The #1, #3, and #4 Players in the USA
(By Bill Draper)
Kids these days!
The Maryland Table Tennis Center (MDTTC) has a long history of producing strong players both regionally and nationally. Three of those players, Stanley Hsu, Mu Du, and Andy Wu were #1, #3 and #4 respectively in the USA!
I suppose I should add that they hold those rankings in the boys under 10-year-old group.
Now, before you go off claiming that the title of this article is click-bait, I hope the subtitle was a good enough hint that it’s meant tongue-in-cheek. But joking aside, these kids, and others like them, may very well shape the future of table tennis in America.
Going in to the 2018 US Nationals in Las Vegas this July, Stanley was ranked #1, Mu Du #3, and Andy #4 in the U10 boys’ category. When the tournament was over, Stanley finished first, with Mu Du and Andy finishing 3-4 (semifinals), exactly as they went in. Mu Du’s only loss in the boys U10 group was to Stanley. (In new ratings, it’s Stanley #1, Any #3, and Mu Du #5.)
Like many others, Andy was introduced to table tennis, and specifically MDTTC, by word of mouth. He was six years old when he started, and he enjoyed excellent training by top coaches, including one of the top players and coaches in the world, Cheng Yinghua. Andy views table tennis as a hobby at this stage, playing on average 3 times a week, also enjoying math in school, chess and tennis. Most of us can only wish for such success at our own “hobbies”. His favorite player is the amazing Ma Long.
Andy’s only loss was in the semifinals against the player who was ultimately defeated in the finals by Stanley. Oh, and it should be noted that Andy is chopper. A rare breed these days. He recently went from medium to short pips on the backhand.
Mu Du started off by attended an MDTTC camp at age seven. He also attended Larry Hodges’ Beginning Junior Class. He now trains an hour each week with coach Cheng and spends two days after school with Coach Wang Qingliang, another of the top-notch coaches at MDTTC. He also likes math in school and is enrolled in the program for Gifted and Talented students. He and his parents are taking a respectable view at this stage of his development by supporting his interests while helping make sure he is enjoying the journey.
It may not be entirely inaccurate to say that Stanley Hsu started at age two, just hitting a ball off the floor with his grandfather. He started at MDTTC attending a summer camp when he was five. He was also in Larry’s Beginning Junior Class. He trains three days each week with Cheng with help from other excellent coaches at MDTTC. He regularly competes in league matches at MDTTC. One player that has inspired Stanley is Crystal Wang, one of the more successful players to have benefitted from the center. He also watches the play of top Chinese team members and the youth sensation, Harimoto Tomokazu.
Stanley is an avid reader, with interests in non-fiction, science and math. He hopes to one day represent the USA on the US National Team.
Stanley won first place at the 2018 US Nationals defeating He Xianyao (2, 8, 4). He Xianyao eliminated Andy in the semifinals. Stanley also was a quarterfinalist in the Under 2000 Junior event and played in the Hopes Boys Singles and the Cadet Boys Doubles with partner Mu Du.
All three kids also benefit from being a part of the HW Global Foundation Talent Development Program held at MDTTC.
The future of table tennis in America will largely be shaped by the young boys and girls that are now developing their skills with the support of the growing number of quality clubs, sponsors and excellent coaching across the country. Regardless of the path pursued by any of these kids, whether continuing to put more emphasis on table tennis as a serious competitive sport, along with the required dedication, or table tennis remains a serious hobby for them, they are gaining valuable life experiences.
There are oft-quoted words essentially decrying “kids these days,” attributed to Socrates, well over two thousand years ago. Whether Socrates ever actually made such comments or not is debatable, but every generation seems to repeat similar sentiments about the youth in their day. So it’s inspiring to see examples of kids who are learning that hard work and dedication can pay off while also doing well in school and making time to just be kids.