USA World Team Trials

February 14, 2012

Tip of the Week

Those Dizzying No-Spin Serves.

Happy Valentines Day!

Here's your Ping-Pong Champion Valentine!

Results for U.S. Olympic and World Team Trials

Here are the Final Twelve results for Men and Women. (The top ten men and women were seeded into the Final Twelve, with a Qualifier held for the final two spots in each. Here's the Men's Qualifier and the Women's Qualifier.) The top four made the U.S. National Team and advance to the North American Olympic Trials in Cary, NC, April 20-22, where they will compete against the top four Canadians for the three available spots each for men and women. Making the team and advancing were:

Men: Michael Landers, Barney Reed, Adam Hugh, Timothy Wang
Women: Gao Jun, Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, Erica Wu

U.S. Olympic Trials News

Here's a rundown of my four days at the Trials, where I coached John Hsu in the Qualifier and Han Xiao in the Final Twelve.

  • John Hsu's (18 years old, rated 2236) first match on Thursday was against Brian Pace (rated 2410). Brian, who spent years in the 2550 range, was staging a comeback, and had been training in Austria. John's a two-winged looper who often opens with spinny backhand loops. Brian, who had switched to short pips on his backhand a while ago (he used to use inverted) is a big forehand looper whose loops prove ping-pong balls can travel faster than light. John moved him around with his two-winged looping, and often took control with his serve and follows, but Brian's "opportunistic" forehand howitzers (opportunistic as in any ball that went long on his side of the table) finally wore him down - barely. Down 6-10 in the seventh, John deuced it, but lost the next two points and the match, -3,9,-8,7,-7,7,10.
  • Han Xiao, alas, also did not make the team, going 6-5 to finish seventh. He was hampered on the last day by a shoulder problem as well as general exhaustion, which everyone seemed to suffer from, so it sort of evened things out. Razvan Cretu said he thought he was going to die during several matches - I think he died a thousand deaths. It's a grueling schedule to play table tennis at the highest level and go through eleven matches in three days, all best 4 out of 7. It was even worse for Razvan, who had to go through the Qualifier the day before. (Perhaps next time have the Qualifier at the Nationals?)
  • Going into the last round, there was a good chance that there would be a five-way tie for the first five positions, all at 8-3. If Han had won his last two matches that's exactly what would have happened. However, after going up 3-0 on Adam Hugh, he lost in seven, and then lost to Michael Landers 4-2. If he'd won those two (coulda, woulda, shoulda) then Han, Landers, Timothy Wang, Barney Reed, and Peter Li would have all been 8-3. (If Adam had won his last match against Timothy, then he would have been the fifth player at 8-3.)
  • I felt uncomfortable coaching against Peter Li, since he was from my club, and I've spent many hours practicing with him, and coached him in many matches during his junior years. However, his dad wanted to coach him that match, so I had to coach Han. In a rematch of the Final of Men's Singles at the USA Nationals in December, Peter won again, 8,-9,9,-2,3,9. Peter had a lot of service faults called against him in the tournament, alas. He tends to throw the ball back and behind his head on his forehand pendulum serves (his best serve), and seemed unable to adjust his service motion. It probably cost him his last match against Mark Hazinski, and he finished fifth and did not make the team or advance. However, I believe there is a coach's pick for the fifth spot on the World Team, and it would be a crime against humanity if Peter, the U.S. National Champion at age 18, is not selected.
  • Grant Li, age 17, was sort of the unsung breakout star at the Trials. Though he only finished 8th, he challenged a lot of players, with wins over Barney Reed, Razvan Cretu, Lubovic Gombos, and Chance Friend, as well as losing 11-9 in the 7th against Han Xiao (leading 9-7 in the last game), going seven games with Michael Landers, and getting two games each against Fan Yiyong and Timothy Wang. He made it through the Qualifier with wins over Jeff Huang and De Tran, the second and third seeds there, both 2500 players.
  • One spectator had brought a very loud noisemaker, and played it over and over when the player he was rooting for won a point.
    • In Han's match against that player, the spectator with the noisemaker sat almost directly behind me, so I was stuck with this blaring sound every couple of points. It gave me a massive headache. There's a difference between a bunch of people with noisemakers in a stands of thousand of people, and a sometimes sparse crowd with one person with such a loud noisemaker. But to each his own.
    • After the match I spoke with the spectator, and pointed out that though they have these things at the World Championships, there the sound blends into the noise from thousands of people in the stands, plus they are much farther from the playing area. In the match against Han, there were only a few dozen in the stands. (In later rounds the stands would fill up with many hundreds.) So the blaring was a real nuisance. However, the spectator insisted on using it throughout the Trials, and I decided not to make an issue of it. The headache never went away - I literally had it the rest of the Trials.
    • There was some discussion of it in the players' lounge, where the consensus was that it was irritating, but to just ignore it. I also sometimes saw something I had seen at the Worlds - a sort of bubble would form around the noise-making spectator as others edged away so as not to have their ears blasted. One elderly spectator complained about it to one of the officials, but was shrugged off. He returned to the stands and sat as far away from the noisemaker as possible.
    • I was disappointed that the spectator didn't care that he was giving me (and presumably others) a massive headache, and that the blaring interrupted the other matches that were going on at that time. His argument was that he was there to cheer on his player. I disagree with his view, but understand it. Ultimately, this was a difference of opinion. (But I'm the one who had to spend three days with a percussion orchestra pounding away in my head.)
    • Unfortunately, the player he was rooting for overheard this and came over and went on a personal attack tirade that I won't repeat here. Not a civilized response. The spectator and I disagreed, but didn't resort to personal attacks. This player did, and was way out of line. 
    • Maybe at the next Trials I'll bring a jackhammer to play between points. :)

Yahoo for Ariel!

Here's an article at Yahoo about U.S. Women's Champion Ariel Hsing and her Olympic hopes.

173 hits in 60 seconds

12-year-old Ai Fukuhara sets the record for most hits in 60 seconds. This is from the TV show "Ultimate Guinness World Records from a few years ago. She is now #9 in the world, and was #7 for two months last year. Here's a more recent photo, and her Wikipedia page.

Lemonade or Tea?

Here's a Snapples commercial that features table tennis.

Swing Pong

How's this for a new type of table tennis (1:01)? The Swing Pong table is a radical take on ping pong. The table tilts at the whim of the referee, the net moves across the table based on the score as to give the losing player an advantage, and photo flashes blind the players through the table.

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