With the Olympics fast approaching, you’re going to see a slew of primers getting you ready for each sport. The one I think is most worth reading is my compadre HardaMullin’s men’s basketball primer – I came away impressed at the caliber of the teams outside of the United States (like France, who would have thought they were good at anything besides soccer and making croissants?)
Anyways, the point of this post is to provide some much needed information on American ping pong at the London Games. Raise your hand if anyone has seen an article written on the 2012 American table tennis team. Or if you can name a ping pong player from the United States. I can’t see your hands since I’m not in the same room as you, but I imagine that nobody reading this raised their hand in response to either question.
That’s because we have one, count ‘em, one men’s player that qualified for the 2012 Olympics. His name is Timothy Wang, a 5-foot-9, 140-pound 20-year old from Houston. Wang is currently ranked No. 408 in the world, and the reason that he qualified is that a country can send a max of two players to compete in singles. So even though China has 25 players ranked ahead of Wang (including five of the top six in the world), only the top two, Zhang Jike and Ma Long, will be allowed to participate.
Needless to say, it’s highly unlikely that Wang will be able to bring home any sort of medal. In fact, no American has since table tennis became an Olympic sport in 1988. And as American table tennis director Doru Georghe said in an interview with Grantland, the gap between American and Chinese ping pong is “like the Atlantic Ocean.” This is due in large part to the fact that the Chinese put their best players in table tennis academies at the early age, whereas most Americans play it for fun in their basement.
As for Jike, if he wins the gold medal, he will become the fourth men’s player to win a career grand slam, as he won both the World Championships and World Cup in 2011. He will have to beat out Long, who won bronze at the World Championships and whose team placed first in doubles. See what I mean about world domination?
But regardless of how much the deck is stacked against Tim, I’ll be pulling for him and will update SpreeGoogs nation on his matches (his first round opponent is announced on July 25). If you want to wish him luck, you can try to creepily send him some love on Facebook (pretty sure this is him). And maybe send him some money too, since apparently he has to pay for his own travel.
Now for the best part, ping pong videos. Wang is in black on the first video, and the second is a match between Jike and Long.