One of an upcoming book of short stories
New York, Present Day. The previous US table tennis champion in the US in his early 20s who quits before trying for the World Championships, he stops because of his current girlfriend. He thinks that he probably wants another life to just be a normal Joe. Two years pass and after landing a job in sport for a year or so, he decides to get back into Table Tennis. He comes back with a vengeance deciding that this is definitely his life path, because he is no longer with the same woman by this time, who had him doubt his path, that is no longer an issue. He decides that he not only wants to get in good enough shape to play in the World Championships, but to be good enough to be the best, to beat the Chinese who have been dominating table tennis for years.
Once a strong user of speed glue, he has to cope with the fact that it is no longer and adapt to the new game that has changed since he was America’s top. Although he was very good, he had been out of training for a while and in order to get back into the game and rise to the top he would need a secret weapon, a coach that could give him insight into how the Chinese train.
His family encourages him to go for his dream and his father tells him it may not be likely that he will find this coach but that he shouldn’t rely completely on something outside himself to achieve his goal; he has to do it himself. He becomes determined and starts to train on his own. He researches ancient Chinese texts and traditional martial arts to give him insight into the Chinese mindset of building the body and utilizing the mind. He then comes across a nice Chinese lady about his age when rummaging through a bookstore in Chinatown, he tells her which book he is looking for as it contains an ancient Chinese training method for martial arts which he thinks he could apply to table tennis training. She finds the right book, but it is only in Chinese. Unfortunately, he knows not a word of Chinese and asks if there was a way he could have someone interpret it, if there was anyone she knew. She is sad to inform him that she knows of no Martial Arts masters who speak English well enough to be able to explain it to him and then asks him why he wants to know.
He explains to her his will to train at a higher level in Table Tennis and just then she tells him that her father was actually a coach in China and who only moved to America recently. He was one of the top coaches but decided to retire early and move out of the country since he preferred the system in the US and she was also living here so he could be with her. The protagonist sincerely requests to meet with him and she says that she will see what can be done.
She arranges they meet and have dinner together at their home and over dinner he explains to her father what he is searching for. The coach actually lights up as he didn’t retire because he was through with coaching, but because he wanted to leave the country. Since the sport wasn’t that popular in the US, he didn’t think he would be able to meet anyone with enough heart to handle his training, after meeting this American however, he is convinced that he has the heart for it. Since he retired the year before, he knows about the lack of speed gluing, so is also able to help him in that respect, he didn’t find the game as good with speed gluing since anyway, since there was less strategy and skill involved in the game. He also thought that it was the perfect opportunity to achieve his dream since the Chinese players were no longer in as great of an advantage without the speed gluing.
They begin to train and he not only teaches him the gruellingly difficult methods of training and hours employed in China but also teaches him about the Tao (way), an ancient Chinese way of thought that the American Man had recently read about and was interested in.
Over in China, the top players are training harder than ever and have found a way to compensate the speed gluing, they are using baby oil something that cannot be detected by equipment testers at the championships but gives similar results. With this news leaking out, other countries are enraged at the fact that this is a form of cheating, so they demand the ITTF do something to make sure there is no such cheating, however it is difficult to do so. This news spreads throughout the whole table tennis community until it finally reaches the United States.
After several months of training, the protagonist is already confident that he has the potential to achieve what he needs to and then hears of the news. The Chinese have an extra advantage over the fact that they are already considered the strongest. He gets somewhat discouraged and his coach tells him that although he is training more hours than the Chinese, even using their methods and more, it is not only the training that will have him win, although it is crucial; his heart also needs to be in it. He tells him that it is not only about his body but about his mind and aligning his body with his mind. That the important thing is not winning or losing but that he does the best he possibly can.
By this point he has quit his job to be dedicated to his training and is taken in and taken care of by his coach. The coaches daughter lives in a separate house but comes over every once in a while to see his progress. With the ever growing popularity of the sport in his city (New York) he has to find people to go against, not necessarily official players playing nationally but those who are quite high level and who play in the city and may even be better than some US national players and have been playing for decades. After challenging many and beating them relatively easy, he is disheartened that he is not going to be able to find anyone good enough in the US to prepare him for the world until he comes across Bimo Toll at a small table tennis club in the city. He finds it extremely unusual that such a player would be here, however he finds out that he has come due to the news of the increasing popularity of the sport in the city and wanted to see if north America finally had some potential, some more players that could finally compete against the Chinese from the west. So far he found hopeful people yet no one with skills of a high enough caliber to compete at high levels until he sees a player winning with ease in the club and thinks to himself that he may be a serious player, maybe not an American, he approaches him to ask.
The protagonist is happy to finally have found someone worthy to go against and he informs him he is American. Someone at such a high level as Bimo Toll is quite intimidating and yet accepts the challenge for fun, they decide to play the game by official rules. Bimo figures he should play it easy and the American is quite intimidated. Their first matches rallies are long and Bimo wins the first game yet not so easily with a score of 11 points over 8. The protagonist begins to kick into high gear and suddenly begins to enlighten to what his coach taught him, “your heart has to be in it” he begins to play quite strongly so much so that Bimo realizes he can’t play it easy anymore as it would be terribly embarrassing if this American won even one one game in the match. However Bimo loses the second round 10 to 12. He tells him he is pretty good and comes to decide to play at his real level. Our protagonist realizes what is happening and becomes determined to win as he comes to remember what his coach told him “don’t be concerned about winning or losing just do the best you possibly can,” he focuses on the game.
Bimo wins again, yet it is once again close with a score of 11 to 9. Though the American has lost again, he begins to understand more the strategy and decides he needs to put his mind into it, “work the body… utilize the mind … align them…” he finally wins again, 11 to 9. Bimo is shocked, how could this happen, he is in New York, he was only here to see the scene and now he is in the middle of a match with this unknown American who is reminding him of the Chinese. He decides to end the match here since he has got to get back with his family who was expecting him for dinner because they wanted to see more of the city as well. He tells him it is unfortunate he has to leave early but that he, the American, honestly played very well and that he himself hopes that he is no longer a stranger and can be seen at the World Championships as more strong players are needed to compete against the Chinese.
The protagonist gets more determined than ever, he was able to stay on par with the 4th ranked player in the world, it was however a small place, an unexpected game and he is unknown, making him hard to estimate. He thinks he still has a long way to go, but is more determined than ever that he can make it. With his great coach and teaching it is definitely achievable. The next day he wakes up ready to train with his coach only to find out he isn’t home. He telephones the coaches daughter to see if she knows where he might be. Upon answering the phone and being asked about her father she bursts into tears as she has just found out her father has died in a terrible car accident, he was on his way home the night before after meeting her at a Chinese restaurant for dinner and upon taking the taxi home, his car was hit by a thief in a getaway from the police, him and the taxi driver also died in the head-on collision.
He is devastated to hear this, but does his best to try to comfort her and says that she should come back, and he will do his best to cook so they can talk over it. After hanging up, he becomes unsure if he is able to continue or not, if his dream is now over with the loss of one of the greatest people he has ever been close to. He comes to realize that he was never even able to meet this coach until after he was determined to make it on his own, and decides to continue the training his coach taught him on his own, continuing until the end of what he decided to start. He explains this to the coaches daughter after going over the tragedy and it puts a light of hope in her eyes; she decides to encourage him on his path and continue the tradition set by her father. She decides to continue to support him by allowing him to stay at her house in a completely separate room. He continues his gruelling training, which he realizes is much more difficult without a coach, yet he stays at the same training level and rising in comparison with when his coach was around, he keeps the spirit alive of his coach’s teachings.
He does this as the upcoming World Championships are coming closer and during his time not training, he writes down everything he can remember that his coach had taught him and what he learned against Bimo Toll. He is determined to far surpass where he was in that surprising opportunity to play against one of the world’s top players and remembers what his coach told him, “Do not be concerned on whether you win or lose, just do the best you possibly can.”
He is entered into the World Championships and has to qualify and does so with ease, he makes it into the main matches. His first match is against Bimo Toll. He beats him 4 -3 with a score of 15 – 13 in the 7th game. He plays extremely strongly however sometimes beating Bimo Toll with scores such as 11 to 7. He thinks that he still needs to do better, but must focus on doing the best he possibly can.
He makes it to the semi-finals and almost loses to a new star Korean player, thinking his dream was going to be crushed early, yet is finally able to continue. He goes against a Chinese player and is able to keep up in the first game, but loses, and then continues to lose quite quickly until he is down 3 to 0. Looking at the Chinese player’s racket from afar , he suspects it has been tampered with for an advantage. He decides that this has to be done the best he possibly can, he starts to think back on the Chinese player’s style and can see some holes, he remembers this upon strategizing, “though the training is crucial, your heart has to be in it, body and mind aligned, it does not matter whether you win or lose.” He finally understands and he no longer has to think, he understands that the moves will come naturally to him, that he will win if he is supposed to win, that he needs to do his utmost best and not be concerned with anything else.
He beats the Chinese player in this game 12 to 10, a big shock for the Chinese player. This becomes like a slap to the face for the Chinese player as nearly unknown player can even beat him in one game. he thinks it must have been a fluke and that he must stay consistent and he will win, what he has is consistency and training that far surpasses western countries, he just needs to be consistent, though he is still quite shocked, though can now see how such a stranger could make it to the semi-finals. He gets beaten in the next game, the protagonist wins 11 to 9. The crowd is devastated, how could anyone be doing this well against a Chinese player of that caliber after being so easily beaten in the first 3 games?
His position in the semi- finals is once again proven with another close win 12 to 10. His former coach’s daughter is cheering him in the crowd. The Chinese player’s coach can hardly hold back his anger calling a time-out after the American getting the 1st point in the 7th game. He tells him that the American must be cheating, that the federation must have let him pass the racket test even with an illegal racket to have an advantage against the Chinese. He tells him that if he loses he can complain to the federation for them not being strict enough on everyone’s rackets and not treating everyone the same. The Chinese player loses 11 – 9 in the final game and the crowd cannot believe it and they are in great surprise.
He wins and hardly anyone can believe it. He is going to go to the finals against the last Chinese player, the top ranking player of the day.
Upon dinner that night, his former coaches daughter tells him that she has feelings for him and that she would like to get closer to him, to have a serious relationship as she already feels like he is a part of her family. He tells her he feels the same way and that he wants to marry her. She agrees. She tells him that whether he wins or loses she respects him for making it this far and going through with this even after the loss of her father and truly carrying on the tradition he taught.
The next day is the big match and the racket control makes extra sure to take care in checking his racket to avoid more complaints and find that it is fine, they take extra care in noting down the testing results of every racket and publishing it on the website. The game comes and the American is being cheered by all non-Chinese fans and the Chinese fans are only cheering their player harder.
The American wins the first round 12 to 10. The Chinese player realizes in his heart this is a true player and that he must play the best possible. He cannot be attached to the fact that this player is quite an unlikely opponent and that he must focus on the game. He wins against the protagonist in the next game 11 to 8.
The American stays quiet in his mind and focused. He is able to match every technique of the Chinese player and the first rally in the 3rd game lasts more than 10 minutes and finally the American gets the point. The Chinese player’s confidence begins to be hurt. and soon loses the game 11 to 7. The Chinese player thinks that he must not be disheartened and that he must win, he has to win and he is determined to win, this is why he is here and he is one of the best in the world. The next game is a surprisingly close game, but the Chinese player wins again with 15 to 13.
They both play quite seriously and the crowd stays eerily quiet, watching the game intently. They each win once again. The 7th game comes and with a score of 7 – 5 for the American player, the Chinese coach calls a time out, he tells the Chinese player to fake an injury if the match gets very close near the end to psyche out the American and then come back full force saying that he is fine after a 10 minute break. The Chinese player knows that this is dishonest in his heart, but decides to follow his coach loyally. The game reaches a deuce of 10 – 10 and the Chinese player pretends to trip and hurt himself, he says he still wants to continue to play but is not sure if he can, the referee tells him he has ten minutes, if he cannot recover, he will automatically lose. The American player, our protagonist, cannot believe this; he wanted to win, but not this way, he wanted to win respectfully. The ten minutes pass and the Chinese player says he’s still a little hurt but can play. He comes back at full force and easily wins the eleventh point. The protagonist calls a time out but the referee won’t give it to him. He tells them to continue. The protagonist just then, realizes he has completely lost his focus because of this unexpected incident and he cannot give up what he has come to learn by himself through his incredible journey so far, he is confident, he can’t think, he must do the best whether he wins or loses. He gets the point after a long rally.
The next point is a clear win for the American and the Chinese player is shocked, he was loyal to his coach and now he has to play his best until the very end, he can’t rely on dirty tricks, that ploy led by his coach only got him one point, he needs to be true to his game. They are both incredibly focused and it is the Chinese player’s serve, the American’s return has the ball hit the corner edge of the table, an almost impossible ball to return, the Chinese player plays it, it’s a high ball landing legally on the other side, perfect for a smash, the American player smashes right into the opposite direction and it is nearly impossible to catch the ball on the other side, but the Chinese player gets it, it goes high up in the air and lands on his own side of the table; the Chinese player has lost the game. The American is overjoyed, the whole crowd is amazed, the non-Chinese fans are cheering, his now fiancee is enchanted. He succeeded in his dream, he accomplished his coaches mission, he didn’t have to rely too much on things outside himself, he has now led the way with new hope into North America in this sport, something to offer the new avid players resultant of its recent American popularity a hope in the sport for their country.
After marrying his former coach’s daughter, the protagonist becomes a coach after winning 2nd place two years in a row thereafter, the first year after his 1st place is won by a German player and the 2nd a Chinese. Although he is still pretty young and barely 30, he realizes that he will need to be a coach right away and pass on his coach’s tradition if there is to be a chance for the American players to succeed. Other countries gain greater confidence and play much stronger and the sport becomes a staple sport in the world to be likened to soccer and tennis.