Updated: Sep 1

At the end of HITTA's Fun Summer Camp two weeks ago, the club principal Wang Hui, coaches Wantong Liu, Hangyu Li and I went on a trip to Puerto Rico. Why Puerto Rico? Other than it's where I was born and raised, many other reasons.

The friendships, the people, the culture and table tennis to name a few. And why not?

Since 2018, when PR national players first came to train at HITTA, we have hosted a number of players from different parts of the World to improve their level and performance. We currently have members from the USA, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Croatia, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Syria, Venezuela, Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Mexico and the Caribbean with Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Cuba accentuating our "international" heritage. I'm sure a few places escape my memory.

Although we did enjoy the beaches, the rain forest, the mountains, the landscape and all the glorious food you can eat, in the end it was table tennis the ties that bind us. From Guaynabo, to Vega Alta, to El Albergue in Salinas to Utuado, across the mountains and around the beaches it was a mixture of memories and anticipation for me. What follows are a few pictures of our trip and memories that will endure time!

Gracias a Hector Berrios, Melvin Avila, Jorge Naranjo, Francisco Gonzalez, Edgar Alexis, Carlos Gracia, Edgardo Vazquez, Bladimir Diaz y Nune Afanador por permitirnos venir a visitar y compartir con ustedes esta pasion del tenis de mesa! Very special thanks to our friend Jose Bondi Davila who so graciously hosted us and made us feel like family during our stay. Puerto Rico, we will return soon!

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"Sport has to survive and prevail. At some stage, the pandemic will end and we want to be on the front foot showing that even during that difficult time we still had content and our best players competing, and we are still moving forward with our plan in a safe setting."

The returns may not be immediate as official viewership figures are not in yet and WTT is still building up its sponsor pool, which means it has to dig into its reserves first.

Dainton shared that the cost of the Doha bubble, which includes around 6,000 tests for about 150 people and other Covid-19 preventive measures, was about US$1-2 million.

The prize money for the Contender event was also doubled to US$200,000 as a sign of solidarity with the players who have had to cope without being able to challenge for prize money for most of the year.

And this comes at a time when his 15-strong WTT team are at half-strength and have taken a 30-40 per cent pay cut during this downtime.

"Even if it represents an initial investment from us now, we think it's better to try and move on and weather the storm," said Dainton.

He also had to deal with opposition from within the ITTF, with some European associations such as the Germans raising concerns over WTT's governance and accountability last November.

Dainton said such sentiments are understandable and it will do its best to convince the critics that the entire table tennis family will stand to gain if WTT is successful.

He said: "Inside a federation like ours which is 95 years old, where we have had a system for a long time, any major transformation is always going to be hard to accept for some. We try to take it in our stride and see it as there are things that we could improve on and communicate better as well.

"In many sports including us, due to the commercial and financial nature, there is so much more attention on the elite level.

"And when you put the attention only on the elite, hundreds of players behind will be frustrated. They want to also participate but there are not that many events for them because it probably doesn't make as much financial sense to have them.

"This is what we are trying to change by having more tiers and events. The business and financial side of sport are important, but we believe that as WTT takes off, the entire family - member associations, players and partners - can all benefit together."

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Updated: Apr 15

(Colorado Springs, CO – April 13, 2021) – USA Table Tennis (“USATT”), the National Governing Body for the sport of table tennis, today announced that the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships will be held in Houston, Texas, from November 23 through 29, 2021. USATT will serve as the host National Federation for this historic and prestigious event, which was awarded by the International Table Tennis Federation (“ITTF”) to an American city for the first time ever in a year that coincides with the 50th anniversary of another historic table tennis event, Ping Pong Diplomacy.

“We are overjoyed that the World Table Tennis Championships are going to be held in Houston,” said Virginia Sung, CEO of USA Table Tennis. “Not only will it mark the first time the U.S. has hosted this prestigious event, but the 50th anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy adds an additional layer of significance. Once again, we will have the opportunity to celebrate our great international sport in the spirit of inclusion and to demonstrate our shared sense of humanity as we look toward the future. We know that the City of Houston and Harris County-Houston Sports Authority will deliver an extraordinary event for all of us with their exceptional hospitality and professionalism.”

“It is fantastic that in these difficult times of the pandemic we’re able to celebrate this news with fans of table tennis and all sports fans around the world,” said ITTF President Thomas Weikert. “We’re fortunate to have this opportunity to bring the World Championships for the first time ever to the United Sates as we honor the 50th anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy. We’re all looking forward to an extraordinary, amazing event.”

The six-day World Championship event will be held in the George R. Brown Convention Center in Downtown Houston. The Championship Finals are currently planned to be played in Houston’s General Assembly Theater.

“What better way to showcase the sport of table tennis than hosting the ITTF World Championships; we couldn’t be more excited,’’ said Harris County - Houston Sports Authority CEO Janis Burke. “It will be a special week for everyone involved to be a part of one historic moment and commemorate the other. What a tremendous way to introduce more players to the sport.’’

“We are thrilled to partner with USA Table Tennis and the Harris County - Houston Sports Authority to welcome the World Table Tennis Championships to the United States for the first time,” said Susanne Lyons, President, United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee. “The USOPC will work collaboratively with the organizers to celebrate the competitors and competition and provide necessary logistical support for all participants.”

The ITTF Championships were originally awarded the Houston at the 2019 ITTF Annual General Meeting and World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. At the same time, the Chinese Table Tennis Federation was awarded the 2022 Championships, which will be held in Chengdu. Houston and China collaborated in what was, essentially, a joint-support bid. In this effort, the US and China received the support of Yao Ming, the basketball superstar who played for Houston Rockets, as well as President Richard M. Nixon’s grandson, Christopher Nixon Cox.

The individual World Championship tournament offers titles in five different events: men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. The individual World Championship event is held every other year – in the odd numbered years – while the Team World Championship event is held in the even-numbered years.

Ma Long of China is the reigning male World Champion, having won the men’s singles event in the last three consecutive individual World Championships. China’s Liu Shiwen is the reigning women’s singles champion. Ruth Aarons, who won the women’s title in 1936 and shared the title in 1937, is the only American to ever win a singles title in the World Championships. The last Americans to win a title at the World Championships were Erwin Klein and Leah Neuberger who won the mixed doubles title in 1956. Gao Jun, who is the current US Women’s Olympic coach, won the 1991 World Championship women’s doubles title (with partner Chen Zihe) while representing her country of birth, China. Gao Jun and Chen Zihe also won an Olympic Silver Medal for China in women’s doubles in the 1992 games in Barcelona.

Fifty years ago, the US National Table Tennis Team was invited to participate in a series of friendly table tennis matches in China, a trip that is often credited with helping thaw diplomatic relations between the US and China. President Richard M. Nixon traveled to China in 1972, beginning a new era of communication and contact between the two nations.

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