Don’t Call it Ping-Pong: Table Tennis Comes to HBS for Annual IM Tournament

Ping pong is a game – a game for out-of-shape frat boys and racquet-sport dilettantes – played in college rec rooms and family basements. Table tennis, however, is a sport. It is a sport for serious athletes, requiring both the agility of a male student in heels at his first Priscilla Ball, and the speed of an RC purchasing a White Party ticket with the 5pm non-member link.

Last weekend, table tennis came to HBS, with over 90 RCs and ECs competing for a chance to win campus-wide glory in the annual IM tournament. The event started at the ungodly hour of 10:30am on the day after Harvard-Yale, weeding out all but the most dedicated table tennis aficionados.

The massive double elimination tournament was an organizational feat, with over 200 matches completed in less than eight hours. But not all participants were impressed; one RC was very upset about an initial 15-minute match delay and asked tournament co-commissioner Mike Landerer (OG), “Why are the tables configured this way?  You’re an EC – haven’t you taken TOM?”

When prompted for comment, IM Sports Czar Stephanie Kwok (OG) assured The Harbus that the tournament was designed to maximize speed and efficiency. Her highly technical explanation included words like “throughput time”, “Little’s Law”, and “cranberries”, reflecting a level of TOM mastery beyond the capabilities of this reporter, who may or may not have gotten a 4 on her TOM final.

RC’s took the tournament very seriously, with some wearing ‘table tennis gear’, purportedly as a means of intimidation. EC’s, however, were unimpressed. “[The table tennis gear] was essentially really short shorts and a tight fit tee. I think the outfit was more of a distraction tactic than a scare tactic,” said Amol Shah (OB).

The tournament favorite was RC Dave Wolfish (NJ), who had previously competed on the national level. “I couldn’t believe it when I heard there was a nationally ranked player here,” said a starstruck Cass Gilmore (OG), who added that he texted pictures of Wolfish to friends outside HBS.   Wolfish steamrolled through the competition, winning all nine of his matches to claim the tournament championship.

The most interesting action was in the consolation bracket, where a number of players clawed their way back from early losses to place in the top four. Aaron Schaechterle (NF) went early into the loser’s bracket but fought his way back to the finals, winning 11 matches before succumbing to Wolfish in the championship match. Romeo Frega (NB) lost in the first round, but won his next 12 consolation bracket matches and eventually placed fourth.

The best EC performance was from Shah, who tied for fifth place with Will Bennett (ND). EC favorites Ning Xu (OB) and Jon Bassani (OG) underperformed relative to expectations, but still placed well, with both reaching the sweet 16. Sections NJ and NF were the biggest winners overall and took home more than 100 points each. OB was the highest placing EC section, with 52 points.

Congratulations to all players. Follow the SA Cup on Facebook for details on next semester’s badminton tournament and other upcoming IM events.

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