The Promise of US Table Tennis: TOP SPIN Documentary

Aug 22nd, 2011No Comments

Fact: The United States has never medaled in table tennis at the Olympics.
Fact: No United States Player has medaled at the World Table Tennis Championships since 1956.
Fact: President Barack Obama is REALLLYYY bad at table tennis. Barack Obama Table Tennis

Is it fair to conclude that the United States grooms poor table tennis performers?

Undeniably, it is hard to dispute this claim. The United States lack of success in international table tennis is exhibit A and B, and the prosecution would need no further questioning.

But the past is the past. There is always a future.

Introducing Michael Landers and Ariel Hsing, two U.S. table tennis prodigies, one male and one female, poised to make the U.S. contenders in the sport of table tennis.

In 2009, Michael Landers ripped through a field of more experienced competitors in route to becoming the youngest ever U.S. Men’s Singles Champion at the age of 15. And then, in 2010, it happened again; Ariel Hsing became the youngest ever Women’s Singles Champion in the United States. She was also just 15 years old.

The story is simply captivating, and this is why Mina T. Son & Sara Newens, two filmmakers stationed in Palo Alto, CA, have decided to document these two on their journeys toward table tennis greatness.

“The film follows Ariel and Michael for a year as they compete domestically and internationally to qualify for the Olympics, all while juggling their last years of high school. Amidst the rigorous training and strict tournament schedule, SATs and college applications loom largely over their heads with the ultimate question arising: with no professional table tennis outlet in the U.S., what does the future hold for them?”(

Check out the documentary’s IMBD page: TOP SPIN

Landers and Hsing represent the future of table tennis in America. Recently, the sport has had a domestic resurgence, as ping-pong has become an extremely popular bar sport. Now ping-pong (or table tennis) needs a face. Landers and Hsing have the potential to be America’s ping-pong ambassadors.

Michael Landers: Youngest US National Champion

Paul Drinkhall: Quest for an Olympic Medal

Aug 3rd, 2011No Comments

2011 WCPP participant, Paul Drinkhall, has been fervently preparing for the 2012 Olympics in London, eagerly awaiting his opportunity to defend his home turf. Drinkhall, the top table tennis player in the United Kingdom since the age of 16, is entering his prime at the age of 21, and believes that he has the ability to put an end to the Chinese domination in table tennis at next year’s summer Olympics.

Drinkhall has always had immense respect for the way in which the Chinese train their table tennis players. In order to receive training and exposure, Drinkhall has visited China annually since he was little kid. He’s been quoted saying that in order to become a better player, it is necessary to play against Chinese players.

One of the many lessons Drinkhall has learned from Chinese players is the importance of commitment. He highlights the fact that while European players tend to seek a balanced life (between professional table tennis and other lines of work), Chinese players devout all their energy to their training. Drinkhall has now picked up a twice-a-day, three-hour training schedule that was modeled after his Chinese counterparts.

Root for Paul Drinkhall in the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games!

Paul Drinkhall

Ping Pong in the Park

Jul 26th, 2011No Comments

A couple days ago, I was walking through Thompkins Square Park near Saint Marx and Avenue A in New York City. The park is full of playgrounds, basketball courts, and elegant places to relax while enjoying the city’s vibrant atmosphere. Sounds of children playing and street musicians fill the air on any reasonably sunny afternoon. And in the middle of all this culture and debauchery, sits a single ping-pong table. It isn’t your ordinary fold-up ping-pong table with a mesh net and four well-balanced legs. Instead, it sits like a stone— its marble coating gleams from the sun’s rays, and its black net, composed of some sort of hard material that I can’t exactly put my finger on, helps to add to its unique nature. Truly, it is unlike any other ping pong table that I’ve ever before. And on this day, about fifteen different people stood around the table, some with racquets in their hands and others simply looking on at the action, watching two players compete for table supremacy.

Thompkins Square Park

I quickly glanced over at the basketball courts and saw two separate 3 on 3 basketball games taking place. For a moment, it seemed as if ping-pong was more popular than basketball. And it got me wondering; if there were more ping-pong tables in American parks, wouldn’t the sport’s popularity in the States rise ten fold? After all, basketball became popular in America as a street game, what’s to say ping-pong can’t do the same.

If you look at parks in China and Germany, ping-pong tables are everywhere. From Berlin to Beijing, people bring their racquets to the park on a daily basis just looking for action. There’s no reason why the same thing can’t occur in America!

Ping Pong in Chaoyang Park, Beijing

One Of Our Own, Tahl Leibovitz, Featured in the Jewish Journal

Jul 25th, 2011No Comments

Here’s a link to an article published in the Jewish Journal about 2011 WCPP fourth place finisher, and Israel representative, Tahl Leibovitz Tahl Leibovitz Jewish Journal. The article calls Tahl the “Greatest Jewish Athlete You’ve Never Heard Of” but to followers of the WCPP, he’s a household name. Tahl is one of the most intense competitors we have seen in the world of table tennis. He is relentless in his approach to the game, consistently fighting up until the last point in every match. Tahl nearly made it to finals of the WCPP, losing in a closely contested battle to Filipino representative, Ernesto Ebuen (10-12, 11-9, 12-14) in the semifinals. On his way to the semifinals, Tahl didn’t lose a single game, beating both Jae Hyun Lim of South Korea, and William Henzell of Australia two games to none.

Some ping-pong coaching tips from Tahl can be seen below:

The Ponginator

Jul 11th, 20111 Comment

It all began in 1947. Byng Forsberg, a paratrooper during World War II, crashed his car and severely injured his right hand while auto racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. As part of his excruciatingly long physical therapy, doctors suggested that Forsberg play ping-pong. The doctors believed that ping-pong was perfect for rehabbing his injured hand, as it is a sport that helps to build muscle memory and is not too taxing on the body.

That was nearly 54 years ago.

The Ponginator in Action

Forsberg’s hand eventually recovered, but he never stopped playing ping-pong. From the day when the doctors told him to take up ping-pong, there has rarely been a week where he hasn’t played. And as a result, Forsberg is now a legend of the sport at the senior level. At the National Senior Summer Games in Houston in June, the 85-year old Forsberg breezed through a field of 30 players in the 85-89 age group. It was Forsberg’s fifth consecutive age group championship at the National Senior Summer Games. His dominating performance goes beyond the box score; as he won the championship WITHOUT losing a SINGLE game.

Forsberg came into the local spotlight five years ago when he challenged the “Governator,” Arnold Schwarzenegger, to a game of ping-pong. Forsberg said he kept getting letters from Schwarzenegger’s campaign team asking for donations, and he persistently wrote back that he would donate, on the condition that the governor played him in a game of ping-pong. When they finally played each other in September of 2006, Arnold nicknamed Forsberg the “Ponginator.” The name has since stuck.

Forsberg, or the “Ponginator”—-whatever you so wish to call him by—- plans to keep playing as long as he is physically able. He is Exhibit A of how ping-pong breaks age barriers and helps older citizens feel young, healthy, and energized.

New Video Game Redefines “Singles Match”

Jun 28th, 2011No Comments

A singles match of ping-pong involves two players, two racquets, a ball, and a table… that is until now. The Japanese video game producer, Happinet, is redefining the term “singles match” with their release of “Hyper Ping Pong.”

I’m not exactly sure where to begin.

For starters, Hyper Ping Pong manages to do away with all the complications that stand between a person and a riveting match of ping-pong. No more pesky balls, tables, and opponents. Who needs them?! Hyper Ping Pong replaces them with a single paddle for one player. As the player swings the paddle, the game produces realistic sounds that simulate a rally with a non-existent Player Two. In order to time your returns properly, a player must listen for the sound and speed of the ball. A motion sensor in the paddle then detects whether or not you “hit” the non-existent ball.

You really have to see it to believe it.

Three ridiculous observations about this video:

First of all, this woman must be the world champion of non-existent virtual table tennis. I mean seriously, look at her form. Brilliantly switching between forehand slams and backhand slapaways—-there is no match for a player of her stature. Plus, she does it all while giggling and smiling like a 5-year old on Christmas; she truly is the face of the most unimportant sport in the world.

Secondly, the inventor of the game states that their slogan is “Go with the Rhythm” adding that Hyper Ping Pong is great for parties “as the people around you will get excited” while they watch. You know what…. he’s absolutely right. Why would I want to play this game when I could just watch people make fools out of themselves? This is obviously the purpose of the game. Their slogan therefore is all wrong… it should really be “making a fool of yourself has never been so easy.”

Finally, this video had shattered a life long dream of mine. I’ve always wanted to play ping-pong against a male ballerina in red shoes. But I guess he’s too busy playing against himself. Clearly, I must not have a good enough imagination. I mean WHERE are those shots landing? For years I have tried to execute the overhead tap and the between the legs flip to no avail. He just makes it seem so effortless while mocking his non-existent opponent with crazy cool dance moves. It’s truly remarkable. I just have one question for the people at Happinet: Is this non-existent table regulation size?

Maybe I’m being close-minded, but I just don’t see the fun in this. Keep ping-pong the way it is: a remarkable sport between two players with real racquets, real balls, and real tables. Go out and find people to play with. After all, it is the second highest participatory sport in the world.