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

40 Years Ago: Ping-Pong the Ambassador

Jun 29th, 2011No Comments

It’s hard to believe that nearly 40 years ago, US-China foreign relations were virtually non-existent. Under the communist rule of Mao Ze Dong, China had lived in isolation from the rest of the world for decades. Nearly 7,000 miles apart, it seemed as if the most powerful nation in the world and the most populous nation in the world were indefinitely separate.

And then in 1971, ping-pong… Yes, ping-pong, helped to put an end to the hostility.

1971—Nagoya, Japan (31st World Table Tennis Championship): Glenn Cowan, a member of the U.S. national ping-pong team, stumbled onto the Chinese team bus after accidentally missing his own. As the bus doors closed, he realized he made a big mistake. Back in China, the Cultural Revolution was ongoing, fueled by nationalist rhetoric and a fierce hatred of American imperialism. As a result of the divide, Chinese athletes were told to avoid foreigners at international competitions. As Cowan entered the bus, none of the Chinese players moved or said anything as the scared and confused Cowan wondered what to do. Among these players was the three-time world champion Zhuang Zedong. Zedong felt sorry for Cowan, and took it upon himself to help the American out. Little did these two men know, their interaction would be a monumental force in causing China to formally open its borders to the American ping-pong team. Forty years later, historians tab this event as the turning point, which signaled the arrival of a new era in US-China relations. Undoubtedly, the series of table tennis matches between the People’s Republic of China and the United States laid the groundwork for renewed diplomatic relations between the two countries.

To celebrate this landmark event, USA Table Tennis will host a 14-member Chinese delegation to stage the “40th Anniversary Celebration of Ping-Pong Diplomacy Exhibition” July 1, at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The delegation will include veterans of the original Ping-Pong diplomacy competitions.

A glimpse into Ping-Pong Diplomacy can be seen below on Youtube.