Freshman shines in offbeat sport

Renny Gong has been competing for nine years at various tournaments across the nation.

Emily Kim , Asst. Sports Editor

Freshman Renny Gong  practices for 15 hours a week with his personal coach in addition to practicing his sport alone every day.  His dedication has paid off: he is now ranked 15th in the boy’s 15 and under category of ping pong players.

Ping pong has been a big part of Gong’s life since starting at the age of five when he lived in Nanjing, China.

“I was pretty successful with it my first few years so then I carried on with it even though I had lots of ups and downs,” Gong said.

With the U.S. Nationals coming up in December, Gong has been putting in even more effort, since finishing as one of the top four players would secure his spot on the U.S. Cadet National Team for under 15-year-old players. He will be taking all of his finals a week earlier in order to attend the tournament. Since this is Gong’s last year to qualify for the team, he hopes that the extra effort he puts in will pay off during the tournament.

“I’m training double, triple time to actually achieve that goal,” Gong said.

The intense summer training camp he has been attending for the past two summers in Qingdao has also helped him prepare since Gong would play table tennis for seven to eight hours with no rest. His entire time there would revolve around table tennis.

Gong believes that ping pong is different from many sports in that it is more about overcoming personal experiences and emotions. Because he is a singles player, Gong has learned to depend on his own skills and abilities to achieve a win.

“It’s not so much about teamwork as it is about overcoming yourself rather than overcoming cooperation with your team,” Gong said.

Gong believes his greatest accomplishment throughout his time in table tennis was earning a spot on the Top 8 Mini Cadet National Team two years ago. Unlike the Cadet National Team, the Mini Cadet is composed of four of the best under 12-year-old ping pong players who competed at the U.S. Nationals. Being a part of any national team, whether it be the Mini Cadet or Olympic, is considered a great honor for any ping pong player.

“People aim to be a part of a national team and I was a part of the Mini Cadet National Team,” Gong said.

Gong credits his development in the sport to his coach, Yuan Xiao Jie. Gong said they bond well and believes that the cooperation they share allows him to improve on his skills. With the added support of his family members, Gong has been able to develop further than he would have on his own.

“All of them believe in me so much and that motivates me to meet their achievements and make my own achievements,” Gong said.