Table Tennis: Low Budget But High Class
A Saturday Special
What can you do with $400?
Buy three meals for Garfield? Yes. But try to be the best table tennis team in the East with such a limited budget? Not likely.
The Harvard table tennis team, sporting a non-Trump-like budget of $400 this year, captured two first and one third-place finish in the 1989 U.S. Intercollegiate Table Tennis Team Championships last weekend at Princeton.
Graduate students Yoshi Futamura, Eckart Lange, and Tsay-Shing Yuan made up Harvard's first team, undergraduates Michael Levin and Yi Gu and grad student Kefeng Liu were on its second team and the third team included undergraduates Louis Tao and Captain Ken Yoon and grad student Yue lin Zhu.
"[Levin] is the most enthusiastic player on the team," Coach Frank Chaing said. "We're hoping that he can bring more players to the team."
Team one won the Division II title, dropping only four games in six matches. The Crimson swept Harvard II, Columbia II, Princeton II and NJIT II by 5-0 scores and defeated both NJIT I and Augusta II by 5-2 marks.
Harvard's second team, scheduled to compete in Division III, was moved up to Division II because it upset Rutgers II in the preliminaries.
Despite the stiffer competition, the team still had a good showing. It split its six matches, finishing third in Division II.
In Division IV, the Crimson's number-three team recorded six wins to capture the title. Harvard defeated Cooper Union III, Columbia III, Cornell II, Princeton IV, Princeton V and Princeton III.
Tao won the last match to clinch the championship for the Division IV team.
Last year, when there were only three divisions, Harvard sent two teams down, with team one nabbing second place and team two finishing fourth in Division III.
"Before going to the tournament, we worked hard together as a team, and we went there determined to win for Harvard," Chaing said.
"This was not simply the effort of nine individuals playing for themselves," Captain Ken Yoon said. "We had trained together, gave each other advice between games and cheered each other on. [Intramural Director] John Wentzell has been very supportive and encouraging. He put a lot of trust in us."
The Harvard table tennis team currently has about 20 active members, a mixture of undergraduate and graduate students. The team has made great strides since 1978, when Chaing led the team to the Northeast Intercollegiate Table Tennis Championship. Considering the primitive condition of its equipment, the squad's accomplishments are that much more impressive.
The current table tennis team is trying to reestablish itself as the best team in the East.
But after Chaing and other top players graduated, the team became disorganized. It wasn't until Chaing returned to Harvard as a visiting Law School scholar last year, that the team once again began to have organized practices.
Harvard has a budget of $400, and the team purchased four new tables ($250 each) last year with the support of the Athletic Department and the Undergraduate Council.
But when compared to other Ivy schools, the Crimson falls short monetarily. Princeton has a budget of $10,000, 18 tournament-quality tables (Harvard has only four) and over 80 members on its squad.
The Tigers also recruit players for their team, including Diana Gee, who was on the U.S. Olympic team last year. Princeton also has access to a tournament-quality facility (Dillon Gymnasium) and a paid coach.
On the other hand, Harvard operates out of the old University squash courts. These courts have white walls, which make the rooms illegal for USTTA (United States Table Tennis Association) tournament play, and the team doesn't have access to a larger gymnasium.
The other three tables are chipped, and the legs holding up the table are uneven. The lights upstairs aren't kept up, since most of the squash players play downstairs.
All other expenses must be paid for by team members, including travel expenses, gas, food, paddles and balls.
Just the Facts, Please
A few facts about table tennis. It debuted as an Olympic medal sport in 1988. It's the second most popular sport in the world after soccer. The ball sometimes travels over 100 mph over a very short distance.
In a study done at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, it was found that no athletes were in better shape than table tennis players, except for marathon runners and long distance walkers.
Growing by 66 percent last year, it is also the fastest growing sport in this country.
Maybe with a little more support, it will pick up at Harvard. And maybe the team will get a few more tables which can honestly sing, "Lean on Me."