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Ping Pong Prince Bounces to London Olympics

Timothy Wang is the only male American table tennis player headed to the 2012 London Olympics.

I got my backside paddled by a young Asian man over a long table this weekend in broad daylight in the middle of Hollywood.

While that might sound like an average Friday afternoon along Sunset Blvd for some, in this case  the debauchery was limited to Table Tennis – or Ping Pong for the more rec-room centered crowd.

As a preview of the upcoming 2012 London Olympics, Old Spice set up a “Believe in your Smelf.” media opportunity to play Olympian Table Tennis player Timothy Wang at the Hollywood and Highland shopping center. He’s in final training for the upcoming games, but it wasn’t like I was ready to tax his stamina with my feeble game.

I’m an adequate garage or basement Ping Pong player. But that’s not game that’s played at the championship Olympic level. The only male player to quality from the United States for the London games, Wang can play the game several feet off the table. He can serve a ball disguised by impossible english. He spikes the ball with unholy certainty, often clipping the table’s edge with point-scoring accuracy.

In short, Wang made quick work of me. He could’ve embarrassed me, but he didn’t. He’s such a good-natured guy, it’s impossible to do anything but thank him for the lesson. He even took time to play friendly games with members of the shopping public.

After my humbling, I had chance to ask Wang about his Olympic aspirations:

CRAVEONLINE: A lot of people play Ping Pong. At one point does a player who gets to your level start to realize he might be Olympic caliber?

Timothy Wang: I’ve been playing in tournaments since I was a kid. My dad would drive me around to different tournaments, and I just got better.

A lot of people play the game. But a lot of people also love the game enough to play it at a tournament level. They don’t get the recognition they deserve. For me, I realized I had an opportunity to do something with this was in 2010 when I won the national championships in Las Vegas. That’s when I realized, “Wow. I’m pretty good.” I started thinking about the Olympics then.

CRAVEONLINE: When you’re playing Olympic level table tennis, the game is played on a much larger scale. Casual paddlers huge the table, but not the best players. How much bigger is the actual game at the Olympics?

Timothy Wang: I like to stay pretty close to the table myself, actually. But other players stand 10 or 20 feet away to use their power. It’s a whole different level of play.

CRAVEONLINE: What’s the top competition in London?

Timothy Wang: Obviously, I’m watching out for the Chinese guys who play so well. But I’m going for it. I want to take it one match at a time and win the thing.

CRAVEONLINE: Do you get crowds for the big tournaments or the Olympics?

Timothy Wang: The crowds can be pretty big and make a lot of noise. So we have to focus on the opponent like any other athlete.

 

In the weeks to come, stay with CraveOnline to get our first person, boots on the ground coverage from London during the 2012 Summer Olympics.