By Jason Andrew Vila
In the Philippines, if you ask a random person on the street what his favorite sport is, most of the answers will probably be basketball or volleyball. Although the country has produced a lot of talented athletes, other sports are still trying to get more visibility and audience. One of these sports is Table Tennis.
Table tennis is clearly a growing sport. One sign of this is the medals we got in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Cambodia where Richard Gonzales and John Russel Misal bagged the bronze medal in the men’s doubles match. The youth team is also showing promise as well as the junior girls’ U19 team for the 2023 SEA Youth table tennis championships. The Philippines grabbed its first silver medal in the Southeast Asian Table Tennis Association organized competition.
Rodolfo “Pong” Ducanes, Secretary General of the Philippine Table Tennis Federation, expressed his delight at the current landscape of table tennis where he has seen a lot more tournaments in the sport being held not just in CALABARZON, but in the entire country.
“Sa ping pong, nakikita ko na parang ang daming tournaments lately so nakakatuwa,” he said as he also used the term “revenge tourism” to describe the number of tournaments popping up after the pandemic to describe the current landscape of table tennis in the country.
He also shared the importance of developing and training younger children to turn them into better athletes. He hopes to see a Filipino athlete win the gold for the country starting from the SEA Games then the Asian Games and ultimately, the Olympics.
“I think sa ping pong dapat bata ka lang nag start. Dapat tama yung pag train sa ‘yo. May chance ka,” he said. “[in table tennis] Depende na lang talaga sa pag eensayo ng bata at kung saan-saan mo siyang [competitions] eexpose.”
He also shared the importance of grassroots tournaments like the 5th Antipolo Table Tennis Tournament. “Dito mo makikita yung mga batang emerging dito sa sport” he said. He also noted the importance of encouraging younger players to try the sport as we have still yet to find “the country’s table tennis star.”
Recently, we’ve seen more and more Filipinos standing out on the sport they are in like Hidilyn Diaz who won the gold medal in the 2020 Summer Olympics weightlifting. There is also Carlos Yulo in gymnastics, Ej Obiena in pole vaulting, and the “Filipinas,” the Philippine women’s football team, who qualified for the Women’s World Cup for the first time.
We have already proven that the country is booming with talent and it just needs events and more people and sponsors to support the athletes and make more eyeballs look at the sport.
Table tennis is arguably as exciting as basketball and volleyball. With the game’s continuous growth, and the players only getting more and more exceptional at the sport, it is only a matter of time before table tennis is brought to more eyes from the masses and has its potential be acknowledged by more people.