Table tennis tourney draws hundreds to Aurora
By Linda Girardi For Sun-Times Media January 19, 2014 6:52PM
Hundreds of players from across the country competed in the 2014 Butterfly Aurora Cup at the Vaughan Athletic Center in Aurora over the weekend. | Linda Girardi~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 21, 2014 6:22AM
Jun Zhou inspired his two daughters to play table tennis to share his love for the sport.
“I really want my girls to experience the joy and frustration that goes along with competition and understand that hard work pays off,” the Naperville father said.
This past weekend, hundreds of players competed in the 2014 Butterfly Aurora Cup at the Vaughan Athletic Center in Aurora. It is the first four-star tournament of its kind to come to the area.
The center was filled with 38 tables cordoned off in sections, and the constant clacking of a ball weighing a mere 2.7 grams echoed against paddles and the playing surface.
More than 250 players from across the country competed in 22 different categories open to people of all ages and skill levels. The winners shared $8,000 in prize money and earned trophies.
Swavek Lorenc, president of the Fox Valley Table Tennis Club, said the event was its fifth major tournament.
“If we don’t organize tournaments, people will stay in their basements,” Lorenc said.
Lorenc said he has fought hard to make Aurora the “hot spot” of table tennis, and he wants it ingrained in the memory of players that it is a city for quality tournaments.
He said this is the first tournament in the United States to be sanctioned under stricter rules introduced this year.
“We want to develop an Aurora brand of table tennis,” Lorenc said.
Two world-class players — Mingyu Shi and Diwei Shi, originally from China and now training in Atlanta, Ga. — competed in the event. Their coach, Wang Hui, also attended the tournament.
“Spectators can actually tell the level of the player by how they get ready for a serve. They crouch like a tiger,” Lorenc said.
Zhou was ecstatic that a tournament of this caliber was being held practically in his backyard. The family has traveled as far as Washington, D.C., so their daughter, Sarah, 12, and her younger sister, Rachel, could attend a four-star tournament.
Rachel, 10, won the first round of table tennis on Saturday in her division against a player twice her age.
“My strategy was to keep my opponent moving,” the youngster said.
Zhou said his daughters already have begun to develop the eye-hand coordination, as well as the mental skills, required for the sport.
“You have to be able to read your opponent’s mind,” Zhou said.
“Last night, we had a family meeting, and Rachel asked me to not show my emotions while she is playing. Sometimes I feel like I am going to have a heart attack,” the father said.
Zhou said he is part of a small nucleus of parents trying to promote table tennis, a sport that already has a spot of prominence in other parts of the country.
He said the family developed an incentive each time his daughters began to advance to the next level of skill.
“With each increase in their (level), they would earn puppy points. Last year they reached their goal, so we got a puppy,” he said.
Last summer, the young players attended a five-week training camp in Atlanta where Coach Hui, known as one of a new generation of coaches, trains U.S. champions who have gone on to compete in the Olympics.
“As any sport, the tactics and sophistication of the game evolves,” Hui said through a translator.
Nathan Hsu, 17, of Rockville, Md., competes with the largest table tennis club in the country and is among the top 15 players across the country for his age. Hsu, who started playing at age 3, said his favorite parts are the strategic and tactical aspects of the game.
“There are small, subtle adjustments to each shot; no single shot comes back the same,” Hsu said. “Then there is the mental aspect. There is an infinite number of ways you can play an opponent.”