Dimitrij Ovtcharov

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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July 11, 2014

How to Maximize Use of Your Tables

A common problem at clubs is that there are too many players, not enough tables. It's a good problem to have, of course, but perhaps not to those waiting in line to play. How can club leaders handle this problem?

The simplest solution, of course, is either another club night or another club. That's how the sport grows, folks - not by trying to jam too many people into a small club, but by having more clubs, and when they fill up, they also split into more clubs, and so on. But for this to happen, someone has to take initiative to start one. Here's the online USATT Club Handbook.

Or you could have your club open up another day, assuming it's not already full-time. When I started up the University of Maryland club back in 1981 we started out twice a week, with eight tables in one room. Within a year we'd expanded to seven nights a week, with 16 tables in two adjacent rooms. For a couple of years before I graduated it was the busiest club in the country, with students coming in every night to play. (We had two nights a week designated for non-college members, and on those nights players from all over would come in.)

Or you could expand your club, as we did at the University of Maryland club, and as we did at MDTTC, which expanded from 5000 to 10,000 square feet a few years ago.

Another is to have a Doubles Night. That's four to a table (or perhaps six, with teams sitting out to rest), and lots of players like doubles. Perhaps designate one night a month as Doubles Night, or more often if your club is full-time.

But probably the best way is to start up a league. While players may not like waiting to play on limited tables, they may be more likely to do so if they are cheering for a team - and a league (especially a team league) allows you to put 4-6 players on a single table. Here's the USATT League page, which allows you to organize your league and use league ratings. This is really the best way to make use of your facilities, and I strongly recommend it. We have two league nights at MDTTC (plus an elite league on Sunday afternoons), and they are our busiest times - players know it'll be crowded, and yet that's when the most players come.

Here's an idea I came up with last week while at the U.S. Open. Ever notice how top players practice at tournaments when there aren't enough tables? They warm up by going four to a table, with two getting the forehand crosscourt diagonal, the other two the backhand diagonal. But they also want to play points and do full-table drills. So they take turns. Two play a rally, and while they are fetching the ball, the next two take the table. (Sometimes they do this six on a table.) So I had a thought - why not play two-for-one matches? You'd have two sets of players playing a match. Two of them would play a point. When the point is over, while one of them fetches the ball, the other two play out a point of their match. And they'd take turns, so the table is in almost continuous use. When two players finish a game, they switch sides, and continue just like any other match, except they'd alternate use of the table. Anyone want to try this?

July Open at the Lily Yip Center in New Jersey

This afternoon I'm driving up with two others to the Lily Yip Center in New Jersey, where I'll be coaching on Saturday at their July Open. Hope to see some of you there!

Summer USATT Magazine

Here's the new issue. I have two articles in it, Topspinny Backhands and Review of Ping Pong Summer movie.

Mal Anderson Named Official USATT Photo-Historian

Here's the article. Mal's in the USATT Hall of Fame, and has taken over 40,000 table tennis pictures.

USATT Para Training Camp

Here's the ITTF write-up of this event, which took place in Grand Rapids just before the U.S. Open. I wish they'd publicize these events a bit more - I actually flew to the U.S. Open a day early a few years ago when I heard they were holding a Paralympic camp, and acted as a volunteer practice partner for a day. I didn't know about this one, and I don't think there was a news item about it. But of course they primarily publicize things like this to the Paralympic players.

Serving From Middle of Table, Serving to Middle Forehand

Here's a video (1951) of the bronze medal match from the 2012 Olympics between Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) and Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE). Note how in this (and in other videos of him), Dimitrij likes to serve backhand from the middle or even forehand side of the table, usually to the opponent's middle forehand. It's a very nice tactic that's way under-used. I still don't understand why more players don't do this type of serve - not necessarily a backhand serve, but a forehand reverse pendulum serve or forehand tomahawk serve, both of which have the same type of sidespin. Or just a regular forehand pendulum serve, where the focus is backspin or no-spin. (Backhand-type sidespin tends to be more difficult to receive forehand than backhand, which is why this type of sidespin is often done short to the forehand side.) Also note how Dimitrij receives so many serves to his short forehand with his backhand - one of the big changes in the game with the advent of the banana flip.

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. Forty-nine down, 51 to go!

  • Day 52: Miguel Delgado Discusses 20 Years of Progress for the ITTF and LATTU
  • Day 53: Koji Kimura Commends Adham Sharara for Rule Changes Made in Our Sport

Japanese Juniors Training in China

Here's a documentary (6:48) of a Japanese junior team training in China. It's all in Chinese or Japanese (not sure which - perhaps someone can tell me?), but it's interesting to watch the training. [EDIT - Bruce Liu informs me that it's in Japanese, with only a few words of Chinese.]

Heritage Oil Table Tennis

Here's video highlights (33 sec) from the Heritage Oil Open in England. Here's a short write-up.

Grammy Nominated Musician Steve Aoki Plays Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (16 sec).

Dawn of the Table of the Ape

In honor of the movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (which I saw last night), here's video (2:08) of a gorilla playing table tennis. (He shows up 49 sec in, but the link should take you directly there.) And he's a really good gorilla!!!

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June 12, 2014

Is Your Club Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?

Suppose a beginner comes to your club, and wants to learn how to play properly. Does your club have a class for him? Or coaches to work with him? Or is he told to call winners somewhere, he gets killed, and you never see him again?

Suppose a beginner comes to your club, and wants to play others his level. Does your club have a league for all levels, so you can let him know when it's league night, where he can play others his own level? Or is he told to call winners somewhere, he gets killed, and you never see him again?

Suppose a mom comes to your club with two kids, and wants them to learn how to play and to play with others their age. Does your club have a junior program you can put them in? Or is she told her kids should call winners somewhere, they get killed, and you never see them again?

Suppose a beginner comes to your club, and wants to get killed by others. You tell him to call winners somewhere, he gets killed, and he's happy. 

The first three above are the most common new players that come into clubs. Is your club equipped to meet their needs? Does your club have coaches, classes, leagues, and junior programs? Or does it rely on the fourth type? (And we wonder why there are so many crazy people in our sport.) Unfortunately, most clubs rely on the fourth type of player when it comes to getting new players. They probably survive as a club because of a steady influx of experienced players, either from other clubs, or more likely from overseas, where clubs address the needs of the first three types above.

A sport can't take off unless it finds a way to bring in new players. Successful sports like [long list here] learned this long ago, as did table tennis in Europe and Asia - but not in the USA. Is there any doubt as to why table tennis in this country gets so few new players? Most clubs simply aren't equipped to deal with new players, instead relying on experienced players developed by others, or on those crazy types who get killed but keep coming back. 

So . . . is your club equipped to deal with new players? Or does it rely on other clubs and other countries to do this for them? If so, why not become part of the solution? 

Road to Nanjing Training Camp - Shanghai

Here's the video (6:54). This is a must watch. USA players Lily Zhang, Krish Avvari, and Kanak Jha, and Coach Lily Yip are all in it, along with top junior players from all over the world. Coaches include Jorgen Persson, and current or Chinese stars Wang Liqin, Liu Guozheng, Li Xiaodong, and Yan Sen.

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. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Twenty down, 80 to go!

  • Day 81: Interview with Adham Sharara: Growing Pains

These articles are also linked from a special ITTF page. Strangely, each of the stories there is prominently listed at the top as "By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor." Ian puts in an intro statement for each of the stories, but Sheri writes them (I verified this yesterday), but that's buried in the text. I don't like this.

Remembering Peter Cua

Here's the article.

Spectacular Point in the Champions League

Here's the video (21 sec), between Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Wang Jian Jun.

Unbreakable 3D printed Ping Pong Ball

Here's the story!

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June 3, 2014

Why Not Be the Strongest Mentally

Players are always trying to have the best loop, the best smash, the best serve, or a litany of other things. Why not try to be the strongest mentally? The player who's always calm under pressure, always at his mental best, and smart tactically. Easier said than done? How would you know unless you put as much time into this as you do into learning techniques? Just a thought that I might expand into a Tip of the Week later on, or at least a longer blog entry. Here's a tip – imagine you are Bruce Lee when you play.

Writing Projects

I keep on my bulletin board a list of my writing projects, including past ones which are marked "DONE." The list includes completed book projects Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers and Table Tennis Tips, and creating print-on-demand versions of past books Table Tennis Tales & Techniques and Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. Also listed are my science fiction & fantasy works, including the novel Sorcerers in Space and the anthology of my best sold stories, Pings and Pongs. (You can find all my books at the Larry Hodges Books Page.)

Upcoming projects include updated versions of Table Tennis: Steps to Success and Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis; possibly writing a Table Tennis Training Center Manual; a new anthology of my best sold science fiction & fantasy stories (More Pings and Pongs); and creating the online store TableTennisBooks.com.

The possible Table Tennis Training Center Manual is problematic. First, it's a huge amount of work for a very small market. It'll be quite useful to those actually interested in opening a full-time training center or running a junior program, but how big is that market? My other books sell in the thousands, with (for example) Table Tennis: Steps to Success selling over 28,000 copies, and Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers hopefully reaching that level. The market for this manual will likely be in the dozens or at most hundreds. So it's basically volunteer work. (Plus the ones who will gain from it would be other training centers – new and current ones –which are often competitors with my own club.) So we'll see. But I won't worry about it for a while as I have these other projects to do first, and I have limited time, considering I'm also coaching 20-25 hours/week, doing the blog and weekly tips, and way too many other projects, most of them volunteer. (I spend more time on the "way too many projects" than I do coaching.)

At the moment my primary project is the rewrite of my science fiction novel Campaign 2100. (This is a satire/drama that covers the election for president of Earth in the year 2100, where the whole world has adopted the American two-party electoral system.) One of the four main characters is a professional table tennis player who walks off the court at deuce in the fifth in the semifinals of the USA Championships to run the worldwide campaign for president. (At the time he decides to walk off he's actually listening to political events unfold via a futuristic computer implanted in his brain.) I have a publisher who's interested – a larger one than the one that published my humorous fantasy novel Sorcerers in Space – but they asked for a rewrite on certain aspects. It's a big project, but I hope to finalize it before our summer camp season begins on June 16. (However, I won't be done yet – I have the first seven chapters - out of 56 - getting critiqued at a writer's workshop in July, with the publisher's blessing, so I'll finalize that probably in August and then send the final version to the publisher.)

Recently I've been involved in several extensive email discussions regarding certain USATT projects, plus I keep getting recruited to help out on other issues, whether it's USATT, MDTTC, or helping out various individuals. If anyone is even dreaming of asking me to do anything time-consuming over the next two weeks, don't!!! (This doesn't include my TT coaching, where I'm helping prepare our players for the upcoming U.S. Open in four weeks.)

How to Deal with Heavy Topspin Opponents

Here's the article.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov is Getting Married!

Here's the story.

Transcending Table Tennis

Here are three videos from 2010-11 that show lots of great table tennis action in slow motion, set to music.

Ping-Pong Park

Here's a park in China full of outdoor tables.

Aerobics on the Table

So that's how you return a short ball!

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April 21, 2014

Tip of the Week

Every Battle Is Won Before the Battle Begins.

Note from 1979 - Starving in NC

I was going through my files last week, and found this note from May 26, 1979. It brought back some serious memories. I was 19 and had just moved to North Carolina a few months before to train for table tennis at the Butterfly Table Tennis Center in Wilson. I had thought I had a job at McDonalds, but that fell through. And so I found myself jobless and running out of money. On this date I sat down and listed all my assets and deficits. It wasn't pretty. I would use up most of the food listed in the next few days. I would use the last $5.03 I had to buy cheap loaves of bread (which I'd eat with just jelly) and corn flakes (which I'd eat straight, since I quickly ran out of milk). During this time I pretty much ran out of real food, and went from being skinny to probably skeletal. I'm guessing I lost 20 pounds. (I was too stubborn to call my parents.) 

Finally, a few weeks after I wrote the note (and unable to pay rent, but not yet kicked out of the room I was renting), I was given a job at a Hardees by a local table tennis player, Dick Barnes. I became the biscuit maker there! For about a year I would work there from 5:30AM-11AM, then I'd walk over to the Butterfly club to practice serves during my lunch break (eating lunch as I walked over), and then return to work the lunch shift, I think 12-2PM. Then I'd be back to the club to practice all afternoon (originally with Bowie Martin Jr., and then daily for about a year with Bowie Martin Sr., the founder of the company), and play matches at night. During my two years in Wilson, 1979-81, my level went from about 1900 to 2150 or so. (I took two years off after high school for table tennis, even though I was "only" 1900 at the time.) Here's a listing of what's in the note:

Assets
$5.03 in cash
$3 owed by Greg Cox
1/4 pounds sloppy joes
1.5 loaves bread
9 cans misc. vegetables
2 boxes cereal
4 servings oatmeal
1/2 gallon milk
10 eggs
1 head of lettuce
4 waffles
4 fish fillet [this was before I stopped eating fish, though I'd stopped eating shellfish for many years]
1 lb strawberries
6 apples
1 lb carrots
Misc.: syrup, sugar, choc. Mix, jelly, margarine, tartar sauce, one-a-day vitamins
Water

Deficits
$23.00 owed to Tom Poston
$31.46 owed to Bowie Martin [I think Sr.]
$80.00 rent on June 1

USATT Magazine

Here's the new USA Table Tennis Magazine. I have two article in this one, one on Crystal Wang ("Youngest US Team Member in History") and on Shadow Practice.

Article in Wall Street Journal

Here's the article from the Friday issue, titled, "Don't Call It Ping Pong: College Sports Rivalry Expands to Table Tennis."

Michael Maze

Here's an article on him, "If you have some goals you want to reach, fight for them."

1979 Hungarian World Champion Team

Here's a current picture of Hungary's "Three Musketeers" from 1979 with Jorgen Persson, L-R: Istvan Jonyer, Tibor Klampar, Persson, and Gabor Gergeley. The three defeated China in team final at the 1979 Worlds. Here's a picture of them after winning the title 35 years ago (from left, Gergeley, Klampar, and Jonyer. The other three are Janos Takacs, Tibor Kreisz , and coach Zoltan Berczik). Jonyer's gained a little weight, and Gergeley's a little gray!

Dimitrij Ovtcharov's Physical Training

Here's seven seconds of the world #4 (and #1 outside China) doing physical training.

Great Rally

Here's the video (50 sec). But why didn't the Japanese player (near side) loop down the line to the Hong Kong player's almost open backhand? He had several chances.

Why doesn't the player on the near side loop one to the backhand?

Table Tennis Touch Game

Here's the trailer (1:33) for Table Tennis Touch, a new table tennis video game.

Table Tennis Tutorial, Beginning to Advanced

(This was in my Friday blog, but I forgot to put in the link until that night. So here it is again.) Here's the video (58:58). Alas, it's in Chinese, no English sub-titles.

Happy Easter Table Tennis!

Gangnam Style Table Tennis

Here's the video (52 sec). It starts slow, then from 20 seconds on it gets a faster and then crazier.

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April 1, 2014

Tongue Training
Anyone watching TT videos regularly can see that most top
players make use of their tongue. Most assume this is just a
reaction to stress, or a side effect of the effort going into the shot.
It's much more than that. In fact, proper use of the tongue is just
like using any other part of the body in a shot. I'd argue that 
for most, proper use of the tongue is central to the shot. Sure, it
only weighs two to two and a half ounces, but its usage must be
orchestrated properly or you will lose power and control. When
looping, improper use of the tongue can be disastrous.

Chinese theory on this is quite different from European. Most
European coaches believe the tongue should be held more or
less rigid inside the mouth, believing that this maximizes balance.
However, most Chinese coaches believe it should be used to
maximize power when looping. In some ways, it's like the wrist -
for years, many coaches thought the wrist should be held rigid
during power shots, but then some coaches decided it should be
used for extra power, and they were correct. Similarly, Chinese
coaches theorize that the tongue, when used in conjunction with
the rest of the body, can add power. To do so requires proper
timing and training of the tongue.

On forehand loops, the tongue must start in the right side of the
mouth. (This is for righties; lefties reverse.) As the player rotates
into the shot he uses his legs, hips, waist, shoulders, arm, and wrist.
The tongue should coil backward and snap into the shot as the
shoulders rotate into the shot, adding extra power as the player
throws his arm into the shot.

On backhand loops, the tongue should start in the bottom of the
mouth. As the player powers into the shot with their lower body
the tongue should snap into the shot, adding extra power as the
player throws the upper body and arm into the shot.

Physical training is extremely important to high-level training, and
most top juniors now incorporate tongue training into this. For
power, they do isometric training, where they alternately press the
tongue into the top, bottom, and both sides of the mouth, three times
in each direction, holding it for ten seconds. For stretching, the tongue
is extended out as far as possible, then up, then down, then to each
side, again doing it three times each for ten seconds. This is similar to
how the Chinese train, although their full-time players do considerably
more physical training, including more tongue exercises.

So if you want to reach your potential in table tennis, train your tongue,
and watch the wins pile up! Here are pictures of Germany's
Thomas Schmidberger and Stefan Schmidt doing tongue stretches,
which they learned while training in China with teammates Timo Boll
and Dimitrij Ovtcharov. Here's China's Wang Hao uncorking a backhand
loop, with his tongue coiled in the bottom of his mouth, about to snap
into the shot - note how the lower lip is pulled in over the tongue.
Here's Ui Young Park of South Korea snapping his tongue into his
forehand. And here's MDTTC junior star John Elson doing tongue
stretches on the MDTTC sofa.

Beginning/Intermediate Class
In my Beginning/Intermediate Class last night we focused on smashing
and on return of serve. These are two of my favorite topics as they are
strengths of mine. I got to demonstrate smash after smash with assistant
coach John Hsu, who returned them over and over, both blocking and
fishing. Later I gave a probably-too-long lecture on return of serve.
One of the things I stress in such classes is that even if they can't do the
things I'm teaching right now, or even in the near future, it's something
to strive for later on. After the class most of the students stayed on and
practiced for over an hour.

The lecture on receive was divided into three parts: How to return short
serves (pushes and flips); How to return deep serves (this one was very
short - you attack them, mostly by looping); and How to read spin.
(Here's my Tip of the Week: Reading Service Spin.)

Three Things Ma Long Can Learn from Fan Zhendong (and You Too!)
Here's the article.

Table Tennis Classes at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria
Here's info.

"All My Body Aches"
That's what Dimitrij Ovtcharov said after winning the German Open. Here's the article.

Tony Yeap Prepares for Nationals
Here's a video (3:14) showing Tony as he prepares for the College Nationals.

Table Tennis Named the Official Sport of the United States
Here's the article.
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August 22, 2013

Visit to the Orioles Clubhouse

Yesterday was an incredible day. As noted in yesterday's blog, we were invited to give a demo and take challenges from the Baltimore Orioles baseball team in their clubhouse/locker room. They have a nice Killerspin table and lots of room. Many of the players have been playing regularly for the past few years - and it showed! This was not a bunch of "basement" players; they were surprisingly good. About a dozen of them could show up at any table tennis club and battle with the regulars. (Photos are now up in Tomorrow's blog.) 

We were supposed to be there from 2-3PM, but the Orioles kept challenging and challenging, and we ended up taking them on for three hours, from 2-5PM.

There's already been a lot of media coverage. The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN, home of the Orioles and Washington Nationals) did a special pre-game show on it, but I haven't seen it yet. (They just emailed me that they'll mail me copies of the video next week.) There's a short article in the Baltimore Sun, and an article and video (1:19) on the Orioles home page. The video has a great interview about us from Orioles Manager Buck Showalter - you should hear what he had to say about us! They also have video of me, Tong Tong Gong, and Derek Nie in the stands watching the game that night, which started at 7:05PM. (Orioles beat Tampa Bay Rays, 4-2. We sat directly behind home plate! They showed us briefly on the Jumbotron. Nathan and Qiming couldn't stay for the game.)

The players from the Maryland Table Tennis Center were:

  • Derek Nie, 12, 2012 U.S. Open Under 12 Boys' Champion (and looks about 10, only 4'7" and 70 lbs)
  • Nathan Hsu, 17, 2011 USA Junior Olympic Under 16 Boy's Singles Champion and 2012 USA Junior Olympic Under 18 Boy's Singles Finalist, #1 Under 18 player in Maryland among U.S. citizens.
  • Tong Tong Gong, 16, member of USA Cadet National Team (15 & Under), 2011-2012, who lives only 15 min from Camden Yards in Ellicott City, and is a big Orioles fan
  • Qiming Chen, 21, past University of Maryland Champion and President of the Univ. of Md. Table Tennis Club 
  • Coach Larry Hodges, member of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame (hey, that's me!)

Playing for the Orioles? Over half the team was at tableside nearly the entire three hours, cheering and jeering. Here are the ones that I remember playing against us: Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis, Steve Pearce, Taylor Teagarden, Tommy Hunter, Darren O'Day, and Chris Tillman. (I probably missed a few.) Also playing was former Orioles star centerfielder and now VP of Operations Brady Anderson. Their best player, shortstop JJ Hardy (about 1800), has had recent back problems and so didn't play - but he acted as the scorekeeper for many of the matches.

Here's a group picture taken near the end - many of the players had already left. Tomorrow I'll put up more photos taken (mostly by Qiming), and hopefully identify the players. (I don't have time now - this is a rather rushed write-up, as I didn't get to bed until 2:30 AM this morning, and I have to leave to coach shortly - I'll be coaching until 8PM today.)

To get a flavor for what this was like, image playing table tennis with these stars, with over half the rest of the Orioles all gathered around watching! Many of the players kept coming up to me to ask table tennis questions, and I bravely introduced myself to some of the others. I met and spoke with Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, JJ Hardy, Manny Machado, Nate McLouth, Matt Wieters, Taylor Teagarden, Alexi Casilla, Steve Pearce, Miguel Gonzales, Tommy Hunter, Darren O'Day, Troy Patton, Chris Tillman, Brady Anderson, Manager Buck Showalter, and former hitting coach Terry Crowly. I mostly let the kids play, but I did play Tillman, Hunter, and Brady Anderson, and at one point I did an exhibition with Nathan, and at JJ's request, demonstrated my ball-blowing trick where I blow the ball in the air sideways, keeping the ball in the air by spinning it with my breath. Derek was especially in demand - everyone wanted to challenge him, and he ended up playing nearly half the team.

Much of the time I was standing next to Chris Davis, who leads the majors with 46 home runs after hitting another last night. We talked for 20 minutes on how players develop in skill sports, and how China is developing players in sports school funded by the government. He said that it's almost impossible to make the major leagues these days unless you have systematic training from the time you were a little kid, and that he'd been trained as a baseball player since he was four. Adam Jones and a few others joined in the discussion. When Chris had to leave, he pointed at his large locker area and said, "While I'm gone, Larry, my office is yours." (Here's a picture of Qiming Chen and Chris Davis.)

We owe JJ Hardy (the Orioles power-hitting and gold-glove winning shortstop) and Orioles Media Manager Jeff Lantz a huge thank you for all of this. They invited us, and made all the arrangements. When we first arrived, J.J. Hardy had set up an ambush for Orioles outfielder Steve Pearce, who had no idea what was going on. Pearce, apparently the Orioles third best player after JJ and Brady Anderson (if he counts, since he's not front office) didn't know what hit him when JJ suggested he play this little kid, who happened to be the 70 lb, 2291-rated Derek Nie. Pearce quickly realized he'd been had as the MASN cameras caught it all! So began the night. (Derek was nervous at the start, and since we didn't want to alert Pearce to what was happening, he didn't get any warm-up - and so started shaky, missing a couple of easy shots as Pearce tied it at 2-2. Then it was all Derek the rest of the way, 11-3.)

For the first ten minutes or so, the kids were very nervous, but the Orioles were so welcoming and friendly (when they weren't jokingly trash talking) that they quickly relaxed. At one point Tong Tong disappeared for a while; it turned out Steve Pearce had taken him out to the batting cages, where Tong Tong got to take ten swings against a practice partner pitcher. (Tong Tong and I were the two who knew all the Orioles; Nathan, Derek, and Qiming were all more or less baseball novices.)

Some interesting notes on the players: Nick Markakis plays with sandpaper, and can both chop and attack. Steve Pearce has a nice forehand sidespin loop. Chris Tillman has a pretty good smash. Manny Machado had incredible enthusiasm, never wanted to stop challenging us. Darren O'Day had lots of equipment questions and can keep the ball in play. Brady Anderson is an all-out forehand player, and can really move - he's in incredible shape, and wore both Derek and I out. He's improved dramatically since last time we played when I gave him a lesson at MDTTC in May. (He said he'd been playing nearly every day since then.) Near the end Derek and I played him a series of games. At first he was getting only 2-4 points a game against us. Near the end, as I tired and as he energetically continued to move at full speed, and he got used to my serves, and our last three games were actually close, including one game where (with a little net and edge help!) got to deuce. Derek and I both estimated him at 1800. He may give JJ a run for it now.

Afterwards player after player invited us to come back again, and based on the video interview with Manager Showalter (see link above), he seemed to like it to. Since the Orioles won that night, we are now their good luck charm!

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Smashing Speed

Here's a video (1:27, though it really ends at 1:14) of Germany's Ovtcharov (world #6) smashing as hard as he can with a radar gun, even tossing the ball up by the net and using a big wrist snap to add speed. His fastest was 122 kilometers per hour or 75.76 mph. This seemingly disproves the myth that a table tennis ball can be hit at 100 mph, assuming the radar gun is accurate.

Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's an article by former USA table tennis star Kim Gilbert on Aerobic Table Tennis.

Just Do It!

Here's video (1:32) of a new Nike Commercial that features table tennis about halfway through. The girl playing is Amanda Malek (daughter of 1979 USA Men's Singles Champion and Coach Attila Malek).

Venus Williams

Here's a picture of tennis star Venus playing table tennis at Madison Square Park in New York City on Aug. 21 at the Delta Open Table Tennis Tournament. (I don't think she actually played in the tournament.)

Baby in Backpack Pong

Is this singles or doubles?

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July 31, 2013

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday's focus was on the backhand, as it always is on Tuesdays during our camps. (Mon=FH, Tue=BH, Wed=FH Loop, Thu=BH Attack, Fri=Pushing and Player's Choice.) One local six-year-old kid badly wanted to demonstrate his backhand loop, and though I was skeptical at first, I let him - and it turned out to be very nice and fluid. So I let him do a bunch of that, along with other hitting drills. Not too many six-year-olds are already backhand looping! (If a kid wants to do something that you aren't sure he's ready for, it's better to teach it to him so he learns it properly than have him learn on his own, as he undoubtedly would.)

The kids I'm working with are improving rapidly. There are five beginners in the 6-8 age group that I'm mostly in charge of. None had even a semblance of forehand or backhand strokes when we started on Monday, but after two days all have the basic shots in multiball, and three of them can now rally live with me forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand. Two of them still struggle to serve, so we're going to focus on that a bit today. We did some service practice yesterday, and I even brought out the serving bar so they could practice serving low. (This is an adjustable bar that goes over the net. Here's a picture of it set high, and here's a picture of it set low.  John Olsen made this for the club and for a few others. It has about ten height settings.)  

Today I'm going to bring out the colored balls and teach pushing to the beginners. The soccer-colored balls (I have a bag of about 20 of them now) make it easier to see the backspin on the ball. (While the focus on pushing is on Friday, we start earlier for the beginners.) To start them off, I'll do a demo, then I'll have them push as I feed the ball multiball style. When they're ready, we'll push live, using the colored balls at first so they have instant feedback on whether they are getting backspin or not. I also use these balls so they can see if they are getting spin on their serves.

While I was working with the beginners, several of the advanced players focused today on relooping against an opponent's opening loop against backspin. I've always wondered why so many players practice straight counterlooping by serving topspin when the first loop they often have to counterloop comes at them against a backspin, and so has more topspin, has a different trajectory, and comes at you somewhat quicker (because of the extra spin and because it's done closer to the table).

Poor Froggy took a beating yesterday. We divided the players into two groups, one lined up on the forehand side, one on the backhand side, and they'd take turns trying to smack him as I fed multiball, with the first team to hit it ten times winning.

Busy

Here's my current schedule and todo list. Something has to give - I'm not kidding. Though things will slow down by mid-September.

  1. Daily Blog and Weekly Tip of the Week
  2. Coaching at MDTTC Camps, four more weeks, 10AM-6PM
  3. Private and group coaching (nights and weekends).
  4. MDTTC August Newsletter.
  5. Promotions and possible translations of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.
  6. ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course Sept. 2-7 in New Jersey (attending) - lots of study and preparation needed. 
  7. ITTF Level 1 Coaching Course Oct. 2-6 in Indiana (teaching).
  8. Small claims court against previous tenant in my townhouse. The guy left without paying rent, without cleaning the place, with lots of damaged items behind, and without a forwarding address. (I spent $2700 in cleanup and damages.) I've got piles of mail for him - much of it from lawyers and courts for various infractions. I'm not the only one going after this guy. One of the worst people I've ever met.
  9. A new family has moved in downstairs, and there are all sorts of complications as they get situated.
  10. Promotion, editorial, and cover work, new web page, numerous others things for my novel coming out Nov. 15 - "The Giant Face in the Sky."
  11. Sequel to the novel.
  12. Note to US Airways over flight this weekend - my flights were kept getting postponed or cancelled, and instead of arriving home at around 10PM Saturday I didn't get home until about 3PM Sunday. Free travel voucher?
  13. The planned Maryland Junior League (probably on hold for now).
  14. Dozens and dozens of emails each day, each needing a personalized response.

Former USATT President Mel Eisner Died

Here's the USATT article.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs. Wang Hao

Here's a video of their recent match in the Chinese Super League (6:54, with time between points removed).

NBA Star Chris Paul Playing Table Tennis

Here's a picture from a TopSpin Charity event held at The Palazzo in Las Vegas.

Jan-Ove Waldner Rolls Ball Around the Net

Here's the video (42 seconds) - it appears to be in an exhibition. Unlike most cases where a player does it while desperately reaching for a ball that drops off the side of the table, Waldner does it against an easier ball that he could have smashed, and instead intentionally lets the ball drop so he can do this shot.

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May 14, 2013

J.J. Hardy and Brady Anderson at MDTTC

J.J. Hardy is the star shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles. (He's the reigning gold glove winner with 52 homers the last two seasons and a former All-Star.) Brady Anderson was the Orioles star center fielder for 13 of his 15 major league seasons, where he was a 3-time all-star, and once hit 50 homers in a season. They are true baseball stars.

But they are also pretty good at table tennis! With the Orioles having a day off from playing, they spent four hours at the Maryland Table Tennis Center last night, 4-8PM. I gave them a private coaching session the first two hours, and then they hit with our local juniors. I knew in advance that JJ was the Orioles best TT player - they have a table in their clubhouse, and NOBODY beats JJ. Brady is their #2. But how good could they be, considering they hadn't had coaching? I was expecting "basement stars," perhaps 1200 level at most. Boy was I wrong! Both came with their own sponge rackets in racket cases.

JJ's around 1850. Strengths: fast rallying and good serves, and adjusts quickly to opponents. Weaknesses: return of serve and against spin in general. He's very fast and aggressive at the table, with nice forehand and backhand hitting and blocking. He tends to hold his racket tip up on the forehand, which costs him some power, but his bang-bang rallying and reflexes allow him to rally at a 1900+ level - even better if you counter with him instead of looping. He also tends to reach for the ball instead stepping, which allows him to block but means he doesn't end the point as well as he could. He can loop against backspin from both wings, and follow with quick hitting.

He has a surprisingly good forehand pendulum serve. He doesn't change his grip for the serve, and so loses a bit of spin since his wrist is locked up, but it's very deceptive. He does the serve from the forehand side, which seemed to make the serve more effective for him since most players do this serve from the backhand side. He has two main variations, side-backspin and side-topspin, and they both look similar. His depth varies (not sure if it's intentional, need to ask him), so some are long, some are short, and some are half-long, with second bounce right around or just past the end-line.

He played a practice match with Tony Li, 11, rated an even 1800. Tony won the first two as JJ had trouble with his serves, but JJ came back to win, deuce in the fifth! You could pretty much see his mind at work as he figured out how to get Tony's various spinny serves back, and how to block his constant forehand looping. I also played JJ, and while I won easily, 11-3, 11-4, the key was that I was experienced enough to recognize how good he was at rallying, and so rarely let him get into a rally - I serve and looped everything, and looped his long serves while pushing his short ones back heavy, and looping the next ball. I wasn't going to be nice and risk losing!!!

How did he get so good without coaching or playing at a club with top players? His dad was a tennis coach and good table tennis player, and he learned from him. He picks up things very fast, as I saw both in his lesson with me and his adjustments in his match against Tony.

Brady Anderson was a level or so weaker, about 1500. He's a lefty who likes to cover almost the whole table with his forehand - he returned almost all my serves with his forehand. He has very nice footwork and range. He has a pretty good forehand, and can almost match JJ in rallies except that he has great trouble with JJ's serve. He can do a soft loop against backspin with his forehand. Brady also serves almost always from the forehand side, with a tomahawk sidespin serve, which was pretty spinny but without a heavy backspin variation, and so was easier to read than JJ's pendulum serve variations. He's very mobile, and even if you return his serve to his wide backhand, he manages to step around from where he's serving from on the forehand side to play his forehand from the backhand side.

Brady tends to hit the forehand with his arm jammed in too much, raises his elbow as he hits the ball, and often tries to muscle the ball instead of relaxing the arm and shoulder and letting the body do the work. We worked on fixing these problems, and he was quick in making the adjustments in drills. At the start he had sort of a wristy backhand, but I quickly corrected it. While his backhand isn't as good as his forehand, it's technically sound once he made the change, though he'll need a lot of practice to ingrain the stroke. Brady has a deceptive forehand - he usually goes crosscourt, and then he'll suddenly change in mid-stroke and go inside out the other way, which was almost unreturnable, even for me.

The racket Brady was using was too slow, so I lent him my backup, which he liked. He ended up buying a racket from the club, with Coach Cheng Yinghua doing the sale and putting the racket and sponge together for him. (They were in awe of Cheng when they learned he'd been #1 in the U.S. for over ten years.)

Brady also played a practice game with the 1800 Tony Li. Tony was very nervous, and Brady led 10-8 game point, but Tony won in deuce. Later Brady played 8-year-old Tiffany Ke, the #2 ranked Under 9 girl in the U.S. with a rating of 1439. (She trains seven days a week!) Brady was using the new racket and wasn't quite used to it, and seemed mesmerized that this little girl, whose head barely stuck up over the table, was so good, and so lost 0-3. (See their picture below.) I also played Brady, and I won 11-3, 11-1 - but a lot of that was because he couldn't get my serve back, and couldn't handle my spinny loops off his serves. Most 1500 players wouldn't have high-level serves or be able to loop serves, and so they'd rally - and once he gets used to his new paddle, Brady will be in the 1500 range again.

It's tricky giving rating estimate for these two, due to their lack of experience against players with proper coaching. For example, while I estimated JJ at 1850, I'm taking into account how fast he adjusts and learns in each match - he'd probably often lose the first game and have to come back, and might even struggle at first with 1700 players.

Here are some pictures taken via someone's cell phone. (We have a group picture, but I haven't got it yet.)

They hit with many of our top junior players: Nathan Hsu (16, rated 2397), Derek Nie (12, 2215), Roy Ke (13, 2229), Princess Ke (11, 1954), Tiffany Ke (8, 1439, and Tony Li (11, 1800). They were great with the kids, and posed with pictures with all of them as well as signing autographs. I think JJ and Brady were as much in awe of the kids' skills as the kids were of them. By the end of their time at the club, they and the kids were having fun and talking like old friends. These were two very nice athletes; their stardom has not gone to their heads. They were as excited about playing table tennis as a kid playing baseball. Both were interested in coming more often for lessons and regular play, but JJ can't because of the team's schedule. But Brady can, and plans to come regularly. I'm looking forward to working with him - once we've made a few adjustments on his forehand, I can already see him running around looping forehands.

One interesting tidbit - when JJ was hitting with the 2400 Nathan Hsu, Nathan of course dominated with his two-winged looping. But when they played points, Nathan actually had trouble with JJ's serve. Part of this was because he was nervous, and wasn't expecting good serves. I told him to stop thinking about it and just react, and then he began looping them in. I also missed a few of JJ's serves at first, but then stopped missing them.

The Orioles have a table at their clubhouse. Besides JJ and Brady, the other regulars are Manny Machado, Steve Pearce, and Nick Markakis. Nick plays with a hardbat and chops! They've invited us to come in and play at their clubhouse, though we haven't set a date yet. They were also interested to learn that two-time USA Cadet Team Member Tong Tong Gong lives about 15 minutes from Orioles Park, and may invite him to come in and hit with them. (Tong Tong doesn't know this yet!)

I've been an Orioles fan since 1972, when I was 12, so it was an exhilarating experience hitting with these two. They were extremely nice, and very fast learners. When I made adjustments to their strokes, both picked them up fast, though they'll need more practice to ingrain the changes. You could see how their baseball skills transferred to table tennis with their fast reflexes and ability to learn new skills quickly. Both could react to my best smashes and loop kills. They didn't most back, but they got their rackets on them over and over, and JJ made some nice blocks. Some of you may remember Brady's range as a center fielder. Well, you could see both when he ranged around playing his all-forehand game, and when I taught him how to lob. He'd never done this, but he picked it up very quickly, and with me smashing at 80% speed to his forehand he was not only lobbing ball after ball, but he began counter-smashing, making the shot over half the time.

I gave them both autographed copies of three of my books: Table Tennis: Steps to Success, Table Tennis Tales and Techniques, and Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. They gave the kids autographed copies of baseball cards, and offered free tickets to games. We'll take them up on that sometime soon.

All in all, a great day at MDTTC. The kids have a great story to tell at the school, as well as lots of pictures.

World Championships

They started yesterday, in Paris, May 13-20. Here's the ITTF World Championships page, where you can follow all the action - results, articles, pictures, etc.

Team USA at Worlds

Here's the USA Team at the Worlds Page, which shows up-to-date results and video.

ITTF Sports Science Congress

Here's Donn Olsen's report on the Congress, with lots of stuff of interest to coaches and players.

Table Tennista

Table Tennista has lots of Worlds coverage.

Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov Training

Here's a video (1:47) of these two Germans training for the Worlds taken just yesterday. (Timo is the lefty.) They are ranked #5 and #7 in the world, the two highest Europeans in the rankings.

Rally of the Month

Here's a video (23 sec) of a great video between two kids in the last point of their match.

Pongcast Episode 26

Here's the video (3:45). In this episode: Killerspin promotes table tennis in high schools, Ariel Hsing plays with her friends Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, plus Zhang Jike and Liu Guoliang give us insight on their careers, relationship with each other, and hopes for the future.

The Four Elements of Match Basics

Here's the article - the elements are serve, receive, first attack, and first block.

Degree Deodorant

Here's a video (33 sec) of a new commercial for Degree Deodorant that features table tennis. It shows up 11 and 26 seconds in, both times for about 3 seconds.  

Kasumi Ishikawa Photo Shoot

Here's a rather funny video (23 sec) of Kasumi Ishikawa of Japan during a photo shoot taken just this morning at the Worlds. She's not used to doing these shots without a ball! Ishikawa finished fourth at the 2012 Olympics in Women's Singles (just one short of a medal!), but got the Silver Medal in Women's Teams. She is currently #8 in the world, but reached #5 for two months last year.

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April 12, 2013

Wet Balls

I saw a discussion on the OOAK forum about whether it's a let if the ball is wet during a rally, and so slides off your racket into the net. The question comes up all the time. The answer is yes. Here's the rule:

Rule 2.09.02.04: [Play may be interrupted] "because the conditions of play are disturbed in a way which could affect the outcome of the rally."

If a ball is wet, "the conditions of play are disturbed in a way which could affect the outcome of the rally." The only question is how to judge this. A wet ball normally slides off the racket into the net. But so does a misread backspin serve. So it's a judgment call. The best indication is if there's a wet spot on the racket - but again, it's a judgment call since that wet spot might have been there before the point started or have been hit with sweat during the point. But normally it's pretty obvious if the ball went into the net because of a wet ball, and checking a wet spot on the racket is just verification. I have had opponents put my heavy backspin serve into the net and call "wet ball" when they had simply misread the serve, as indicated by their racket angle. (If you serve backspin but the split second after contact pull your racket up, this'll happen a lot. But it takes practice.)

I believe the wording used to be that it would be a let "if the ball was fractured or imperfect in play," but at some point it was changed. With both wordings the main reasons for calling a let because of the ball is because it is wet or fractured. (Or, of course, if another ball rolls into your court.)

How do you avoid wet balls? When it's hot & humid, I always advise players to have two towels. (Yes, I'm doubling up on "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.") One for you, and one for the ball and your racket. If you use the latter towel regularly, you'll rarely have wet balls. However, having two towels doesn't mean just bringing two towels - you might need to bring a third, since towels get damp when it's hot & humid. You might be able to use a damp towel for yourself, but drying a ball with a damp towel only makes the ball damp. I often bring an extra towel or two for students I coach at tournaments, who always seem to forget to bring one (not to mention two). 

There's still a flaw in this two- (or three-) towel strategy - your serving hand tends to get damp when it's hot & humid, which means every time you serve you start with the ball lying on your damp hand. My solution? I use my regular towel to dry my serving hand off. When that towel becomes damp, then I use the ball & racket towel to also dry off my serving hand. This gradually dampens that towel, and eventually you will need to go to your third towel. Or a fourth. Or a fifth. (Practically speaking, I've never needed more than three towels in a day to keep the ball, racket, and serving hand dry - one for me, and two for the ball, racket, and when needed, serving hand.)

There's a simple solution for all this. It's called AIR CONDITIONING.

Table Tennista

As usual, there are a lot of new international articles at Table Tennista (mostly featuring China), including the following:

Very Fast Training with Dimitrij Ovtcharov

Here's the video (24 sec) - why can't you do this? Of course, Dimitrij is #7 in the world.

USA National College Championships

They start today in Rockford, IL - follow the action (results and video) at their home page!

Richard McAfee Paddle Picture

Here's a picture of former USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee. (If Facebook won't let you see it, try this.) As he describes it, it was "given to me from a table tennis coach in Thailand in appreciation for my work leading the ITTF Tsunami Relief Project in 2005. Besides being a top junior coach he also teaches art." And yes, the shadow on the lower left is a silhouette of Thailand.

David Bowie Playing Table Tennis

Here he is - but what is that he's wearing? (If Facebook won't let you see it, try this.) It's like a psychedelic version of Neo from The Matrix

Airport Ping-Pong

Here's a picture of Michael Landers (R, 2009 USA Men's Singles Champion) and Patrick Wu playing on improvised tables at Chicago O'Hare Airport. (If Facebook won't let you access it because you aren't "friends" with the owner, try this.) What, you've never seen Airport Ping-Pong? Here's a video (2:48) at Houston Airport last August after the Southern Open and Junior Olympics (held back to back). At the start you see Amy Lu (the lefty) and Lilly Lin playing, with me in the background catching balls for them. Then Nathan Hsu starts to play. At 1:14 I start hitting with Nathan.

"I'm Pinging in the Rain!"

Here's the picture!

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