On this Thanksgiving weekend, you may be prepared for the usual food with family and friends. But for a large portion of avid athletes and diehards, they will be spending the weekend at one of the biggest table tennis gatherings of the year.
From November 29- December 1 at the Gaylord National Harbor Convention Center, hundreds of table tennis players form teams to compete in the annual JOOLA Team tournament, which hosts in excess of 150 tables and, last year, over 1000 players.
According to the JOOLA Teams’ website, this year is the 22nd annual tournament. It’s a USATT 4 star sanctioned competition, where many participants will play in excess of 25 matches over the duration of the 3 day-long tournament.
The team aspect of this event is what makes it so special, as each player must pull his or her weight and is a pivotal part of securing overall wins throughout the competition. As veterans of the tournament know, stamina is the name of the game, and by the time Sunday comes around, you reach in for your reserves.
NCTTA president Willy Leparulo has been an enthusiastic participant in the tournament for several years now. With his team aptly named “NCTTA” there’s bound to be hearty reunions with old college athlete alums who are bound together by this yearly table tennis team tradition. Being “loud n proud” is the motto for NCTTA, and Leparulo and his college cohorts can’t wait to battle it out in DC at the Gaylord in vocal fashion.
“It’s gonna be great to see all the different people that we normally see over the DC teams. It’s like, you know how everyone has a Thanksgiving with relatives and so forth, and this is our version...of Thanksgiving: We meet all our friends that we haven’t seen in a year, and we toast, instead of a turkey, we toast a ping pong ball.”
Another regular at the tournament, Sho Miyazaki has experienced great success in past experiences. He says last year that one of his teammates, Alan Chu, “led us to win Division 6.” What he looks forward to in the tournaments is “to get as many wins for the team as well as bonding with the team to make it an unforgettable experience for the whole team.”
This year Miyazaki is on team “Wavemen” helmed by Fashion Institute of Technology coach Wayne Chin.
Miyazaki says he will have a harder time playing in tournaments for years to come because of moving to Alaska soon for a new job; however, as proof of his passion for table tennis and the team tournament that has created lasting memories for him, he’s already booked for next year’s JOOLA event.
While many divisions will compete simultaneously in the venue, eyes will be on the prestigious Division 1 competition. This year Team JOOLA is looking sharp, attracting defensive greats Chen Weixing and Wang Xi, as well as Slovakia's Lubomir Pistej and Netherlands' Rajko Gommers.
They will face stiff competition from the many high level teams in the tournament, one including the combination of Nigeria's Quadri Aruna and Canada's Eugene Wang as its leading two players.
We look forward to seeing some great matches, be sure to check out usatt.org for live-streaming this weekend!
Best of luck to all the participants in this great tournament!