It's Called Table Tennis

Saturday, May 9th 2009, 4:26 pm
By: News On 6

By Kyle Dierking,

TULSA, OK -- The harmony of hollowness...

"You don't have time to think," said table tennis player Bob Kyker. "They say it's like playing chess at 100 miles per hour."

It's a back and forth blitz you've probably played in a garage or basement - that would be ping pong. This is table tennis - yes, table tennis. Please, please, don't call it ping pong.

"In ping pong, anything goes," said table tennis player Larry Buell. "You're there for fun, recreation and to have a good time."

"Gnip gnop - that's ping pong spelled backwards," Kyker said.

"That's what people don't understand that much," said Tulsa Table Tennis Club President Kelly Boyce.

There are some ties between table tennis and ping pong, but the major difference is the rules - beginning with something as simple as the serve.

"It has to be served from a flat palm, straight up, at least 15 centimeters," Buell said. "It has to part a spin; you can't serve off your thumb. I mean, there are so many rules to it, just beginning with flipping the ball off your hand and starting the play."

From the sweats to the sweat bands, the young and forever young that make up the Tulsa Table Tennis Club take the sport seriously.

"When we get to the table, we won't give an inch to anybody. Once you shake hands and you're through, it's back to friends again," Kyker said. "When I get to the table, I don't feel like I'm 68, I feel like I'm 25."

And when these table tennis titans take on 12-hour tournaments and multiple matches, it can become, well, a sweaty sport.

"I'll bring at least four to six changes of clothes," Kyker said. "I'll go through eight pairs of socks, easy."

"I do yoga before and after I play just to get my back limbered, my legs, my shoulders - everything, because I do a lot of spinning moves," Buell said. 

Flexibility and a furious fixation help too.

"It's not power, it's not strength, it's technique and timing," Boyce said. "If you watch some of the players here, we get the ball going Forrest Gump speed, if you will," Boyce said.

"For some reason, ping pong came very natural to me," Tom Hanks' character said in the movie.

Actually Forrest, for future reference, it's called table tennis.

Get updates to Kyle's latest sports stories through Twitter. Click here to follow him.