Chuck Hoey and Chartchai Teekaveerakit exemplified the great diversity one might see at the Northern Virginia Club on any given night in the 70's or 80's. With Chuck already inducted, I will share my thoughts on Chartchai tonight.
Chartchai "Hank" Teekaveerakit was born in Bangkok and learned the game at the age of 12 from Charlie Wuvanich and ChuChai Chan after they returned to Thailand. In three short years, Hank became the National Men's Singles Champion of Thailand and participated in the 1983 World Championships in Tokyo at the tender age of 16.
The following year, my family received a phone call from Charlie asking if we would like to host a junior practice partner from Thailand. Little did my family know that this player would have such a big impact on our lives and that of USA Table Tennis. With the help of Tim Boggan and Gus Kennedy, Hank arrived at the '84 US Open in Vegas ready for action. Our family knew Hank was going to be much more than just a practice partner when he defeated Danny Seemiller to reach the quarterfinal of men's singles, and the finals of the U2500 against Perry Schwartzberg.
After Vegas, Hank and I trained daily and played in as many tournaments both as possible. Bill Steinle of Virginia Beach would often be our mentor on these trips especially when my parents couldn't attend. Lehigh Valley, Detroit, Indianapolis, Cedar Falls, Baton Rouge, Santa Clara, and Miami were all stops along the way we made as a team.
In January of 1985, Hank and I headed to the Angby Sport Club in Stockholm to help prepared for the World Championships in Goteborg. Hank had very impressive results in Sweden and battled with a number of top players while being coached by Nisse Sandberg. We ran into each other a number of times in local events and the outcome was never certain. I believe Hank won the first time we played and I think I won the second time. The special part of our relationship was no matter how hard we fought against each other on the table, the matches always stayed on the table. I am sure Hank hated losing to me as much as I did to him no matter if it was in Sweden, Vegas or in our basement before dinner time. Our competitiveness helped both of us excel.
As a teammate, it was great knowing that Hank was always there to win the next match no matter what. Our epic 4-2 come from behind win with Cheng Yinghua over a strong Atanda Musa led Nigerian team in Detroit was made possible thanks to Hank's 9th match heroics in 1988. For those that remember that match, I never thought an international player could miss the same serve so many times in a row. Later I realized it wasn't simply getting the serve back that was the problem, but stopping Hank's bullet loop if the ball wasn't returned perfectly. That match earned Hank MVP honors from the Teams.
Hank teamed up with Ricky, Randy, Houshang and me to stomp the Canadian's to win our yearly Bulova watches at the CNE! While the memories from Detroit and Toronto are unforgettable, the one match that stands out the most in my mind was in Dortmund at the 1989 World Championships.
As usual Team USA was fighting for a spot in the first Division and we were the underdog against a very strong Austria team lead by former Chinese Star, Ding Yi. With the tie score 4-3 in our favor, Hank went out against former Polish Champion Stanislav Fryczck to seal the deal. Coach Danny Seemiller, Team Leader Dennis Master, ITTF Rep Gus Kennedy, and the rest of the gang cheered on each and every point. The excitement was truly indescribable. Let me share with you this great moment for Team USA! I believe we all long for time when the US Men's Team will return to the top division at the Worlds.
Hank continued to represent the US and played a major role in helping us to retain our first division status as the team finish 15 th in Chiba City.
1986 was truly a banner year for Hank in singles play with a number of major titles both internationally (CNE) and domestically (Duneland). Not only did Hank win Men's Singles in Pittsburgh, but he won Men's Doubles and along with Lisa Gee was one game away from taking the Mixed, which would have given Hank a hat trick. In 1992, Hank just missing out by one spot from making the US Olympic Team for Barcelona. By being the first Alternate, he represented the US in the Brazilian and Japan Opens.
In addition to being an accomplished athlete; Hank was a full-time student at George Mason University getting his degree in International Business. Currently he is the CEO of Crystaline Jewelry Company in Bangkok.
But before we have Hank come up I asked a few of Hank's Friends and Competitors share their insight into his table tennis prowess.
As I mentioned earlier at the 1984 US Open, Hank made it to the Finals of the U-2500s and ran into the very tough Perry Schwartzberg. This is what Perry had to say about Hank:
I was fortunate to be both a teammate as well as an opponent of Hank's during the early 1980's. He possessed a piston like hand motion on his service which almost defied believability in the amount of spin he imparted. Although I always thought that I along with Rick Seemiller had top notch serves in the U.S., I can safely say that no one had a more effective service than Hank. He was a warrior as a teammate and an incredibly fierce opponent. A wonderful strategist, he was someone that you wanted to have in your corner and it was never fun to see him in your opponent's! If the USATT Hall of Fame is for the truly elite, then Hank is a truly worthy addition. "
Here is what Hall of Famer, David Sakai said about Hank.
"In remembering Hank as a competitor he was one of the toughest and most tenacious competitors I have ever played. His service and serve return along with a great short game and strong loop made him the great player he was."
One of Hank's biggest Rivals, Danny Seemiller sent me this note:
"Chartchai was a warrior. Like all champions he had supreme confidence in his ability and you could feel that when you played him. Hank was so difficult to play because he had great serves and he could follow it with a power loop."
And finally Mr. Alan Fendrick was kind enough to provide me with this:
"While not a peer level player to Chartchai, I had the pleasure of watching and commentating on many of his biggest matches in Detroit, where so many of us got to see him play. Off the court, you would find him enjoyable and engaging.....but put a table between you and him - and be prepared to bring a great game, or lose badly. His serves were un-readable, his attack was fierce and he would win against all but the top players easily effortlessly. Then he would leave the table, and become "Hank" again - a great guy and a worthy inductee to the Hall of Fame as a player and a person."
It is my great honor to welcome Hank into the USATT Hall of Fame.