Forehand Flips

July 16, 2014

Celebrities I've Met

Because of table tennis I've met an inordinate number of celebrities. Here's a listing.

TABLE TENNIS PLAYERS. I've met most of the top players in the U.S. and the world since the 1980s, and many from before that. If I were to list all those players it'd be an endless list. It'd be easier to list the ones I haven't met. I've had lunch and dinner with the Swedish team when they were at their heyday (Waldner, Persson, Appelgren, Lindh, Carlsson, etc.); met the top Chinese at the Worlds, U.S. Opens, at MDTTC when they came in early to train, and during my twelve years as editor of USATT Magazine I interviewed nearly every top 20 player in the world. I've known essentially every top U.S. player for many years, either by actually meeting them, coaching them, or (more often) coaching against them when they play MDTTC players. I've met nearly every living USATT Hall of Famer, and every Men's and Women's Singles National Champion since the Nationals began in 1976. 

Men's Singles World Champions I've met: Wang Liqin, Werner Schlager, Liu Guoliang, Jan-Ove Waldner, Jean-Philippe Gatien, Jorgen Persson, Seiji Ono, Stellan Bengtsson, Ichiro Ogimura.

Women's Singles World Champions I've met: Zhang Yining, Wang Nan, Deng Yaping, Qiao Hong, Tong Ling, Angelica Rozeanu.

But the list of celebrities I've met through table tennis gets more interesting when I look at the non-TT celebrities I've met. Here's a listing.

ATHLETES

  • David Robinson, basketball star - played poker with him at Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, circa 1988, when I was (at various times) the manager, assistant coach, and director of the Resident Table Tennis Program.
  • Errict Rhett, football star (running back for Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns) - met and hit with him at an outdoor table tennis exhibition at Baltimore's Inner Harbor in 1999.
  • Jeanette "Black Widow" Lee, world #1 women's billiards player in 1990s - met her at a table tennis exhibition at a sporting good show.
  • Ted St. Martin, world record holder for most consecutive free throws (5221) - met him at a table tennis exhibition at a sporting good show.
  • Audrey Weisiger, USA Olympic Figure Skating Coach - coached her summer of 2013.
  • JJ Hardy, Darren O'Day, Brady Anderson - coached these three Baltimore Orioles players at MDTTC in 2013.
  • Met most of the rest of the Baltimore Orioles at a demo in their clubhouse on Aug. 21, 2013, including: Manager Buck Showalter, Coach Terry Crowly, position players Chris Davis (talked to him for 20 minutes about athlete and skill development), Brian Roberts, JJ Hardy, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Nate McLouth, Chris Wieters, Steve Pearce, and pitchers Chris Tillman, Darren O'Day, Jim Johnson, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, and Troy Patton.
  • Met numerous members of the USA Tae Kwon Do and Archery teams in the late 1980s at the Olympic Training Center during the four years I was resident there, including several national champions, but don't remember any of their names. I shared the dining hall with Olympic athletes from essentially every other sport, and probably met a few that I don't remember.

ACTORS

  • Susan Sarandon - met her at the North American Teams circa 2008 or so.
  • Julia Dreyfus, star of Seinfeld and VEEP. Met her at the VEEP filming on Oct. 9, 2013, as well as others on the set. (I was brought in as a table tennis advisor for a TT scene.) Other than saying "hi" as I walked by, didn't actually talk to her, but stood next to her numerous times while she talked to others - and made eye contact!!!
  • Adoni Maropis, actor (best known as villain Abu Fayed in "24") - met and played tournament matches with him three times. Have since practiced with and played him many times.
  • Judah Friedlander, actor and comedian, best known for his role in TV show "30 Rock" - coached him in the 1990s/early 2000s, and several times at MDTTC.  
  • Frank Caliendo, comedian/impersonator. Met him at 2009 USA Nationals, and played doubles with and against him in practice matches at MDTTC in 2014.

LEADERS/POLITICIANS

  • Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State - met him at 25th Anniversary Ping Pong Diplomacy Festivities in 1996.
  • Jack Markell, governor of Delaware (took office Jan. 2009) - coached him at five-day table tennis camp in 1990s before he was famous, and again at our Christmas camp in December 2009, along with his son. His son came to several more of our camps.  
  • Anthony Williams, mayor of Washington DC (1999-2007) - met him at a table tennis exhibition.
  • Oscar Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas (1999-2011) - met him at the USA Nationals in Las Vegas.
  • James McClure, senator from Illinois (1973-1991) - met him in the early 1980s while helping Chinese coach Liguo Ai get his visa.

OTHERS

  • Will Shortz, world-famous crossword puzzle editor for the New York Times - met him at several table tennis tournaments, including at the Westchester, NY club that he owns.
  • Tom McEvoy, 1983 world poker champion - met him at a table tennis tournament.
  • Julian Waters, world-famous calligrapher - coached and played matches with him for many years at MDTTC.

I've also met a lot of celebrities through my non-TT sideline - science fiction writing, mostly at SF conventions and writers workshops. Here's a short listing for that. When I say "met," at minimum it means I actually spoke with them and shook hands.

SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY CELEBRITIES

WRITERS: Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, John Scalzi, Orson Scott Card, Alan Dean Foster, Larry Niven, Piers Anthony, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Joe Haldeman, Connie Willis, Robert J. Sawyer, Frederick Pohl, Ray Silverberg, Walter Jon Williams, George R.R. Martin, Terry Brooks, Stephen Donaldson, Harry Turtledove, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Allen Steele, Jack McDevitt, James Morrow, Gregory Benford, Robert Asprin, Jerry Pournelle, Michael Swanwick, Charles Stross, Carry Vaughn, Nancy Kress, David Louis Edelman, Cory Doctorow, Karl Schroeder.

EDITORS: Stanley Schmidt, Sheila Williams, George Scithers, Gardner Dozois, Gordon Van Gelder, Ellen Datlow, Shawna McCarthy, Eric Flint, Scott Andrews, Jeanne Cavelos.

ACTORS: Walter Koenig. (Also Leonard Nimoy - see below.)

OTHERS: Craig Newmark, founder and owner of Craigslist.com - met and talked to him for 30 min at the SFWA suite at the World Science Fiction Convention in 2006.

I've also met a few outside TT and SF:

  • Solomon Snyder, world-famous neurologist from Johns Hopkins - he's my uncle!
  • Jim Palmer, Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher for Baltimore Orioles - met him at Camera Day at a Baltimore Orioles game in 1972, when I was 12. He patted me on the back. I never washed that t-shirt again, and ended up hanging it on my wall.
  • Leonard Nimoy, actor best known as Mr. Spock from Star Trek. According to my mom, when I was three years old I ran between his legs at a bank while both were standing in line!

ICC Coaches/Players Resign

Here's the note received last night about the two ICC coaches/players. Zhou, rated 2718, has spent much of the last few years as the #1 rated player in the U.S., with Tian Meng ("Maggie"), rated 2527, near the top of the women's rankings. I'm told they are looking to start their own table tennis center. (Here's the press release on this.)

I regret to announce that Zhou Xin and Tian Meng have resigned from ICC to pursue other opportunities effective tomorrow July 15th. We really appreciate their service for the past three years. We wish them do well pursuing their dream. In the mean time we will continue with our current team Massimo Costantini, Liang Yong Hui, Dan Liu, Huang ZiHoang, Anal Kashyap, Indeebar Chaterjee and Opendro Singh to train ICC students. Furthermore, we are also actively seeking another high level player/coach to strengthen our team. You will hear from us on that soon. Bon Voyage, Zhou and Maggie. We'll miss you.

Here's the noted from the two coaches/players:

Appreciate the blessing from ICC. Also appreciate many people who have taken care of and guided us - too many to list. All good things must come to an end. The past few years is an important journal for both Maggie and myself. The next step will be a challenge. However, we are preparing for the challenge. Hope very soon we will be able to contribute to the sport of table tennis as ICC has been.
Zhou Xin and Maggie Tian

Forehand Flips

Here's video (72 sec) of some world-class flips off short balls, mostly forehands, with a few backhand flips as well.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov - Off the Table

Here's a video (3:27) that shows the off-the-table Ovtcharov. His English is excellent. He even mentions Lebron James (along with Novak Djokovic) as his favorite non-table tennis athletes that he looks up to.

Xavier Therien vs. China at the 2014 Canada Open

Here's the video (1:08) - lots of action!

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Fifty-four down, 46 to go!

  • Day 47: Melecio Eduardo Rivera Brings a Wealth of Experience to the ITTF’s EC

Table Tennis Exhibition Between Saive and Grubba

Here's the video (7:35).

Kiernan Shipka Plays Table Tennis

Here's the article and pictures of the 14-year-old actress playing table tennis in high heels. She's best known for her role as Sally Draper in "Mad Men."

Reacting to Pingpong Mishap at Blackfoot Pride Days

Here's the article from the Idaho State Journal. Here's a picture. "Ping-pong balls rained down on Interstate 15 north of Blackfoot last Saturday when an annual giveaway event for Blackfoot Pride Days went terribly wrong."

New Dance Move: The Ping Pong

Here's the article and video (24 sec)!

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