By Matt Hetherington, USATT
Ping Pong Diplomacy was on show on Sunday 18th August, as US and China players joined together for practice and doubles exhibition matches at Collins Court, UCLA, in Los Angeles. Not only were the two teams reinforcing their historical bond, but also rival Collegiate table tennis teams University of California (UCLA) and University of Southern California (USC) joined forces at the opposite end of the table. Unity through sport was the resounding message.
A handful of invited spectators from local clubs were able to bear witness to the very best table tennis players on the planet in practice, from table drills to multiball.
With Xu Xin’s finesse, Fan Zhendong’s power and the likes of female strongholds Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen showing the sort of skill that spectators are only used to watching on television, it was certainly a memorable event for those on the sidelines.
The teams received a gracious welcome by Assistant Vice President of UCLA Campus Life, Mike Deluca, and soon after a special speech was made by Chinese Consul General Zhang Ping.
Zhang Ping spoke of how the team had become heroes to the nation of China and had continued to do the country proud with its work ethic and determination to bring honour to the team and to China. He also reminded those there, of the great impact that table tennis has had on diplomacy between China and the USA, and how it can and will continue to play a role in bringing people together.
Three special doubles matches ensued with the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA) President and USA Table Tennis (USATT) CEO taking opposite ends of the table. Liu Guoliang paired with Mike Deluca, while Virginia Sung joined Consul General Zhang Ping for a friendly match.
The following two matches saw UCLA and USC mixed doubles pairings take on the mixed teams from USA and China.
Xu Xin and Wu Yue were the first pair, Ding Ning and Victor Liu followed. It was a great occasion to see teams used to facing off at opposite ends of the table join together on the same side for once.
Overall those present enjoyed the rare opportunity to see Olympic gold medallists and World Champions training right before their eyes. The players were gracious to sign autographs for some fans at the end of the session and hit a few balls with the Consul General and guests.
For the guests, they left with smiles of satisfaction. For the athletes, they will return to the tables tonight to continue their intensive training and hard work.
Visit the website of USA Table Tennis to keep up to date with Team China’s activities Stateside.