locker room

Pingpong Proficient

“It’s mainly physics and practice,” says UB Table Tennis Club Vice President William Sueyasu (left).

By David J. Hill

There’s more to table tennis than most people think. 

The sport is a study in concentration, speed, strategy and physics. “People think you just go back and forth like this,” says UB Table Tennis Club president Daiki Kamakura, mimicking the leisurely movements of your typical American basement pingpong game. “To play well, you have to move a lot. You get very tired.” Kamakura, a Spanish major, began playing in junior high in Japan.

“You’ve got to concentrate the whole time. It’s like an exam,” adds Willian Sueyasu, the club’s vice president, who played two years on the Brazilian national team and at one point was ranked third in the country. “We are very precise and can place the ball anywhere on the table because we practice a lot. It’s mainly physics and practice.”

The third leg of UB’s powerful pingpong trio is club treasurer Jian Clemente, who has been playing since high school in his native Philippines.

The three seniors make for a unique international dynamic on the club’s e-board. They have also taken UB table tennis to a new level. When Sueyasu joined in 2013, the club had only two tables and played in a narrow hallway in Alumni Arena. Now, they have seven tables and practice in the triple gym.

As many as 20 people show up for the club’s weekly recreational session. The other two weekly meets are reserved for practice to prepare the better players for National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA) tournaments throughout the academic year. In 2014, the club won its division, finished second in regionals and placed in the top 12 at NCTTA nationals. But, says Kamakura, “Our biggest focus is just making sure that everyone has fun.” 

Pong Pointers

  • •  Collegiate matches consist of a best-of-five-games format.
  • •  Each game is played to 11; players have to win by two points.
  • •  The sport’s international governing body in 2014 approved the use of a new plastic ball. The old celluloid balls were flammable and couldn’t be transported on planes.