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$36,000 Mecano Sports Ping Pong World Cup – PREVIEW

(by Larry Hodges)

Hardbat and Sandpaper and Wood, Oh My! That’s what’s coming up in Mexico City, Jan. 4-6, 2024 – the $36,000 Ping Pong World Cup. That’s no typo – $36,000 in American dollars, over 600,000 pesos. (That’s a lot of money for the game of ping pong!) Here is the entry form, with the prize money breakdown. Players from 16 countries will take part – Belgium, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Russia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, Northern Ireland, Poland, Scotland, and USA (9 states represented). A link for streaming will go up before the event on the home page.

So, what is all this, you ask? It’s for Classic Table Tennis, with hardbat, sandpaper, and wood events – no squishy stuff. Here are the events – and the links take you to the draws and schedule, which are already up.

  • Day One (Thu, Jan. 4) is Sandpaper Day, with Sandpaper Open, Sandpaper Women, Sandpaper Seniors (over 55), and Sandpaper Juniors (under 18).
  • Day Two (Fri, Jan. 5) is Hardbat Day, with Hardbat Open, Hardbat Women, Hardbat Seniors (over 55), and Hardbat Juniors (under 18).
  • Day Three (Sat, Jan. 6) is Bare Wood and Choice Day, with Bare Wood Singles and Choice Singles. For Choice Singles, you get to choose whether to use hardbat, sandpaper, or plain wood.

Many of the Open events will likely be dominated by world-class classic table tennis stars Alexander ‘Flash’ Flemming (GER), Wang Shibo (CHN), Andrew Baggaley (ENG), and A.J. Carney         (USA). But with players from all over the world competing, many of them relatively unknown in the classic table tennis world, others will likely rise to the top. Here is a complete player listing. Or check out the top seeds in each event in the event listing. “Finding Heroes” is a big part of this tournament – who will they be?

Alexis Perez looks like the man to beat in the senior events – but this writer (second seed in Hardbat Seniors, my only event) and others hope to take him down. Two women from China, Cao Jing and Ying Yuyue, are top seeds in Sandpaper Women, while Hardbat Women is seeded to be dominated by Sara Gulabani of North Carolina (USA) and two French Women, Camille Morival and Audrey Rothier. Junior Singles could be wide open, with USA’s Hardbat and Sandpaper star Bryce Milford facing challenges from all over the world – China, Great Britain, Czech Republic, Belgium, France, Denmark, and Mexico.

Classic TT Guru Steve Claflin is Tournament Director and also hopes to inflict damage in the senior events. Micky “Miky” Huidobro and Alexandra Hoefer are the Event Directors, who found the sponsors, playing venue, hotel, and practice facilities, and helped organize, market, and promote the event. Yes, that Micky Huidobro (link is in Spanish, but you can translate to English), the leader and face of the Grammy Award-winning rock band Molotov! In Mexico, he is the equivalent to Eddie Van Halen in the US or Bono in Ireland. (Here he is with ping pong paddle in front of World Cup banner.) He is a ping pong aficionado and is playing in Sandpaper Singles, as “Miguel Huidobro.”

They will be assisted by a motley staff of Mike Babuin, Marek Zaskodny, Nora Louie, Jeff Milford, Uriel Valdes, and Larry Hodges. Prepare for a barrage of articles to go up as the event takes place, Jan. 4-6!!!

The event is sponsored for the next three years by Mecano Sports, and presented by Caliente MX, plus about twenty other sponsors, including Snowball and Butterfly. The event is sanctioned by the International Classic Table Tennis Federation, a growing organization whose memberships now include USA, Mexico, Brazil, France, Denmark, Switzerland, Scotland, Czech Republic, Poland, Ireland, and Malta.

We’ll finish with the venue – and for this, we’ll use the language from the Ping Pong World Cup home page.

Frontón México, the chosen venue for the first edition of the Ping Pong World Cup 2024 in Mexico City, holds a rich history and significance in the world of sports and entertainment. Originally built in 1929, Frontón México was primarily designed as a venue for the traditional Basque sport of Jai-Alai, also known as pelota vasca.

Over the years, Frontón México expanded its offerings beyond Jai-Alai and began hosting various sports events and entertainment shows. It became a versatile venue capable of accommodating different types of events, including concerts, boxing matches, and even theatrical performances. Its grandeur and historical significance made it a favored location for hosting important cultural and sporting events in Mexico City.

​Recognizing the rich legacy of Frontón México and its ability to provide a captivating atmosphere, the organizers of the Ping Pong World Cup chose this iconic venue as the stage for the tournament’s inaugural edition. With its spacious halls, grand seating arrangements, and state-of-the-art facilities, Frontón México offered the perfect setting to showcase the world’s top ping pong players and immerse spectators in an unforgettable experience.

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