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Xingchang Li - Interview

By Rahul Acharya | May 24, 2015, 12 a.m. (ET)

Xingchang Li (NJ, USA)

Born in Zibo, Shandong province of China, 22 year old Xingchang Li made headlines recently when he along with partners Bochao Li (winner of the 2015 Arnold Table Tennis Challenge) and Henry Zhong (2015 Cary Cup Quarterfinalist), won the 2015 America's Team Championship over Memorial Day weekend in Rockford, Illinois.

This is Xingchang's second visit to the U.S. After a short visit last summer, Xingchang returned to China to take classes at Shandong University. He's been back here since April to seek out exciting table tennis opportunities in the U.S.

Xingchang is a fast, explosive, and very spinny player. I had the opportunity to play him and to ask him a few questions at a recent tournament. I hope you enjoy getting to know him!

Quick facts about Xingchang Li:
Highest USATT rating 2650
#15 in the U.S. for Men
Former Zibo City and Shandong Province Table Tennis Team Member (2003 - 2014)

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Xingchang Li (#15 for Men in the U.S.)
With Xingchang Li at Westchester TTC

1. When and how did you start playing table tennis? What did you like about the sport?
I started to play at the age of six. My dad was a ping pong enthusiast and also my first coach. I joined the Zibo Table Tennis Talent School at age seven and was recruited to Zibo City Table Tennis Team at the age of 10.

To me, table tennis is a fun and challenging sport. I view table tennis a sport based on science and art. It requires a player to have a solid understanding of physics, line of forces, and curve movements. It also helps develop intuition as well as mental strength. Table tennis has built my personality and shaped me into who I am today. I am very proud to be a table tennis player.    

2. What equipment do you currently use?
Blade: Viscaria
Forehand rubber: Hurricane
Backhand rubber: Tenergy 05

3. How often do you play and train?
When I was on the Shandong Province Table Tennis Team, I used to train six hours a day. Now I try to practice three times a week.

4. I know you also coach. Do you consider yourself more as a coach or as a player? Do you still have goals as a player?
I see myself as both a coach and a player. On my table tennis journey, learning never ends. As a player, I would like to participate in more U.S. and international tournaments. In the mean time, I enjoy being a coach. It is a very rewarding experience and gives me a strong sense of accomplishment.

5. How is table tennis training different in the US compared to China? Which style do you prefer and why?
China has a very formal training and league system. Table tennis is a popular sport in China. Each province, city, and even district has their own table tennis team. The training focuses more on technical aspects such as forms, drills, footwork and physical training, all of which are critical components of becoming a good player. In my short stay in the U.S., I notice that the training here is more flexible and individualized, and tends to focus more on rating and results. In my view, both aspects are important and need to be well balanced.

6. Who is your favorite table tennis player? Why?
Ma Long is my favorite table tennis athlete because of his strong technical skills. I also like Jike Zhang for his domineering and assertive playing style.

7. What do you like most about living in the US and what is the hardest part about living here?
I love the environment here. People are very friendly. The most challenging part is that I need to improve my English and to develop a good understanding of American culture.

8. Honors and achievements in table tennis.
Current USATT rating: 2643
2015 America’s Team Champion
2014 U.S. Open Men’s Singles Round of 16 
2012 China National Top Level Athlete Award
2012 China School Sports Team Champion
Two-time Shandong Province Table Tennis Team Championship (2008, 2009)

9. Some players are very animated when they win a point. What's your style? Do you think it is better to cho or stay quiet.
I am a relatively quiet player and do not like to show much emotion. Being calm enables me to think and adjust my game plan. Having said that, I still cheer over hard fought points because it helps light up my spirits.

10. What do you enjoy doing outside of table tennis?
I like music and singing. I play acoustic guitar in my spare time.

11. If you could become as good in any other sport as you are in table tennis, which one would you choose? Why?
Probably soccer. I like playing soccer and follow European major leagues very closely.

12. Would you like to add anything else?
Table tennis is a very popular sport in Asia and Europe. They have very well developed training and league systems as well as professional table tennis clubs. The U.S. has many talented young table tennis players. If there is a good training and league environment, these young players could one day become the world's top players. Through my experience in China, I am hoping that I can make some contribution to U.S. table tennis.

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Xingchang, thanks for your time. Also, thanks to Xiaowen Xu for translating this interview.