Picture This: Willy Leparulo’s View at the US Open
(by Willy Leparulo)
Picture this. The home of Walt Disney World, Sea World, Epcot and more, but the main event for me was the 2018 US Open of Table Tennis in Orlando, Florida at the Orange County Convention Center.
People think of Orlando as having a lot of things to do, an entertainment hub. Table Tennis doesn’t even come to mind, until now!
My 2018 US Open was a memorable experience for many reasons:
* First time in Florida since 2002
* First time in Orlando probably, ever
* First time commentating as a member of the USA Table Tennis media team.
(I have commentated for the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association but never for USATT)
I was honored to be called on to help by Matt Hetherington, USATT’s Media & Communications Director, to assist in this event. As President of NCTTA, I’m used to asking others to help in our events. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to give back and help USA Table Tennis and see many of the similarities between the two organizations.
I was able to work with a “Who’s Who” of the Table Tennis world – including Matt Hetherington, Sean O’Neill, Ryan Willard and Timothy Wang. I have to share some of the experiences I had with each!
Sean O’Neill is a veritable legend in the sport! (Has his own wikipedia page!). He is someone who I have admired for a long time for his play for the US National Team and his endless contributions for Table Tennis and College Table Tennis. I got to sit next to him and call a match, it was an absolute honor once the shock wore off of who I was working with.
Another Table Tennis legend is Olympian, Timothy Wang who competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics, was a National Team member, and was a college table tennis athlete with Pillar College. Aside from all of that, he was super down to earth and a pleasure to work with. After the broadcast was over on one of the first days he played everyone left handed. It was an amazing game. (Note he is a right-hander by trade!).
Ryan Willard was the MC for the event and did the pre-game shows and he and I worked a couple of matches together in the early rounds. It is like I have known Ryan for years – even though I just met him, we hit it off famously. What a presence he is in the booth and on the court to excite our table tennis populace.
Last but not least is Matt Hetherington who works for USA Table Tennis, and in my opinion has a dream job. He is the one who invited me to join the crew. I didn’t get to work with him one on one, but on a personal note I did get to help him find medicine for the bronchitis he was suffering from 🙂 Thank you Matt for inviting me to be a part of this star studded crew, I am humbled and honored.
This experience was not over because during down times I was allowed to help David Del Vecchio and Tae Kim with the video side as well. They entrusted me with the sacred task of Replay Operator. I had no experience, and was almost utterly clueless but they handed me a headset and I entered this dark, yet hysterically funny world of Video Crew Chatter! I was just a small part of this crew, but it was amazing to be a part of the bigger picture of producing a great US Open for the fans in Orlando as well as the fans around the world. My wife, Shelly, was involved in score keeping, and many NCTTA friends, college Table Tennis players (from as far as University of Washington and locally at Florida State), were on camera and behind the scenes making this event look so professional.
Recollecting my thoughts – it was literally only from a Wednesday to a Friday, just three whole days. How well can you really know people in three days? Imagine working side by side from 9am to late night and you will certainly come to appreciate the one thing we all share, passion for the greatest sport, Table Tennis!
A truly amazing time and experience to work with the talented USA Table Tennis commentating and video crew.