The CNMI Men’s Table Tennis Team for the 6th Micronesian Games will include three holdovers from last summer’s South Pacific Mini Games and three new faces from Tinian.
Marianas Amateur Table Tennis Association president and national coach Steven Lim named 2006 Mini Games bronze medalists Su Yong Dong, Chen Lin Ying, and Budhi Gurung to the squad, which also include Tinian stalwarts Luke Lu, Charlie Cheng, and Liang Wei Bin. The latter will serve as alternate.
Lim said the selection was based on the results of two qualifying round-robin tournaments held the past month, which included the 7th CNMI Goodwill Table Tennis Tournament held April 1 and 2 at the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino.
Su finished the qualifying round unscathed with a 10-0 mark, followed by Luke Lu and Charlie Cheng, who each finished with identical 7-3 records. Gurung and Chen came next after winning six of 10 matches each, while Liang was at .500 after going 5-5.
The MATTA president said the Top 5 paddlers will compete for the Commonwealth in the quadrennial event, but in case anyone of them is unable to play because of injury or any other reason, the No. 6 player, Liang, will suit up for the CNMI.
“Mr. Liang will be officially registered as an alternate player, as contingency in case of any unfortunate event,” added Lim.
Su and Chen are 37 and 36 years old, respectively, and are from the same city in China, Guangzhou. Su recently acquired Seaman’s Restaurant in Lower Base, where he also serves as chef, while Chen owns Fu Ye Construction.
Gurung is the most senior of the group at 49 years old, but is also the most experienced having won many singles and doubles tournaments in the past. He is from Katmandu, Nepal and is employed by Sablan Topline Cleaning Agency.
Lu, Cheng, and Liang all work for TDHC. The thirty-four-year-old Lu is the hotel’s casino cage supervisor, while 38-year-old Cheng is the casino income control supervisor. Both hail from China’s Shaanxy province. Liang is 49 years old and is TDHC’s vice chairman. He is also from the same city in Guangdong, China Su and Chen came from.
MATTA has not finalized its women’s team for the quadrennial event, as Lim is still trying to coax a former national player out of retirement to join a handful of lady players already practicing with most of the men’s team at the multi-purpose room of the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.
“I’m not done with the women’s team yet, as we are waiting to see if we can bring ‘out of retirement’ a very good Chinese lady player. I really hope she decides to join the team for the tournament. Who knows, she may get us a medal,” he said.
Like swimming, triathlon, baseball, and softball, table tennis is one of the sports the CNMI is expected to do well and medal in the Micro Games.
In the 2005 Palau Mini Games, Su, Chen, and Gurung—under the guidance of Lim—won a bronze medal in the team competition for table tennis.
The CNMI actually finished fourth behind powerhouses New Caledonia (Gold), Guam (Silver), Fiji (Bronze), but since the South Pacific Games Council awards two bronze medals—one for the third place team and a second to the fourth place teams—the CNMI was able to salvage bronze.