Sandy

As I write this, Hurricane Sandy approaches with the sole purpose to disrupt my table tennis coaching schedule. Yes, that's my theory, and I'm sticking with it. The winds haven't reached here yet, but it's pouring rain outside. So here's a special hurricane section.

  • HHH: In the junior class I teach on Saturday and Sunday I asked everyone which of the three H's they found most exciting, Hurricane Sandy, Halloween, or Hodges Table Tennis Class. Alas, I didn't fare well in the voting. (John Hsu, who assisted on Sunday, pointed out that he's also an H, so I guess the class was a 4-H meeting.)
  • Hurricane Sandy Anagrams: Insured Anarchy, Rude Anarchy Sin, Rich Nerdy Sauna, Rush Rainy Dance, and Dry Insurance? Ha!
  • Hurricane Sandy Paddle: Yes, They've already got a Hurricane Sandy Paddle!

Grip Problems

Perhaps the biggest problem with coaching younger beginning kids is getting them to stick to a good grip. This weekend I found five different problematic grips various kids were using. The problem is that even when you correct their grips, they go back to the bad one almost immediately, often without even knowing it. Here are some of the grip problems the beginning kids had this weekend:

  • Hasegawa grip. This is where they put the index finger straight down the middle of the paddle. This leads to tight muscles and awkward, wristy strokes.
  • Low grip. With this grip, there's a big gap between the hand and paddle. (It's a less extreme version of the Hasegawa grip.) Developing players who use this grip often end up with wristy problems and a lack of control.
  • Seemiller grip. This very short kid kept rotating the racket so that he'd hit his forehand with nearly a Seemiller grip, with his thumb off the racket and pointing at his opponent, and essentially block the forehand. Then he'd change his grip to normal for his backhand.
  • Thumb grip. This is where they put the soft part of the thumb on the paddle, essentially an extreme backhand grip.
  • Hunched shoulder grip. This kid hunched up his playing shoulder, and to compensate, held his racket with the top rotated to his forehand side (an extreme backhand grip). I'm not sure if the hunched shoulder led to the grip or the grip led to the hunched shoulder.

Olga Feingold Kahan - R.I.P.

We've lost one of our illustrious members and a hard-working volunteer. Here's Tim Boggan's tribute to Olga Feingold Kahan, who died over the weekend.

World Cadet Challenge

The World Cadet Challenge is going on right now in Guam, Oct. 27 - Nov. 4. Here's the ITTF World Cadet Challenge page, with schedules, results, articles, and pictures. Here's a picture of the North American Team, which includes USA players Allen Wang, Jonathan Ou, Isabel Chu, and Diane Jiang.

Four Tips from a Teen Olympian

Here's an article in Forbes Magazine that features advice from U.S. Women's Champion and Olympian Ariel Hsing. The short version? 1) Master the fundamentals; 2) Take risk; 3) Be willing to fail; and 4) Practice, practice, practice. Pretty good advice for table tennis, business people, or life in general.

Changing Your Grip

Here's a video from PingSkills (1:51) on changing the grip from forehand to backhand.

Pongcast Episode 18

Here's their latest episode (16:25), showcasing the 2012 European Championships.

Ping-Pong Dance

This video can best be described as a mixture of table tennis and break dancing (4:07).

I don't know how to describe this dance (4:07), which seems a mixture of table tennis and break dancing.

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October 23, 2012

Two-Winged Attackers
In this modern era of super-sponges it's a huge advantage to be able to attack effectively from both wings. There was a time (back when I was learning to play) that many players mostly attacked from one side - usually the forehand - and mostly played steady on the backhand, which is how I usually play. It's generally a mistake to develop your game that way; learn to attack from both sides.

However, a common problem for some is trying to rip winners from both wings, whether looping or smashing. This is a very difficult style to master. Even if you have the ability to rip shots both forehand and backhand, it's difficult to get both shots going at the same time. Instead, it's almost always better to focus on ripping winners from one side, and a steady attack on the other side with opportunistic rips when the shot is there. While more players rip on the forehand while playing the backhand as the steady attack side, there are many who do the reverse.

Even on the "ripping" side, you shouldn't rip everything that's potentially rippable, though of course take the shot if it's there. Unless the ball is really easy, in fact, it's almost always best to take a little off for consistency, so even your best smashes and loop kills might be at 80-90% power. But which ones should you rip?

The key is recognizing which shots are rippable and which are not. In general, there are three types of balls that should be put away:

  • High balls - but beware, sometimes a somewhat high ball can be tricky to put away if it's deep on the table with lots of spin.
  • Balls that land in the middle of the table depth-wise, i.e. not too long or too short. With practice, these balls are easy to loop or hit.
  • Balls where, with experience, you get that feel for when you've read the ball perfectly and know you can make the shot. This mostly happens when you are "in the zone."

What I Did Yesterday
This past weekend I ran the Butterfly MDTTC October Open. (See the story, photos, and results in my blog yesterday.) Here's what I did yesterday (straight from my todo list, with these items now crossed off), mostly TT related, much of it tournament related. I had only one hour of coaching scheduled, but the student was sick and cancelled. (I just realized that I never left my house yesterday, unless you count letting my dog in and out.) Yeah, this was my day off....

  • Wrote and posted the weekly Tip of the Week. ("Turn Opponents into Puppets with Long Serves.")
  • Wrote and posted my daily blog.
  • Did the USATT Tournament Report for memberships and ratings for USATT. (Will mail out this morning.)
  • Typed up results.
  • Wrote article on tournament for USATT Magazine, Butterfly, and my blog.
  • Fixed up the photos from the tournament, added captions, and put online, and sent to Butterfly.
  • Wrote press release for the tournament and sent to local media.
  • Wrote up a list of possible enhancements for the creator of the Omnipong program that I used to run the tournament.
  • Did the tournament accounting.
  • Did the accounting for the MDTTC weekend junior program.
  • Edited a new MDTTC brochure that Butterfly made for us.
  • Wrote up an application for sponsorship to a major table tennis company for a local junior star.
  • Answered 20+ emails.
  • Watched the Presidential debate.
  • Read for an hour and went to bed.

Scoring Against Ariel
Here's an article in yesterday's issue of Slate called "Smashed: My quest to win a point against one of the world's best table tennis players." The author relates his attempt to score a single point against U.S. Women's Champion and Olympian Ariel Hsing.

Multi-Table-Ball
Forget Multi-ball - it's Chinese Multi-table-ball! Here's the video (3:43). I've done this at my club in the past, though not recently. Time to revive these types of drills?

Point of the European Championships
Here's the last point of the quarterfinal match between eventual champion for the sixth time Timo Boll of Germany (the lefty) and Andrej Gacina of Croatia. The video (2:36) replays the point in slow motion.

Photos from the European Championships
Here's a photo album (347 photos) from the European Championships that finished this past weekend in Herning, Denmark. (As noted in my blog yesterday and last week, here are ITTF articles on it, and here's the home page for the event, with complete results.)

500 MPH Ping-Pong Ball Cannon
In this video (6:49), Professor Harold Stokes uses a ping-pong cannon to demonstrate to his physics class the effects of air pressure. He puts a ping-pong ball into a sealed tube, pumps out all the air, and then punctures one side. The air rushes in, and shoots the ball out the other side at 500mph. He does it three times in the video, but the ball moves too fast to see, and ends up shattered each time. The second time he shoots it through a piece of plywood (leaving a ping-pong ball sized hole). The third time he uses a human target - himself! You get to see the welt at the end.
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October 10, 2012

Coaching in the Wilderness and Run-ins with Animals

I do some coaching each week on the road, including a trip out into Virginia. They pay me double to do this, otherwise I wouldn't want to leave the safe confines of the Maryland Table Tennis Center, which is eight minutes from my house. The kid I'm coaching in Virginia is five years old, and like most kids his age has an attention span of roughly from now to now. So I find all sorts of interesting ways of keeping him interested during our one-hour sessions - mostly with targets on the table (giant rubber frogs, stacks of cups, etc.) or by setting up imaginary scenarios where he has to do something or the world will explode. This kid lives in a mansion in the middle of woods - a great place to grow up.

Yesterday after I drove down their front driveway (about two hundred yards) and pulled into the street out front, I found myself surrounded by six deer. I'd driven right into their midst and then stopped my car, and rather than run, they all just stared at me as if they were used to this. I stayed absolutely still, and after a minute they ignored me. Four more joined them, and now ten deer surrounded me. As if that weren't enough, I very large hawk sat perched on a telephone cable just over the street, looking down on us like the specter of death.

After about five minutes the deer all took off suddenly as another car came by. (Apparently my car wasn't as scary.) As I drove out, four more deer came out onto the road, blocking my path. They froze for a moment, and then they too took off. A minute later, as I drove home, I passed a large horse farm with dozens of grazing horses.

I've had other run-ins with wildlife in my years as a coach. Many years ago, while spending a summer coaching in Oklahoma, I woke up in the middle of the night with a searing pain, and discovered a scorpion perched on top of me that had just stung me. Numerous times I've had birds flying around in clubs and tournaments, including this segment from the Maryland Table Tennis Center (starring a very traumatized bird and Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, Raghu Nadmichettu, Tong Tong Gong) just a few weeks ago. A kid once brought a box turtle to MDTTC and let it walk about the club all afternoon while he played. We've had numerous dogs visit the club, though all seemed well trained. One woman at one of our training camps brought her dog, which was so well trained it would sit quietly by the table as her owner trained, never interrupting anything until she gave the okay, I think by snapping her fingers or something. The kids had a blast with it as it would lie quietly as they covered it with ping-pong balls.

Here are lots of animals playing table tennis!

Exhibition and Teaching in Guam

Australian player and coach Alois Rosario puts on a show for the kids in Guam (2:05).

Great Point at World Cup

Here's a great point (1:09) from the 2012 Men's World Cup between Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus and Chuang Chih-Yuan of Taiwan. The point took place with Samsonov leading 9-8 in the seventh, and gave him match point. Chuan would win the next two points, but Samsonov would win 12-10 in the seventh.

Ariel Hsing vs. Matthew Perry

USA Olympian Ariel Hsing was on The Ellen DeGeneres show yesterday (3:12). DeGeneres was playing actor Matthew Perry when she faked a back injury, and said someone else would have to play for her. Then she called in Ariel, who proceeded to clobber poor Perry, who was actually pretty good. DeGeneres had told Ariel not to hold back, and she didn't.

Three-Way Table Tennis

This looks like someone's homemade table, but they decided it needed three sides. And they are playing outdoors.

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October 4, 2012

Coaching Footwork

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?

MDTTC Video

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.

Richard McAfee in India
USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee is running ITTF coaching seminars in India. (Here are some photos.) Here's his Facebook postings about the first two days:
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

Yes, the truth.

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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September 24, 2012

Tip of the Week

Care of Equipment.

Disservice to Juniors Everywhere

I'm going to do a disservice to junior players everywhere and point out something I noticed at the MDTTC tournament this past weekend, though it's something I've mentioned before. When playing these fast and furious juniors (i.e. players that can rally faster than you can), your best option is use serve and receive to get the first attack in, usually with a loop. However, over and over I saw players losing to juniors because they kept opening with crosscourt loops, which the juniors would pounce on. These juniors do a lot of crosscourt hitting, and I think if you even snap your fingers they'll reflexively cover the crosscourt angle. The players that gave them trouble were the experienced ones who would attack down the line with their first shot, and then move to cover the wide crosscourt angle if it came back. Usually they did not.

Butterfly MDTTC September Open

Here are the main results for the MDTTC tournament I ran this weekend. Juniors dominated, with at least one in every final except Under 2350. Here's a rundown, with main results below.

  • The Open was won by 17-year-old Wang Qing Liang over 15-year-old Chen Bo Wen, both player-coaches at MDTTC. In the semifinals they defeated two former Maryland junior stars, Khaleel Asgarali and Raghu Nadmichettu (who would win Under 2350 from down 0-2 in the final to Hung Duy Vo).
  • Roy Ke, 13, won Under 2200 from down 0-2 in the final to Lixin Lang.
  • Anthony (Tony) Qu, 12, won Under 2050 and made the quarterfinals of the Open with a huge upset over fourth-seeded Richard Doverman (2349, 11-9 in the fifth) and Derek Nie (2170, 13-11 in the fifth).
  • Wesley Duan, 12, made the final of both Under 1900 and Under 1650.
  • Kyle Wang, 13, made the final of both Under 1400 and Under 1150.
  • Daniel Yang, 12, won Under 1150.

Butterfly MDTTC September Open
Gaithersburg, MD, Sept. 22-23, 2012
Open - Final: Wang Qing Liang d. Chen Bo Wen, -6,6,9,7,-9,6; SF: Wang d. Khaleel Asgarali, 10,3,8,7; Chen d. Raghu Nadmichettu, 6,7,9,5; QF: Wang d. Nazruddin Asgarali, 8,5,6; K. Asgarali d. Anthony Qu, 4,6,5; Nadmichettu d. Larry Abass, 9,5,12; Chen d. Sutanit Tangyingyong, 4,5,9.
Under 2350 - Final: Raghu Nadmichettu d. Hung Duy Vo, -9,-15,6,11,8; SF: Nadmichettu Lixin Lang, 2,-9,3,7; Vo d. Sutanit Tangyingyong, 5,11,8.
Under 2200 - Final: Roy Ke d. Lixin Lang, -6,-5,4,8,8; SF: Ke d. Nazruddin Asgarali, 6,9,7; Lang d. Sutanit Tangyingyong, 10,-13,5,9.
Under 2050 - Final: Anthony Qu d. John Olsen, 8,4,4; SF: Qu d. Austin Stouffer, 9,5,-9,6; Olsen d. Josiah Chow, 8,-11,12,-4,10.
Under 1900 - Final: Pat Lui d. Wesley Duan, 9,-10,7,4; SF: Lui d. Gahraman Mustafayev, 3,5,3; Duan d. Mohamed Kamara, -4,8,6,-3,7.
Under 1650 - Final: Quang Lam d. Wesley Duan, 8,6,8; SF: Lam d. Tang Yanghang, 16,-7,8,-6,14; Duan d. David Goldstein, -3,9,8,9.
Under 1400 - Final: Ara Sahakian d. Kyle Wang, 9,8,7; SF: Sahakian d. Quang Lam, 10,8,8; Wang d. William Wung, 5,9,7.
Under 1150 - Final: Daniel Yang d. Kyle Wang, 7,8,8; SF: Yang d. Allen Eng, 7,11,12; Wang d. Benjamin Kang, 8,7,7.

Women's World Cup

Here is the home page for the Women's World Cup, which was played this past weekend in Huangshi, China. It includes results, articles, and photos. Congrats to champion Liu Shiwen of China (world #3), who defeated surprise finalist Elizabeta Samara of Romania (world #38) in the final.

Ariel Hsing is a Focused Student

Here's the article from Table Tennista.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov in Training

Here's a short video (0:23) of the German Olympic Bronze Medalist doing a multiball drill. It'll tire you out watching.

Table Tennis Fitness Training

Here is a short video (0:29) of some serious physical training for table tennis. I believe this is in Taiwan.

You Can Play Table Tennis Anywhere

Scenes from Sri Lanka.

Ma Lin versus Roger Federer

Sort of!

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