USA Table Tennis
1985: Tel Aviv Maccabiah Games. 1985: Canadian Junior Championships. 1985: Sean O’Neill, Diana Gee Win National Sports Festival VI. 1985: Junior Olympics/Junior Nationals. 1985: First Masters Games.
Canada’s Andrew Giblon (OTTA Update, Fall, 1985, 27-29) reports on Canadian and U.S. play at the July 15-25 Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv, Israel:
Among the 200 athletes Canada sent to this year’s Maccabiah Games were, as we’d seen qualify in Toronto back in Chapter Two, the Canadian Table Tennis team, headed by Coach Zoran Kosanovic and consisting of four players—28-year-old Steve Feldstein, Mitch Rothfleisch, Andrew Giblon, and (replacing qualifier Rene Lewandowski when Rene for whatever reason “refused to take the mandatory physical fitness test”), 16-year-old Boris Vaynshtein.
Giblon, thankful for the opportunity to train in Toronto with Kosanovic, the #1-ranked player in Canada, and eagerly anticipating his first international experience, couldn’t have taken his position on the Team more seriously. For the six months before the Games, this was his daily routine: “Up at 5:00 a.m.; practise with Zoran from 5:45 to 8:00; work from 9:00 to 6:00; then practise again, usually with Zoran, from 7:00 to 10:00 at night.” Of course Andrew went to every tournament he could.
U.S. Men’s and Women’s Teams were also in Tel Aviv—though there’d been no coverage of them in SPIN, not before, during, or after the tournament, and, as we learn from Giblon, a Tryout that was earlier supposed to be in Cleveland, Ohio turned out to be played in Westfield, NJ where three players from that Club—Barry Dattel, Eyal Adini, and Brian Eisner—qualified to come to Israel for these Games, or what some call the “Jewish Olympics.” I was surprised to hear from another source that the U.S. Women’s Team of Irina Shtofmahker and Sophia Gorin won a silver in Women’s Doubles and that Sophia paired with Dattel to take a bronze in the Mixed.
Before he begins describing the matches, Giblon gives us an orientation:
“We arrived in Tel Aviv four days before the Games to allow us to get used to the climate (30-35 degrees centigrade and very humid) and also the food (mostly chicken, cucumbers and tomatoes; McDavid’s is a poor imitation of McDonald’s). Practise conditions at local clubs were poor, but not much worse than at most clubs in North America. The tournament site was excellent: an air-conditioned, well-lit gym with new tables. Hospitality was fantastic. All teams were housed in 4-star hotels with three meals provided daily. At our disposal were teams of volunteer drivers and vans to take us to practise, tours, and parties….The opening ceremonies provided some of the most memorable and emotional moments for our players. Imagine walking into Ramat Gan Stadium in the black of night and hearing the roar of more than 50,000 spectators. ‘Canada! Canada!’ they chanted while dozens of Maple Leaf flags appeared to the light of flashbulbs. Among these pockets of spectators were my parents who’d made the 13,000-kilometer trip to support me and the team.
Since the organizers didn’t know the strength of the 14 Men’s teams, they were randomly split into four groups. The top two finishers in each group would advance to cross-over quarter-finals. Both North American teams felt that, were there seedings, Israel would be #1, U.S. #2, Canada #3, and Germany or Great Britain #4. If both Israel and the U.S. held to form, they would meet not in the finals but in the semi’s. The U.S. unsuccessfully protested this draw—which brought a warning from Argentina and Venezuela that if the U.S., in an effort to meet Israel in the final, “dumped to either of them they would fix their tie to ensure that the U.S. would finish third in their initial round robin and be eliminated.” Canada, rather than protest with the U.S., “kept quiet, partly because of our unusual position of drawing Israel in our round robin. On the one hand, assuming that we would probably lose to Israel, we had to beat both Belgium and Norway or be eliminated; on the other hand, if we did advance, we wouldn’t have to play Israel again until the finals.”
As anticipated, Canada did beat Belgium and Norway (each 5-0), and lost to Israel (5-1). “The Israelis used their National Team, ranked 22nd in the world, comprised of (and I’ll estimate their ratings) Yossi Bogen (2600, no relation to Eric), Dror Polac [or Polak], many-time Israeli Champion and Defending Maccabiah Champion (2500), Gil Bracha (2350), and Menachem Stein (2300). We dropped the first four matches. But then Mitch pulled off the upset of the tournament, said, ‘I played the match of my life’ in beating Polac 2-0. If his behavior hadn’t already gained him notoriety, this victory made him a celebrity at our hotel….More than half the people we met outside the Games (waiters, taxi drivers, etc.) knew who Dror Polac was, and when they found out Mitch had beaten him, service and prices seemed to suddenly improve.”
In quarter’s ties, it was Canada over Australia (5-0), Germany over Argentina (5-0), Israel over Switzerland (5-0), and the U.S. over Great Britain (5-1).
In the one semi’s, Israel stopped the U.S., 5-1—with Adini winning over Bracha.
In the other semi’s, Canada got off to a great start against Germany. Feldstein beat Leo Weiss (2100), 2-0, Rothfleisch beat Benny Feingold, 2-0, and, after Giblon lost 2-0 to Ignacz Berger (he’d been up 17-11 and 20-18 in the first), Rothfleisch blanked Weiss. Canada 3-Germany 1.
Next up: chopper Feldstein vs. chopper Berger. “After 15 minutes of steady pushing, our Steve led 5-3, and the Expedite Rule was brought in. The match lasted over an hour, and featured very steady defence and almost hopeless offence from both players. Steve often waited until the 10th or 11th ball to attack; Berger often tried a serve and 3rd or 5th ball attack. Too bad for Canada, but Feldstein found himself 20-13 down in the third. But then, in one of the most miraculous comebacks I have ever seen, Steve played perfect offence when he had to, and won eight straight points to lead 21-20. With Steve serving for the match, Berger’s return of serve caught the net and carried over. On that one net point turned our entire fortunes, for Berger won the next point on a bad bounce, and the point after to take the match.”
Canada, disheartened, dropped the remaining three matches. Then more of a blow: the Team event, unlike the Singles and Doubles, did not give out bronze medals to both semifinalists, but required a play-off for third place. This Canada lost to the U.S., 5-1, when only Feldstein could score—with a deuce-in-the-third win over Adini. Giblon had a good chance against Dattel—was up 1-0 and at deuce in the second—but couldn’t get the win.
Of course, Israel blitzed Germany for the gold.
How did Canada do in the Singles? In the quarter’s, Rothfleish lost to Israel’s Stein. In the eighth’s, Feldstein, who’d upset Great Britain’s Wright (2300), fell to Bracha. Also in the eighth’s, Giblon, after downing an Indian and a Yugoslav, was beaten by USA’s Eisner. In the first round, with no team matches under his belt, Boris Vaynshtein lost to Great Britain’s Levene, then did win one Consolation match.
Perhaps something of a surprise was Bracha’s quarterfinal win over the Peruvian #2 Walter Nathan (2500). That put all four Israelis in the semi’s, and eventually Polac would successfully defend his title with a 3-1 win over Bogen.
“In Doubles, Mitch and I lost in the quarter’s to the #1 seeds and eventual gold medalists Bogen/Bracha. Our partnership did not draw rave reviews from coach/critic Kosanovic—Mitch was afraid I was going to take his head off with my big loop swing, and I never seemed to be able to get around Mitch. Still, with any other draw, we thought we would have had a good chance to medal. Feldstein paired with his counterpart German chopper Berger and lost deuce-in-the-third to eventual bronze medalists Abuaf/Burstein of Argentina. Boris, paired with Germany’s Huberman, came alive and was surprisingly close to beating eventual bronze medalists Wright/Abraham of Great Britain.
Once the tournament was over, the entire Canadian team stayed over an additional four days, spent mostly on guided tours through the country. You get an appreciation for the size of the country when you realize that the travel time by bus between any two cities in the entire country is usually less than three hours. Mitch and I stayed on for another 10 days as guests at the homes of National Team members and other new-found friends. On my way back to Toronto, I spent some time in Rome and Paris, where I met, both by chance and design, other touring Maccabiah participants.
As a footnote to the tournament: Mitch’s excellent play, and particularly his win over Dror Polac prompted more than one manager in the 16-team Israeli League to try to negotiate a contract for Mitch as the #1 player for a team for one season. In a country ravaged by 800% inflation and a weak economy burdened by heavy military spending, the major obstacle was coming up with the money for airfare and salary, but one club managed. Mitch will live in Tel Aviv with a National Team member, play in weekly league matches, coach at his club, practice with the National Team, and take courses at Tel Aviv University.”
Results of the Canadian Junior Championships, played July 24-28 at Iles de la Madeleine, Quebec:
Interprovincial Team Matches: Boys U-13: 1. Ontario. 2. Alberta. Boys U-15: 1. Quebec. 2. Ontario. Boys U-17: 1. Ontario. 2. British Columbia. Girls U-13: 1. Nova Scotia. 2. Quebec. Girls U-15: 1. Alberta. 2. Saskatchewan. Girls U-17: 1. Quebec. 2. British Columbia.
Singles: Boys U-11: 1. Dang Vu, Hop (Que). 2. Griffiths, Dean (Sask). Boys U-13: 1. Ng, Johnny (Ont). 2. Le, Trung (Ont). Boys U-15: 1. Ng, Peter (Ont). 2. Poh, Danny (B.C.). Boys U-17: 1. Mah, John (Alta). 2. Bourget, Jean (Que). Girls U-11: 1. Lin, Julia (Sask). 2. Healy, Jennifer (N.S.). Girls U-13: 1. Barton, Julie (N.S.). 2. Mah, Serena (Alta). Girls U-15: 1. Sylvestre, Caroline (Que). 2. Patel, Nathalie (Que). Girls U-17: 1. Bedard, Helene (Que). 2. Patel, Nathalie (Que).
Doubles: Boys U-13: 1. Ng, J./Le, T. (Ont). 2. Yee, D./D. (Alta). Boys U-15: 1. Ng, P./J. (Ont). 2. Ladouceur, M./Leveille, P. (Que). Boys U-17: 1. Kamble, V./Ng, P. (Ont). 2. Le, T./Ng, J. (Ont). Girls U-13: 1. Barton, J./Pink, T. (N.S.). 2. Perron, J./Sylvestre, C. (Que). Girls U-15: 1. Traeger, C./Kecki, E. (Sask). 2. Mah, K./Chen, L. (Alta). Girls U-17: 1. Chu, C./Mah, K. (Alta). 2. Bedard, H./Drouin, L. (Que).
Mixed Doubles: U-13: 1. Bourbonnais, M./Sylvestre, C. (Que). 2. Mah, S./Yee, D. (Alta). U-15: 1. Leveille P./Paquet, C. (Que). 2. Patel, N./Ladouceur, M. (Que).
Final Provincial Standings: 1. Quebec. 2. Ontario. 3. Alberta. 4. Nova Scotia. 5. Saskatchewan. 6. British Columbia. 7. Prince Edward Island. 8. New Brunswick. 9. Newfoundland. 10. Manitoba.
Singles matches at the National Sports Festival VI, held July 21-30 in Baton Rouge, LA, were written up (SPIN, Sept., 1985, cover+) by Tony Britt of the Miller High Life News Bureau. Team matches by Tim Boggan. Here’s Britt:
“Winner of the Men’s Singles gold medal at National Sports Festival VI was Sean O’Neill.
Only undefeated singles player throughout the four-day tournament, with a 17-0 record—Sean O’Neill.
Brace yourself if his play during NSF VI and the U.S. Open the month prior is any indication of what’s to come, Sean O’Neill is a name you will be reading even more than you have in the last few paragraphs.
For the second straight year, the 17-year-old product of Vienna, VA dominated men’s play at the National Sports Festival. Losing only two out of 36 games in singles matches he played, O’Neill outdistanced himself from the 16-man field with an array of shots that easily made him the crowd favorite.
‘Sean will come up with individual, world-class shots better than anyone here,’ said Men’s Team Manager Bill Hodge. ‘Some of his shots are just amazing.’
The defending NSF champion in both Men’s Singles and Men’s Doubles, O’Neill entered NSF VI fresh off his most impressive win to date. At the U.S. Open in Miami, he did away with Swedish National Champion, world #11, Erik Lindh. ‘That was by far the best win of my career,’ said O’Neill, who is currently the men’s top-rated amateur player in the country. ‘At the Sports Festival, all I had to worry about was playing up to my level.’
O’Neill’s victories during the Team Competition on the first day helped the undefeated South win the gold medal. O’Neill was teamed with John Allen, Dave Sakai, and Perry Schwartzberg, a former mentor of O’Neill’s and the 1981 NSF Singles gold medalist.
In Mixed Doubles, O’Neill was paired with 17-year-old Toni Gresham of Albuquerque, NM. The teen-age pair tied with Gene Lonnon and Diana Gee in preliminary round robin play but couldn’t compete in the final because they’d lost a head-to-head tie-breaker to the advancing pair.
On the final day, O’Neill was perhaps at his best. In six matches, 19 points was the most he allowed an opponent. O’Neill breezed by his final two opponents before 350 spectators who were among 1,150 who attended nine sessions over four days in the Centroplex Exhibition Hall.
In the semifinals, Sean defeated Perry Schwartzberg, who, ten years earlier, had received $50 a weekend from O’Neill’s parents to coach Sean. O’Neill won in straight games, 15, 12, 18.
Schwartzberg went on to win the bronze medal confrontation over George Brathwaite.
O’Neill wound up with the same number of medals—three—as he won at the last NSF two years ago at Colorado Springs. While his medal accumulation was no different this year, everyone knew that this was a much improved Sean O’Neill. ‘The tournament showed how my new stuff can work,’ he said. ‘At the U.S. Open I didn’t know their [international opponents’] shots because I had never played them before. After playing here for the past few days, I got used to my opponents’ shots so I tried a lot of newer ones of my own.’
Just as appealing to fans and the media as O’Neill, with the warm smile of a 16-year-old and a twin sister lurking to upset her, was Diana Gee who upheld her #1 seeding among the women. Diana won gold medals in Women’s Singles and Women’s Team competition with her West teammates, which included sister Lisa, Carol Davidson, and Kerry Vandaveer. Diana also took the silver in Women’s Doubles with Vandaveer and Mixed Doubles with Gene Lonnon.
Diana, who lost twice during Team competition (to Cheryl Dadian and Vicky Wong), defeated her biggest rival for the Women’s Singles gold—sister Lisa—twice. With identical 6-0 records through the Women’s Singles preliminary rounds and still one to go, Diana and Lisa met for the first time. Diana won game one at 10, Lisa the second at 18. The two were literally all over the court, each eager to prove something to the other. In the end, it was Diana on top at 18. The story was the same that evening when they met for the gold medal. Diana won, -19, 14, 17, 12.
Both players said they had learned something from their previous meetings in Mixed Doubles and Women’s Singles preliminaries. ‘I tried to spin the ball a little more than I usually do,’ Diana said. ‘I tried to attack a little bit more,’ said Lisa. Trying not to show her obvious disappointment, Lisa added, ‘I really didn’t feel any pressure because I wasn’t supposed to win.’
Winners of the gold in Women’s Doubles were the North pair of Cheryl Dadian and Ardith Lonnon who defeated the East’s Vicky Wong and Marta Zurowski in straight games in the final.
In Men’s Doubles, the North’s Scott and Jimmy Butler defeated the East’s Lim Ming Chui and Randy Seemiller. They thus became the only brothers in any NSF sport to share a gold medal.*
Table tennis was the only sport at the Festival that featured players with a 34-year age difference meeting head to head. The physical difference was even more striking—14-year-old spindly Jimmy Butler vs. 48-year-old muscular George Brathwaite. But Butler proved it’s not how big or strong you are that counts, as he defeated “The Chief” deuce in the third on the first day of Team competition. Even though Butler came from down 20-15 in the third, he wasn’t too impressed with all the media hoopla surrounding his victory. ‘I don’t know what everyone’s so excited about,’ he said. ‘I’ve beaten him before.’
Table Tennis received good media coverage at NSF VI ranging from local television stations WBRZ and WAFB to ESPN, ABC Sports Radio, the Associated Press, United Press International, Time Magazine, USA Today, and eight other newspapers from New York to California.”
Boggan now takes up the Team play:
“Although there were four players on each of the Men’s and Women’s teams, only one of these players was allowed to play all three round robin ties. That meant the remaining three players on a team had to play two ties. And since each team had a fourth player rated weaker than the others, a strategic solution was needed as to which team you played him/her (and who else?) against. This tended to equalize team results, and ties of ties were expected.
Women’s Team Competition
Favored to win the Women’s competition was the West team of the Gee sisters, Carol Davidson, and Kerry Vandaveer. The West had three of the top-four-rated women here and they were successful, though they had to survive a 5-4 tie with the runner-up North (Takako Trenholme, Cheryl Dadian, Ardith Lonnon, and Joyce Jenkins). Taking home the bronze was the young East team of Vicky Wong, Jasmine Wang, Flora Ng, and Marta Zurowski.
The East, I thought, despite their lack of tournament toughness (confidence? composure? all-out desire?), might have won this event. In their first tie, they scored a come-from-behind victory over the North. Although I particularly liked Vicky’s footwork, her snap of a forehand, the smooth follow through, it was Flora’s upset of Takako which offset Ardith’s deuce-in-the-third win over Vicky, and Jasmine’s three-match sweep that gave the East its victory.
In the next tie, however, the South (who had been blanked by the West in the first round) made their move. Olga Soltesz stopped Jasmine’s roll, 25-23 in the third. Pigool Kulcharnpises (Gahla-CHAHN-pee-said!) finished off Flora and Marta; and Gresham, who after all these years is turning into a very good player, out-attacked Zurowski.
Now if the North could beat the West, there’d be a four-way 1-1 tie going into the final round. But though Takako and Cheryl traded off against the Gee sisters, Carol, who’d apparently not been playing much, if any, for months, and had a tightening groin muscle, defeated Ohio champ Jenkins in three in the ninth match to send the West into the final undefeated.
In the evening, the North beat the South, thanks to a win by Joyce, two by Ardith, and two by Cheryl, who was favoring a sprained ankle acquired in a softball game back home.
So now the East could win if they beat the West. But right off, in the most unrestrained match of the day, Applied Psycholgy major Vandaveer got carried away, often stalking her idealized self round in circles in a “C’mon, get psyched!” dance. Despite a leg cramp, some damaged cartilage to the knee, and seven ad points down, Kerry screamed just a little louder, a little longer than Vicky and won out 25-23 in the third. After which, both Marta and Jasmine lost deuce games and the East was behind 3-0. But then unpredictable Vicky took heart, stopped Diana, and Jasmine got the better of Kerry. Unfortunately for Marta—ohh, Marta—she couldn’t quite do it, lost deuce in the third to Carol. And Jasmine fell to Diana. Hell of a try though.
Men’s Team Competition
The Men’s Team ties were also exciting. Sean O’Neill, Perry Schwartzberg, Khoa Nguyen, George Brathwaite, Scott Butler, and Lim Ming Chui, all in the top 20 of the U.S., were expected to do well here. Since, however, Sean and Perry would be on the same South team (with John Allen and Dave Sakai) they were favored to win the gold—and did—struggling through two 5-4 ties before having an easier 5-3 time of it in the final against the East.
Finishing second with a 2-1 record was the North team of the Butler brothers, Jim Doney, and Ron Lilly. They were hurt by the last-minute absence of Brandon Olson, who was out because of an ankle injury incurred while playing tennis.
Actually, this North team almost won the event, but they were badly wounded by a first- round 5-4 loss to the South. Scott Butler, who’d outlasted New England Champ John Allen (20, -19, 23), couldn’t hold on from up 18-12 in the third against the world-class surge of fist-up Sean’s spectacular shot-making; and brother Jimmy, our U.S. U-15, U-13 Champ, couldn’t upset Perry Schwartzberg in the third game of the ninth match.
Draped with humility as well as the bronze, was the East team of George Brathwaite, Lim Ming Chui, Randy Seemiller, and Ben Nisbet. They posted a 5-2 loss to the North that saw some wild swings. Jimmy Butler knocked off “The Chief” by rebelliously refusing to smoke the peace pipe from 20-15 down in the third. And brother Scott, up 1-0 but behind 20-14 in the second, rallied to win eight in a row from the hapless Chui. “You don’t think against the young,” said Ming. “You take them too much for granted. You don’t realize that they’re growing, are getting bigger, and that you’re aging, your body’s getting older, your mind getting worse.” Poor Ming’s losing it?
However, the East did 5-4 beat the West. Here the eighth and ninth matches proved decisive: Ming over Jerry Thrasher, 22-20 in the third, and Randy, 20, 18, over an up and down Dean Doyle.
Quang Bui’s 11th-hour decision not to play was a blow to the West team of Khoa Nguyen, Doyle, Thrasher, and Gene Lonnon. They lost a closely contested tie to the South when the wily Sakai, after earlier losing two three-game matches, won over a clearly improving Lonnon, 17, 21.
The West also lost to the North when Scott Butler dropped it on Thrasher, 19 in the third, and Jim Doney downed both Jerry and Gene.”
Dr. Michael Scott (SPIN, Sept., 1985, 7) reports on the USOC Drug Control Program that was in use at the National Sports Festival:
“…Two male and two female USTTA athletes were randomly selected for drug testing at the Festival in accordance with the USOC’s increased efforts to control drug usage….The key intention is educational not punitive. However, those found taking banned drugs will be suspended from competition for six months; a repeat infraction will result in permanent suspension from IOC-approved competition. The offending athlete must forfeit all awards won at the event and, if a team member, the entire team will be disqualified as well.
Drug detection is done by urinalysis. With the newer, highly-sophisticated techniques now available, any attempt to ‘beat the system,’ such as taking a diuretic or sodium bicarbonate, is readily detected. Hormonal drugs are detectable months after cessation of taking them….
If you are notified by a member of the drug detection crew that you have been randomly selected, your cooperation is mandatory; non-compliance will be cause for disqualification. Once the athlete comes in for testing, the crew member will remain with him/her at all times until a urine specimen is obtained. This prevents drug-taking athletes from substituting a normal specimen for their own….The entire laboratory procedures are done anonymously as the samples are sealed under a code number selected by the athlete. No one except the athlete handles the sample until it is sealed in two specimen bottles. If any tests are positive, the athlete and the head of his association are notified. Then a second test will be performed by a different laboratory technician on the second specimen saved from the original urine sample.
…Some key substances banned are psycho-motor stimulant drugs, central nervous system stimulants, and anabolic steroids. Special considerations are permitted if a USOC physician attests prior to competition that the medication was clinically justifiable.
…The USTTA’s first four selected athletes—Cheryl Dadian, Carol Davidson, Lim Ming Chui, and Perry Schwartzberg—should be acknowledged for their splendid and complete cooperation during those tests. They were certainly a credit to the USTTA.”
USTTA Vice-President and Olympic Committee Chair Jimmy McClure and International Umpire Manny Moskowitz were on duty at the Sports Festival, which prompted our Dr. Michael Scott, also on duty, to make a few good-hearted jokes at their expense (Wiggy’s, Nov. 6, 1985). Here’s one instance:
“…Although Adidas kindly supplied all the National Sports Festival athletes with expensive, colorful and complete uniforms, Jimmy and Manny were issued oversized drab khaki caps with long protruding bills, khaki jackets, and long khaki pants. They seemed a comic duo, especially when Bill Hodge described the cut and style of their uniforms as ‘tacky khaki.’
At best, in these outfits, they resembled lower-eschelon maintenance personnel. Thus they were able to enter even the most restricted of areas during the Festival without being questioned. Even the most suspicious of the innumerable guards and police assumed Jimmy and Manny were there to inspect the air-conditioner or were the clean-up crew. I, meanwhile, was repeatedly stopped and quizzed about my medical identification while this comic couple, disguised one from the other with their equal size and build and long-beaked caps, were invariably waved right through….” [M’god, imagine if these guys weren’t Jimmy and Manny. What they would have been up to would not have been comical.]
In a Letter to the Editor (SPIN, Sept., 1985, 4), Manny had good words to say about this Festival:
“The National Sports Festival in Baton Rouge proved that quality competition could go hand in hand with camaraderie. Credit must be given to our Baton Rouge hosts for providing an environment which brought enjoyment to all participants.
Special thanks go to Tom and Melinda Baudry and Mel and Coretta Douglas for hosting a barbecue and swim party for all the table tennis people at the Baudry home.
Ralph Spratt as Tournament Referee and myself as Chief Umpire wish to acknowledge all the Baton Rouge people who volunteered their services as umpires and scorers, without whom the matches would not have gone off so smoothly.
Playing conditions, although adequate, gave the staff an insight as to what is needed to make future competition more appreciative to both players and spectators.
I would like to extend my compliments to Tom Wintrich for the fine article he provided the Festival Program, giving the non-playing public an insight to the sport of table tennis. In my opinion, this was about the best written article on the development of table tennis in my many years of activity.”
Unfortunately I have no copy of Tom’s article to show you.
I do, however, have a copy of correspondence I had with our USTTA lawyer, Bob Hibschweiler regarding the Sports Festival mix-up we had with Ohio player Bobby Powell. Mel Eisner suggested, in response to Powell lawyer Ralph Shapiro’s letter concerning the “distress” caused his client, that only Hibschweiler respond to the complaint. I took Mel’s advice, and in my Sept. 18, 1985 letter to Bob I explained what had happened:
“Back in early July, the USTTA Selection Committee belatedly listed, based mostly on a decided-upon Rating list, their not particularly well-thought-out player-choices for the Sports Festival that would be coming up toward the end of July. I say ‘choices’ but perhaps one could consider them ‘strong recommendations’ for, ideally, were there enough time (and there wasn’t), these ‘choices’ would, with the input of Bob Tretheway, our NSF Coordinator, have to be approved by the E.C. In other words, though everyone could reasonably expect these ‘choices’ to be almost 100% observed they were not totally definitive.
Because the Selection process was hurried, and time was running short to notify the players, the lines of authority were not strictly observed, and Tretheway, having difficulty contacting player after player who was in line to go, exercised some leeway and told Bobby Powell (largely because he’d played in so many tournaments, while some of those ahead of him on the Rating list had been inactive) that he could go to the NSF and by way of confirmation sent him a plane ticket to Baton Rouge. [Recall, too, that the earlier selection of a U.S. Team to Cuba had been mis-managed.]
Tretheway also selected a relatively low-rated player, Gene Lonnon, whom the Selection Committee in the spring had picked to represent the U.S. in Junior play in Europe and who had continued to indicate his high seriousness by enrolling in our fall Resident Training Program at Colorado Springs.
When some other players with higher ratings heard that these two players were picked above them, they set up a howl. And surely with some justification.
At the 11th hour, I then directed Bob Tretheway to follow the Selection Committee list (for I certainly didn’t approve of Bobby Powell being put ahead of others on the list)—EXCEPT for Lonnon (he, I thought, definitely should be included, since the Sports Festival was clearly for ‘Olympic hopefuls’—that is, promising serious-minded youth.
Tretheway, per my directive, then told Powell that we’d made a mistake—that Bobby wasn’t in line to go.
Powell, meanwhile, had made his hometown Columbus, Ohio paper. To begin with, his cystic fibrosis and Navy background made him a publicity natural. Then add to that he worked
for the state and that the state didn’t want to give him time off to play. Add that Powell belongs to a union and that this union supported him until the state conceded that he could go.
Then suddenly he couldn’t go, not even after he’d received his plane ticket. Trouble, trouble, trouble. I got a call from the State Senator’s office and from a local TV show. I told them both that, my god, I was sorry, Bobby’s a very good player, but we’d made a mistake, he just wasn’t in line to go—there were others ahead of him.
Finally, the Selection Committee list was scrupulously followed—31 out of 32 players—with the single exception of Lonnon, who was definitely a defensible choice. (one sport at the NSF had no one over 21 participating). It was later generally agreed by USTTA officials that, in keeping with the NSF as a showcase to give Olympic hopefuls experience, we needed at the next NSF quite a few more young players and to that end the Selection Committee should not be so enamored of the Ratings as a criterion for selection.
Soon afterwards, the letter from Powell’s lawyer arrived…and then a follow-up letter. [I haven’t a copy of either.] I told Emily to drop this lawyer a note saying that when I got back from the Toronto CNE tournament and our E.C. Meeting in Lake Placid we’d respond.
For the last week I’ve been on jury duty and on a school picket line. Today is really the first chance I’ve had to hurriedly get this off to you. I’m surprised the lawyer isn’t bugging us again.
Anyway, do what you can, will you?
I’ll call you first of next week.
Thanks, as usual.”
Discussions continued and some closure had to be found. On Nov. 7, 1985, I wrote Hibschweiler regarding “Robert Powell v. United States Table Tennis Association”:
The USTTA wants to compensate Bobby Powell in some reasonable way (we recognize that, unintentionally, we did cause him some distress). That’s why we offer him, in lieu of the National Sports Festival trip that really he did not qualify for, the substitute advantages of our most prestigious tournament, the National Championships (only in this tournament can he or anyone who wins any event be said to be the year’s ‘National Champion’ in said event).
So, O.K, we offer Bobby air fare to Vegas and free entry fees to the National’s.
But now we’ve got to draw the line (after all, our mistake, which we were duty-bound to rectify, was a hurried, honest one). There’s a big difference between being accommodated at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and being accommodated in a Spartan dorm on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge. There’s a big difference between inexpensive dorm food and the kind of food one might order in even a moderately-priced hotel or outside restaurant in Las Vegas.
O.K., O.K., we’ll also pay for Bobby’s hotel room at Caesars for the length of his tournament stay. But that’s it.
I have a quarter of a century reputation for being fair with, being very supportive of, the players. In all fairness, Bobby was not in line to go to this year’s NSF. In light of this, I think our offer is very reasonable.”
Sue Butler covers the Junior Olympics and Junior National’s (SPIN, Oct., 1985, 15)**:
“The lighting of the torch by Junior Olympic Champion Scott Butler in Iowa City’s Carver Hawkeye Arena signaled the official start of the 1985 Junior Olympic Championships in which 4500 athletes competed in 16 sports.
Regina High School was the venue for table tennis and playing conditions were excellent. Stiga of Sweden loaned the 13 tables, the barriers, and scorecards for each court, which allowed spectators to follow the action at any table, any time.
This year the Junior Olympic Championship and the USA National Junior Championships were combined. Due to this expanded competition, juniors had three days of heavy play regardless of playing level.
In Junior Olympic competition, players can only compete in their own age bracket; they cannot play up—that is, an U-13 entrant is not allowed into the U-15’s. However, other J.O. events, such as State Team and State Doubles, provide additional interest and excitement to the J.O. format.
The USA National Junior Championship events were run as they had been in the past when they were part of the National Championships in Las Vegas. Juniors could enter their own age level plus play up. Doubles with any partner in the country meeting the age requirements were also available. All of this play, plus awards through sixth place in J.O. competition and for first and second in the USA Junior Championships, allowed for a large number of winners. One hundred participants (14 girls, 86 boys) made this the biggest table tennis draw since the sport’s first inclusion in J.O. competition four years ago.
Although the Girls’ draw was small, the Boys’ was large and very strong. Six of the eight top-rated boys competed, including NSF Singles gold-medalist Sean O’Neill and U-15 National Champion Jim Butler who with brother Scott had just won the NSF gold in Men’s Doubles. Also, in the lower age groups, top seeds and defending champions such as the Chui brothers, Eric Owens, and Dhiren Narotam competed.
Following is a list of Junior Olympic winners:
Boys: U-17: 1. Sean O’Neill. 2. Scott Butler. 3. Greg Chamish. [In the ’83 Eastern’s Chamish had won the U-1250’s; here he defeated 2132-rated Gene Lonnon to win a bronze.] U-15: Jim Butler. 2. John Elwood. 3. Tryg Truelson. U-13: 1. Dhiren Narotam. 2. Chi Ming Chui. 3. Jeff Fori. U-11: 1. Chi Sun Chui. 2. Clark Yeh. 3. Ben Culler. U-9: 1. Eric Owens. 2. Adam Culler. 3. Tim Farber. Boys Doubles: U-17: 1. Scott Butler/Jim Butler. 2. Sean O’Neill/Steve Emmons. 3. John Elwood/Clark Yeh. U-13: 1. Chi Sun Chui/Chi Ming Chui. 2. Dhiren Narotam/Nilesh Narotam. 3. Todd Sweeris/David Miller. Boys Teams: 1. Iowa (Scott Butler, Jim Butler, Dhiren Narotam). 2. Minnesota (Gene Lonnon, Dan Krall, Thor Truelson). 3. Massachusetts (Chi Sun Chui, Chi Ming Chui).
Girls: U-17: 1. Vicky Wong. 2. Kathy Gates. 3. My Dung Nguyen. U-15: 1. Linda Gates. U-13: 1. Martha Gates. 2. Angela Petterson. U-11: 1. Jane Chui. 2. Moosie Thomas. 3. Gina Zamboni. 4. Terri Petterson. U-9: 1. Andrea Butler. 2. Dawn Gates. 3. Lisa Zamboni. 4. Brenda Culler. Girls Doubles: U-13: 1.Gina Zamboni/Moosie Thomas. 2. Angela Petterson/Terri Petterson. 3. Lisa Zamboni/Dawn Gates. Girls Teams: 1. Illinois (Kathy Gates, Linda Gates, Martha Gates, Dawn Gates). 2. Nebraska (Angela Petterson, Terri Petterson).
Following is a list of USA Junior National’s winners:
Boys: U-17: 1. Sean O’Neill. 2. Scott Butler. U-15: Jim Butler. 2. Dhiren Narotam. U-13: 1. Chi Sun Chui. 2. Chi Ming Chui. U-11: Chi Sun Chui. 2. Clark Yeh. U-9: 1. Eric Owens. 2. Adam Culler. Boys Doubles: U-17: 1. Scott Butler/Jim Butler. 2. Sean O’Neill/Gene Lonnon. U-13: Chi Sun Chui/Chi Ming Chui. 2. Todd Sweeris/Dhiren Narotam.
Girls: U-17: 1. Vicky Wong. 2. Linda Gates. U-15: 1. Linda Gates. 2. Martha Gates. U-13: 1. Martha Gates. 2. Angela Petterson. U-11: 1. Jane Chui. 2. Moosie Thomas. U-9: 1. Andrea Butler. 2. Lisa Zamboni. Girls Doubles: U-17: 1. Vicky Wong/My Dung Nguyen. 2. Kathy Gates/Linda Gates. U-13: 1. Martha Gates/Dawn Gates. 2. Jane Chui/Gina Zamboni. 3. Angela Petterson/Andrea Butler. 4. Lisa Zamboni/Terri Petterson.
Table tennis is often a family affair, especially at this competition. The Gates sisters, from Kankakee, IL, won the family medal honors with ten golds, six silver, and a bronze. The Butler brothers and sister Andrea took home ten gold, two silver, and one bronze. The Chui boys and sister Jane netted nine gold, three silver, and two bronze. [I, Tim, authorized $200 to the Chui family in far-away New England (who’ve again and again demonstrated their interest in and dedication to the sport) to help Mrs. Chui act as a chaperone for her kids.] Other families with good results were the Zamboni sisters of Illinois, the Petterson sisters of Nebraska, the Culler kids (three boys, one girl) of Ohio, and the Narotam brothers of Iowa.
Some of the most exciting and interesting play occurred in the Team competition where anything can happen. In the Boy’s semi’s, Minnesota (Gene Lonnon, Dan Krall, and Thor Truelson) faced Virginia, a very strong team consisting of 2540 Sean O’Neill and 1621 Steve Emmons, Minnesota was not intimidated as they took the crucial doubles match and won the Corbillon-format tie 3-1. Minnesota lost the final to the #1-seed Iowa team 3-0, but these runner-ups, and indeed all the kids, were encouraged by their play and what they had seen during the competition.
In the past, inexperienced players perhaps coming to their first major tournament were discouraged when they realized the level of play necessary to excel in the sport. How things change! This year, even the new players were excited about what they saw, and lower-rated players were telling the stars, ‘Next year, I’m going to beat you.’
More than 150 attended the party at our home Saturday night. Swedish table tennis coach Christian Lillieroos was there, talking to, and answering questions from, the many interested parents and coaches present.
One of the big benefits of Junior Olympic participation is the free support provided by the AAU and Sears, as well as the extensive publicity given the tournament. Our juniors were interviewed by writers from six national magazines and we have been assured of four articles. There was much local and regional print and television coverage, and press releases for all hometown newspapers were generated by the AAU press crew. On Aug. 18, there was a one-hour special on Atlanta’s WTVS cable station, and table tennis received about four minutes of coverage. This was more time than any of the other ‘minor’ sports received and the presentation was exceptional.
The 1986 National Junior Olympics will be Aug. 3-11 in St. Louis, MO. Mark your calendars now and make plans to attend.”
The First Masters Games (22 different sports; 105 table tennis players), were held at the Etobicoke Olympium in Toronto Aug. 22-25. They had as their goal to foster for mature sportsmen/women (amateurs or professionals age 40 and up) “health, fitness, and pleasure through the joy of participation and competition.” That is, a goal of encouraging “the delight of lifelong athletic achievement.”
Arkansas’s Paul Vancura, winner in the 60 Doubles with Belgian pick-up partner John Nieuwejaers (also the 60 Singles winner), certainly had an invigorating time. Here’s something of what he reported (SPIN, Oct., 1985, 8):
“…Making friends was the theme of the Masters Games and I made many, receiving invitations to visit France, Taiwan, and Australia. If there had been a gold medal for Sportsmanship, I would have voted for the 60’s Mixed Doubles pair from Belgium and France. They waited 15 minutes for their Chinese opponents to show, past the time when they could have claimed a default, then graciously played the match.”
“The Canadian organization [Chairperson was Detlev Von Nottbeck] did a great job with the time-scheduling of the events. The Referee and umpires were very understanding and helpful to those unfamiliar with the new racket rules and dress code. They even tried to explain the Expedite procedures to the Japanese.”
Of course the Toronto Star, with Royson James reporting, had several t.t. stories covering the first day of play (reprinted in the OTTA Update, Fall, 1985, 13-15), and I, Tim, will work what I can from them into the Results that follow.
Men’s 40 Singles: Siegfried Budzisz (West Germany) over Friedrich Rohde (West Germany, -18, 13, 13. [Siegfried is the father of Jorg Budzisz who plays on the Steinhagen Bundsliga team with Eric Boggan.] Men’s 50 Singles: Yen-Lieh Chen (Taipei) over Peter Darcy (England), -23, 10, 15. Men’s 60 Singles: John Nieuwejaers (Belgium) over Guohao Feng (China), 19, 14. Sixty-eight-year-old Shigeto Ikeda’s “Standing” in his three-man preliminary round robin was #3. But he was “standing”—with the aid of a crutch, his left leg having been amputated under the knee. Men’s 70 Singles: Yozo Nakamura (Japan) over Nadharu Sumino (Japan), 18, -14, 13.
Women’s 40 Singles: One woman that Star reporter James interviewed was according to her draw sheet Meridian Beckerman, according to James’s article Amalia Bekerman. James says she was “two-time National Champion [of the USSR?] and played mixed doubles with the leading Soviet male player.” [It would be kind of mixed-up if she hadn’t played with a male, right?] James writes: “If the table tennis skills that once made her a world threat in mixed doubles haven’t grown rusty with disuse, the 41-year-old Toronto resident should be in the finals of the 40 plus division of the Masters Games.” Turns out, though, her game probably is a little rusty: “she hasn’t played in 20 years, not since she left her homeland in 1965. Still, she did get a day’s practice in here at Otobicoke and pronounced herself ready.” But, no, she didn’t win—was beaten right away, 4 and 8, by a Taipei semifinalist.
The Women’s 40’s winner was 42-year-old Lizhen Liang (China), a member of China’s 1965 World Championship team, who said, “I was beginning to get fat and lazy [she’s 5’2”, weighs 90 pounds]. When I was in my prime, quickness was one of my strengths. I’m thankful that I got this chance to play and win again.” She beat her 49-year-old former coach, the 1961 Chinese World Champion Giu Zhonghui, then went on to defeat in the final Mei-Hui Chen Kuo (Taipei), 7, 14. Women’s 50 Singles: the 57-year-old winner was a former National Champion, Ursula Fitzgerald (Australia), who said, “The incredible three weeks I’ve spent in Toronto have given me the most fantastic holidays I’ve ever had.” In the final, she defeated Yu-Ping Chuang Po (Taipei), 18, 16. Women’s 60 Singles: Genevieve Rebattet (France) over Kyo Mizoguchi (Japan), -19, 18, 16.
Men’s 40 Doubles: Budzisz/ Valentin Langehegermann (Luxembourg) over Harald Todt/Hans P. Wachter (West Germany), 17, 17. Langehegemann was the 1984 World Over 40 finalist. Wachter earlier -20, 11, 10 stopped Denmark’s Freddy Hanson, the 1982 World Over 40 finalist. Men’s 50 Doubles: DEREK WALL (CANADA)/TIM BOGGAN (USA) over Yoshio. Takura (Japan)/Ken Kerr (Canada), 7, 17. Men’s 60 Doubles: NIEUWEJAERS/PAUL VANCURA (USA) over Tadashi Tanaka/Masayuki Yoshiki (Japan), -15, 9, 21.
Women’s Over 40 Doubles: Kuo/Chin-Hao Huang (Taipei) over Heather Cox (Australia)/Luz Cadavid Rincon (Venezuela), 8, 10. We learn that the 42-year-old Cox “got into the Guiness Book of Records in 1977 when she played the game continuously for 110 hours, three minutes, wearing out a number of opponents, men and women. She is a truck driver out of Nambour, Queensland and is also a corporal in the army reserve. It cost her $6,000 to come to Toronto, including lost wages. Women’s Over 50 Doubles: Kaneko Kujirai (Japan)/Fitzgerald over Marie Kerr/Joyce Jones (Canada), 14, 18.
Mixed 40 Doubles: Langehegermann/Edith Santifaller (Italy) over Budzisz/Cox. Mixed 50 Doubles: Chen/Yu-Pin Chuang Ko over Ron Bickerstaffe/Kerr (Canada), 11, 15. Mixed 60 Doubles: Kinichi Ito/Kyo Mizoguchi (Japan) over Masayuki Yoshiki/Shizuyo Nakamura (Japan), 15, -9, 19.
I didn’t see any Malaysians among these winners, so I have to hope they just didn’t play well enough. Huh? What kind of comment is that? More friendly than you’d at first think. Here’s the Star’s Royson James to explain:
Malaysian table tennis players arrived in Toronto for the Masters Games expecting to play. But they weren’t in the draw. “Games president Dr. Maureen O’Bryan said embassy officials in Malaysia checked with the government there and then told Ottawa the Malaysian athletes were not coming because of money.” Actually, the players pay their own way, do not compete for their country, and have no dealings with the government regarding these Games. The six players, with the help of the Malaysian TTA, raised $25,000, and of course, as Team Manager Chan Foong Keong said yesterday in Toronto, “If there are no withdrawals from the draw, which is the only way we can be entered, we go home disappointed. The players are so mad they don’t want to leave their hotel rooms.”
After these Games had been repeatedly advertised in SPIN, the U.S. had 11 players in the t.t. field, all men, no women—and, yes, I now have the completed draws, and though there’s not a Malaysian to be seen there, I doubt if they’re still in their hotel rooms.
*In an Interview (Wiggy’s, Sept. 25, 1985), Scott Butler said that when he and brother Jimmy “won the gold medal in Doubles at the Sports Festival, it was something between us that was really special. We were both playing well and it meant a lot to us. If either of us had won with someone else, it wouldn’t have been the same.”
Scott also indirectly paid homage to his parents, Dick and Sue, for he said: “There is no understanding of the sport by most parents. They think of it as a game. Moreover, for them, repetitive competition costs too much money and takes too much time and effort. But without parental support, kids have no chance to participate in the serious sport of table tennis.”
This point is made again when, in response to the question, “How important is a coach in the development of a player?” Scott said, “Really important. If you don’t have a coach or trainer or some adult to guide you, you will never make it.”
And ‘making it’ of course means playing at an international or at least a national level. When asked, “Should there be a special training facility in the U.S. for the top players, Scott answered, “It would help if all the top players were there—Eric, Danny, Sean….They would all have to be there to make it worthwhile. Also there is a level above them that you meet at the World’s, and that is what you need to play against.”
Another question: “What does the U.S. need to do to provide the most effective training conditions at the highest level? Answer: “We need to send U.S. teams not just to the World’s, but to play in many international competitions. Maybe they could go to Europe, travel the trains, stay in hotels, and play every weekend for two or three months. It’s the only way for us to play at a world-class level. You just can’t stay land-locked in your own country. That’s ridiculous. Look at Eric. He constantly plays out of the country and he is our best player by far.”
**The Butlers have irritated me plenty. Despite what I, Tim, thought and still think was a very clear understanding that they hold only the Junior Olympic tourney, they’ve willfully gone ahead and are also running a separate event—a “U.S. Junior Championship.” So now on the same weekend and at the same venue there are confusing titles and titleholders, and the strength of either Championship is diffused.