Some call it ping pong. Others prefer table tennis. But however you describe it, a teenager named Michael Landers will beat you, and he just might be an Olympic medalist in 2012.
The 15-year-old from Old Westbury, Long Island, recently trounced contenders twice his age at the National Championships in Las Vegas. His secret? A grueling workout regimen that includes weightlifting, endurance drills and speed exercises.
"It was 11-9 in the seventh game," recalls Landers of his championship win. "Waking up the next day might have been the greatest day of my life. I was like, 'did that really just happen?'"
This reporter grew up playing a little ping pong and beating friends. There may have been a third-place finish in a couple of tournaments. So, challenging Landers seemed like an obvious decision. The final score: Landers 11, Siff 0. And don't be misled: the match wasn't as close as the score indicates.
"Yeah, I would say I'm a little bit cocky," said the seemingly scrawny but deceptively strong Landers, who also plays bassoon, swims, and takes the LIRR three times a week to practice at the Manhattan ping-pong hotspot SpinNYC.
"But not enough to hurt my game, I don't think. Every match is a learning experience. You can always get something out of it."
Even a less-than-difficult duel against a reporter who should stick to questions and answers and perhaps, steer clear of this kind of racket.