Ovtcharov and Gazprom's Championship Pipeline - Butterfly Table Tennis
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Ovtcharov and Gazprom’s Championship Pipeline

(by Steve Hopkins)

With the German League still 2 weeks away from starting their final (between Dusseldorf and Saarbrucken), the only European league action is in Russia where Dimitrij Ovtcharov’s Fakel Gazprom team continues to dominate the competition.

In their Russian Premier League match yesterday, Fakel Gazprom topped UMMC 3-1.  Both teams are solid by any standard, with Fakel’s roster yesterday with Ovtcharov (World No. 9), Freitas (No. 25), and Shibaev (No. 83) and UMMC’s roster fielding Pitchford (No. 15), Tiutriumov, and Pucar (No. 33).  In fact, these two teams account for the last 5 Russian League Championships.  *Interestingly, the one win by UMMC yesterday was by the 23 year old Russian Aleksandar Tiutriumov who, like several other young players we have featured recently, has not had the chance over the last year to rise in the World Rankings as so few events have been available.

Ovtcharov continues to work hard to contend for an Olympic medal, and dominating World No. 15 Pitchford 3-0 bodes well for his chances.  The Fakel Gazprom team is the defending Russian league champions – and were a finalist in the European championships event as well (losing in a close match to a loaded Dusseldorf team).

The sponsor of Ovtcharov’s team has been in the news in the US recently as well.  The US State Department cited a Gazprom affiliate and chief executive, but waived sanctions allowing the Swiss-registered Gazprom affiliate to move forward with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany.  Gazprom is also involved with Burisma in ventures moving natural gas through Ukraine – so they were indirectly involved in US political news all through the 2020 campaigns.  The 764 mile Nord Stream 2 pipeline will double the potential exportation output of natural gas from the Gazprom facility in Russia to European markets – and, perhaps, provide Gazprom with the resources to land a few more great players for their Fakel Gazprom table tennis team.

For all those math nerds out there – Nord Stream 2 at maximum capacity should be able to ship 1.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year.  A ping pong ball has a volume of about 4 cubic inches.  There are 12 vertical layers of cubic inches in a cubic foot.  If my math is correct (no more than 50/50 odds its correct), we’re looking at a total volume equivalent to 12,049,695 ping pong balls per day.  That means it could ship the total number of balls manufactured each year (200 million) about every 16 days.

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