-Katy Pirkle, contributing writer
Ping Pong is for chumps, but Table Tennis is for champions. Champions like Mississippi College’s Number-two in North America team. This team is full of players who have proven that they belong at the top. The MC table tennis team is led by Ken Qiu, who was named the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association Coach for the 2014 year. The team has seen some participants come and go because of their eligibility and some have studied abroad, but that has not stopped their success. They have kept their number two standing since 2012 and hope to continue this pattern for the future.
Cheng Li, a junior at Mississippi College, is at the top of his game and the top of the charts as he is ranked the number one singles table tennis player in North America for 2014. Li has been named the team captain and he leads highly-placed team in practices on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings at 7 p.m. The team is made up of six players who continue the legacy that those before them have already started, ultimately training for the North American Table Tennis (NATT) championship.
Kevin Zhang is one of those six players. Zhang, a 22-year-old, from Guangdong province, located in the southeastern part of China, came to Mississippi College to further his studies in the business graduate program. Little did he know that he would also be able to practice his favorite pastime on a weekly basis.
“I began playing table tennis when I was in the third grade, so about when I was nine,” Zhang said. “It was a hobby for me, because my studies always came first.” He continued playing throughout his childhood but took a break from table tennis, as he found a new interest, basketball. Zhang said, “I have played table tennis for a total of about eight years, if you take away the years that I was interested in basketball.” To him it is just a fun activity because his studies will always come first. When Zhang was asked if he was any good he responded with a chuckle and replied, “Oh no, I am not a professional; I am just an amateur.” Table tennis for Zhang may just be a leisure pursuit, but his hobby is taking him to Washington D.C. over Thanksgiving break. Zhang and his roommate, Leo Huang, get the opportunity to participate in a tournament in Washington D.C. and compete with other top opponents.
Andy Kanengiser, who is in charge of the media for the national collegiate table tennis association that oversees the sport at over 150 colleges in the USA and Canada, loves everything about the team and table tennis. Kanengiser, who Zhang refers to as the team leader, said that the upcoming tournament for the roommates “is a tournament that attracts college players and other top players to improve their skills, but isn’t required for NCTTA players.” Zhang is looking forward to travelling and refining the skills of his favorite hobby.
The Miss. College table tennis team is preparing for their next Dixie Division meet, set for Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015, beginning at 9 am. The team will compete against other players from MSU, Tulane and UAB. It will be held in Alumni Hall at Miss. College, and everyone is invited. The team is constantly working towards the goal to be awarded first place in North America at the National Championship, held in Wisconsin on April 10-12, 2015.