Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Junior and Cadet Camp

Ah, the good old days of being on the cadet and junior teams. One of the biggest goals of a young American table tennis player is to make the cadet team (if you're under 15 as of Jan. 1 of the coming year) or the junior team (if you're under 18 as of Jan. 1 of the coming year) or both if you're a talented little youngster. Every year, the cadet and junior team trials go down at the U.S. Nationals in Vegas, where juniors and cadets compete for 16 spots on the boys' and girls' junior and cadet teams. It's super intense. You'd be surprised how much emotion runs through the players and their families. Now that I'm past that phase of my life (I'm old and 19 y.o. now :-p), I look back and shake my head at my past intensity and tears shed. But as anyone who spends 10 hours a week practicing table tennis or commutes 1 or even 2 hours for practice or spends their summers abroad, training for table tennis, can attest, making the junior or cadet team is a big deal. Members of the national junior teams get sent to camps and tournaments all around the world, all expenses paid. Pretty sweet deal, huh?

The reason this topic came up with me is because on the usatt.org website, there's a little blurb about how ClubJoola in Rockville, MD, is going to host the summer training camp for cadets and juniors this year. Opened in Dec. 2007, it seems like a pretty cool site, with easy access to Washington, D.C. and its attractions, such as the Smithsonian, the White House, and the National Mall. I'm interested in seeing how the place is and how the camp goes.

I like how there are more and more full-time table tennis centers popping up around the US. For example, there's Fan Yiyong's club in Seattle, the Potomac Table Tennis Club in Maryland, the TopSpin Club. I hope to see more!

That's it for now. Peace.

Monday, June 23, 2008


How could I forget? Before you go out and hit the table tennis club, you need to get yourself some good equipment.

First of all, what can't you play with? No sandpaper rackets, please. They ruin the ball and are illegal to use in match play. Second, any rubber that is not black or red -- purple, green, orange is kaput, no-no, out the window. Third, a racket that isn't mostly made out of wood. If you buy from a big table tennis brand, such as Butterfly, Stiga, or Killerspin, you don't really have to worry about what I just mentioned.

Okay, so there are basically two types of rackets that you can buy. The first is the pre-assembled, recreational paddle, which is used for very informal situations. Recreational rackets come pre-assembled, where the rubber sheets come preglued on the wood racket. Quite inexpensive, these can be found at your local sporting goods store (Big 5, Copeland's, what have you).

The second type is the custom-made, high performance rackets that most competitive players use. The player chooses his or her blade and the individual sheets of rubber. Rubber sheets come in four different varieties: 1) inverted, the most popular, also known as pips-in, 2) pips out, and 3) anti-spin. One assembles the racket by applying table tennis glue (which is very similar to rubber cement) to both the blade and the sheet of rubber and then by cutting the sheet of rubber to fit to the blade's head. This customization allows for the player to choose the right combination for his or her playing style. The myriad choices can also prove to be very, very overwhelming, especially to those just starting out.

I've played with Butterfly equipment my whole life (they've been my sponsor for as long as I can remember), and I'd recommend the Primorac paddle with Sriver rubbers for anyone who's starting out. I would surf around the net and check out different websites and brand names to see which combo might be best for you. To start off, I'd recommend Google-ing "table tennis racket" and seeing what comes up. As for brands, I'd say that these are the big, trusted ones: Butterfly, Stiga, Joola, Donic, Juic, Nittaku, Tibhar, Yasaka.

That's it for now. Peace!

Get out of your basement and start playing!

So you know about ping pong and want to start getting some real competition aside from your family members? usatt.org has a complete list of all registered clubs in the nation. Check it out here.

If you're in the Bay Area (where I'm from), be sure to check out these clubs:

  • Palo Alto Table Tennis Association (Palo Alto) - My second-home club. http://www.tabletennisgold.com/paloalto.html
  • Concord Table Tennis Club (Pleasant Hill) - My home club and also Survivor contestant, Yau Man's, home club! http://www.concordtabletennis.com/
  • Sunset Table Tennis Club (San Francisco) - http://www.sunset-ttc.com/
  • The Top Spin (Santa Clara) - http://www.thetopspin.com/
  • Indian Community Center (Milpitas) - http://www.indiacc.org/AM/Template.cfm
I hope you go out and take a chance. Good luck!

Friday, June 20, 2008

2008 Chinese Olympic Team

China announced its men's and women's teams on Wednesday. It's pretty cool that China's top two players on both the men's and women's teams are also ranked #1 and #2 in the world.

On the men's side will be the following:
1. Wang Hao: #1 in the World, singles silver medalist in Athens 2004
2. Ma Lin: #2 in the World
3. Wang Liqin: this will be his 3rd Olympics
Alternate: Chen Qi

On the women's side will be the following:
1. Zhang Yining: #1 in the World, singles and doubles gold medalist in Athens 2004
2. Guo Ye: #2 in the World
3. Wang Nan: this will be her 3rd Olympics
Alternate: Li Xiaoxia

I personally cannot wait until the Olympics!

Timo Boll was a prodigy!

Timo Boll, Germany's #1 player, is going to be representing Germany at the 2008 Olympics this summer (yay for Olympics!). This video showcases his early talent, starting from age 4. (Btw, I just realized that in the clip where Timo Boll is 9 years old, Timo's opponent is one of my coaches, Stefan Feth :-p. Stefan now coaches in Palo Alto, CA).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Basic Table Tennis Rules

So apparently I became a certified club umpire at age 11 or something. You should probably get to know the rules of the game, too. If you have time, take a look at USATT's (USA Table Tennis) rule book at http://www.usatt.org/rules/index.shtml. For a more user-friendly version, check this link out: http://www.pongworld.com/more/rules.php.

Many people still go by the 21-point-game, but in 2000 the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) changed the rules so that all games be played to 11 points.

Monday, June 16, 2008

2006 Best Points

So you think that only Chinese people play ping pong? True, ping pong is really popular in China, and, indeed, China produces many of the world's best players, including World Champions and Gold Medalists, such as Wang Liqin, Ma Lin, and Kong Linghui. China's Wang Hao is currently ranked #1 in the world. However, contrary to popular belief, Europeans and non-Chinese countries also have a presence in the international table tennis scene. Sweden's Jan Ove Waldner (3x World Champion and Olympic gold medalist) is a table tennis legend, and many in the table tennis world consider him the best table tennis player in history. Korea can claim Olympic Gold Medalist Ryu Seung-Min, Gold Medalist Kim Taek Soo, and World Championships Runner-Up Joo Se Hyuk. Germany's Timo Boll sat at the number 1 spot for a while in 2003. Austria's Werner Schlager won the 2003 World Championships. If we take a look at the men's world rankings, we see that non-Chinese players actually do have a presence in the table tennis scene.

2 MA Lin CHN
3 MA Long CHN
4 WANG Liqin CHN
8 RYU Seung Min KOR
9 JOO Se Hyuk KOR
10 LI Ching HKG
11 GAO Ning SIN
12 CHUAN Chih-Yuan TPE
13 OH Sang Eun KOR
16 HAO Shuai CHN
18 KREANGA Kalinikos GRE
20 MAZE Michael DEN

So, yes, ping pong is pretty big internationally, and not just in China. Maybe Americans should start treating this sport as seriously as other countries do :-o!

With that, here's a little something something to show you some world class table tennis in action. I found this video on YouTube, and it features the world's top men, including China's Wang Liqin, Germany's Timo Boll, Belarus's Vladmir Samsonov, Korea's Ryu Seung-Min, and Austria's Werner Schlager. If you listen to the commentary, it's in some weird European language. Ping pong on TV in Europe. See, it exists outside of China!

Day 1

Hi there! First of all, welcome to my blog. My hope for this blog is that it will enable more to learn to appreciate competitive table tennis as a real sport that can actually make a person sweat (it's true--real, salty, sticky sweat).

For the 11 years I've played competitive table tennis, I have had to try to convince too many people that, yes, ping pong is a sport and, yes, strenuous physical workouts and footwork drills can actually help someone's table tennis game. While I completely endorse basement table tennis, ping pong is more than a leisurely game to be played at random family gatherings. Table tennis is an Olympic sport to which many people around the world devote much (if not all) of their lives.

I'll continually update this blog. I'm thinking of including basics, such as rules, playing styles, equipment, tournaments, organizations, and how to get involved. I'll also try to post cool videos, photos, current events, and featured players. And if there's anything else you want to know, lemme know!

So, with that, I hope that this blog can provide a window into the "other," less known side of table tennis. Welcome, and enjoy!