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Catching up with Allen Wang

By Tom Nguyen

Looking back, I remember a period of time when I was taller and a better player then Allen Wang.  Unfortunately that period didn’t last too long.  I first met Allen at the 2005 New Jersey Open on the North American Tour.  He was 7 years old and a tiny little kid who was quiet, shy, but enthusiastic about playing. Even though he lost in the finals of the Under 10 event and lost some rating points, I could tell that Allen had a lot of talent.

Throughout the years, I have seen Allen’s father, Xiaota, caravan his three kids – Allen, Eddie, and Amy – to numerous tournaments.  He is extremely dedicated to the success and happiness of his children.  And every time he would see us, he would greet us with a smile and always thanked us for our hard work at each event.

Allen, Amy, & Eddie at the 2011 North American Teams Championships

Fast forward to today, Allen is 14 years old, stands at 6’2″, and just finished first place in the Cadet Singles which qualified him for the World Cadet Challenge.  I got the chance to catch up with Allen and to go over how he’s progressed through the years.

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Tom:
Allen, you’ve been a rising player for awhile now, plateaued a little bit, and then recently started to get stronger again. Could you explain what’s been going on?

Allen:
I feel that I was always improving, but sometimes I just couldn’t put what I learned into the match. That was always my problem. Recently I’ve learned how to use the skills I practiced to win a point. I think that is why I’m starting to win again.

Tom:
You grew a tremendous amount quickly!  Did you feel that affected your game?

Allen:
Yes, my rapid increase in height affected the most important part in my game, my timing. I noticed that a lot of the times, I couldn’t even touch the ball because my timing was so off. It also affected my stroke.

Tom:
Did it seem to take you awhile to regain that timing?

Allen:
Yes it did. Once I started slowing down on growing, I felt that I could get the ball on the table more. I finally could use what I learned during practice into a real match.

Tom:
Do you remember how tall you were before you all of a sudden had your growth spurt? How tall are you now?

Allen:
I believe that after I won the Under 9 event at the 2007 US Open, I was 5’2.”  I’m currently 6’2” or 6’3” with shoes on.

Tom:
Wow! So tell me more about the North American Championships.

Allen:
Well, there were a lot of events at the tournament, but I was only able to participate in the Cadet Singles.  I advanced out of my round robin group and was placed in the final eight alongside Kanak Jha, Kunal Chodri, Chase Bockoven, Teddy Tran, and Jonathan Ou from the US and Moxi Guo and Alex Moran from Canada.

The top two cadets from USA get selected into the World Cadet Challenge in Guam.  I placed first and Jonathan Ou was second.  Kunal Chodri, who came in third, got selected to go through the ITTF Hopes Team coach.

Tom:
Impressive! So what was your toughest match?

Allen:
My toughest match was against Canada’s Moxi Guo. At first I wasn’t used to his soft style, so I was losing in the beginning. I was down 2-1 in games and I started to change my strategy.  I started playing more aggressive and I looped his serves which gave me an edge in the match. At the last game I was down 7-4, but worked my way back to 8-8. My opponent got an edge, which made it 9-8, but I attacked the last 3 balls with my backhand and won the match. That, I believe, was my toughest match.

Tom:
Moxi is definitely a tough opponent, so nice job on the comeback. So when is the World Cadet Challenge?

Allen:
It starts October 27th and ends November 4th.

Tom:

I’d like to discuss your “growing pains” some more.  I think that a lot of kids face what you went through, but of course, you grew even taller then most kids.  Do you have any tips or advice for kids who are going through a growth spurt?  What did you notice that you wish you could’ve done, or something that maybe helped you?

Allen:
Well, I realized that the taller I grew, the lower I had to bend to get my timing and position right. During my growth spurt, I had to train my legs to be more powerful doing workouts such as frog jumps, jump rope, etc.  My advice is to focus training on your legs first and don’t get frustrated when you can’t hit the ball, or miss too much.  After a lot of practice, the timing will just come to you.

Allen Wang at the 2012 US Open Table Tennis Championships
Allen Wang at the 2012 US Open Table Tennis Championships

Tom:
Can you tell us more about your training the past couple of years? I know you’ve been to China and have had some coaches nearby home too.

Allen:
Well, 2 years ago, after I nearly made it into the 2009 Cadet Team (I believe I got fifth with a 3 way tie), my dad sent me to China for a year of practice in Tianjin.  While in Tianjin, I didn’t go to school.  All I did was practice, practice, and more practice.  There were a variety of drills and workouts.  In the morning at 7a.m. we had to jog and in the afternoon, we had to run 4-10 miles a day.  It was very tiring!  After I came back from China, I realized that i had no results to show.  My dad hired a personal coach who taught me how to use the skills I learned in China into a match. That was when I realized that I can still improve.

Tom:
So you came back from China, and had no results. What do you think the reason was? I hear this happens to a lot of people who come back from overseas training.

Allen:
I think its because in China, the coaches don’t care about us as much. So they don’t give us the drills that we need to practice. We just do the regular drills. But with a personal coach, he can help me figure out my weaknesses and try to strengthen them. So my personal coaches have helped me a lot.

Tom:
And who are those coaches?

Allen:
My first coach when I got back from China was Liang Jishan. He used to practice at Tianjin and I met him there.  He coached me for 3 months until the 2011 US Nationals.  Eventually, Liang left to coach at a club in Seattle.  I had another coach who came from China, named Yin Peng.  He is actually Gao Yanjun’s nephew.  Through Gao, I met with Yin and he trained me till after the 2012 US open.  After Yin Peng left, which was July, I had another coach named Zhong Zongqi.  He is currently my coach and I train with him everyday.  It definitely paid off since I got some good results at the North American Championships.  I don’t like to practice because it gets really boring and frustrating, but no pain, no gain!

Tom:
I think your dad is a great guy, and has put a lot into you and your family with table tennis.  Can you go more into that, and also, is there anybody else who has influenced you or helped you along the way?

Allen:
Well, I believe that my dad helped me the most in my table tennis career.  He puts a lot of time and money into my sister and I, leaving him with no free time.  Another person that helped me along the way was my aunt.  When i was in Tianjin, I stayed at her house for a year.  I felt really bad when I didn’t get any good results from the training, but I didn’t want my stay at Tianjin to go to waste.  So I got some motivation.  My aunt was really nice to me, and on weekends, she took me to a Chinese coach to practice.

And of course, JOOLA.  JOOLA has provided me with great quality rubber and rackets and really comfortable clothing.

Tom:
Thanks for the shout out! So, what are you currently using?

Allen:
I am currently using the Flame Extreme with Rhyzm. It’s a solid blade and I love that combination.

Tom:
How has it been growing up and training with your little sister?

Allen:
Personally,  I have never really trained with my sister.  She practices with my dad most of the time and we share the same trainer.  I only play matches with Amy and sometimes a drill or two.

Tom:
Do you look up to any players, and or, do you have a favorite player?

Allen:
My favorite player is Kenta Matsudaira.  I kinda play like him.  But I also like Ma Long’s forehand and Zhang Jike’s backhand, but my favorite all around player is still Kenta Matsudaira.

Tom:
So, tell us what the non-table tennis Allen Wang is like. What do you enjoy doing outside of table tennis?

Allen:
I love playing basketball at the park with my friends. Im probably like 2000 haha! I think I might try out for the school team this year.

Tom:
What are some of the things you are working on, and also, what are some of your short term and long term goals.

Allen:
I’m currently working on my forehand and footwork. My short term goal is to make the Cadet and Junior team this year. My long term goal is to make the 2016 Olympic team.

Tom:
That’s great, we believe you can do it! Thanks for your time, Allen. Anything else you would like to say? Shoutouts?

Allen:
Haha my favorite umpire is Ly Li An. I guess that’s it then.  Thanks, Tom!

Allen Wang is a JOOLA sponsored player and a rising junior. His accomplishments include:

-2012 US Open Junior Teams Finalist
-2012 ITTF USA Junior Circuit – 3rd place in Cadet Singles
-2010 US Open Cadet Boy’s event second place, North America TT Championship Tournament
– 2010 Venezuela ITTF World Hope Team Event Champion
– 2009 US Open 11 & Under Boy’s Champion
– 2008 US National 10 & Under Boy’s Finalist
– 2007 US Open 9 & Under Boy’s Champion

Allen’s racket combination:
Blade: JOOLA Flame Extreme
Forehand: JOOLA Rhyzm
Backhand: JOOLA Rhyzm

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Thomas Nguyen

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