Table Tennis Tournament A Big Part Of Phoenix Chinese Week

By Annika Cline
Published: Thursday, February 12, 2015 - 3:17pm
Updated: Friday, February 13, 2015 - 9:23am
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(Annika Cline/ KJZZ News)
Stanley Wong is a returning tournament participant competing for the ping pong trophy.
(Annika Cline/ KJZZ News)

Phoenix Chinese Week is going on now through Sunday. And if you’re looking for ways to celebrate, we’ve got a few ideas to serve up — like table tennis. China has dominated the sport for decades, taking home 24 of the 28 Olympic gold medals given for table tennis.

It sounds a little chaotic when 14 ping-pong balls are in play all at once. But the players here at the Phoenix Table Tennis Club are focused. The gym floor squeaks under quick footwork. 

It’s the annual Phoenix Chinese Week Table Tennis Open and the prize here is not a gold medal, but tall red trophies that line one side of the gym.

"It is unique because we put a table tennis ball as a figure," said tournament organizer Amoy Yang.

An orange ping-pong ball adorns the top of each trophy and an image of a ram decorates the bottom to celebrate 2015, the year of the sheep.

Eric Liu already holds a second-place trophy for one of the events. He’s new to this tournament, but grew up playing table tennis in China. 

"We usually played after school for, like, hours every day," Liu said.

When he moved to the United States, Liu said his favorite sport became an important way to connect with Chinese Americans. 

"So I think this is a great tool to assist new immigrants to know the community," he said. 

But not everyone learned to play when they were as tall as the table. Summer Losson said she was introduced to the sport just last year by her friend Yali Carpenter, a returning tournament champion. 

"Right now I’m not good at that, so I’m still learning," Losson said. "So everybody’s a coach to me."

The Phoenix Chinese Week tournament has grown over its 15 years thanks to newcomers like Losson who turn into regulars.

Yang said the growth has been slow, but steady.

"Starting from like 20 something, then 30 and 40, and today I think there are more than 80 participants coming," he said.

For Yang, the tournament is not really about the shiny trophies, but continuing the tradition of one of China’s most popular sports.  

The celebrations for Phoenix Chinese Week continue this weekend at Hance Park. You can see dragon boat displays, sample some Chinese cuisine and learn about the country’s history Friday through Sunday.

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