Bringing heat to the competition
Sophomore Bryson Manalang has tried lots of sports throughout his life: tennis, basketball, badminton. However, he didnâ€™t find his true calling until he stumbled upon a table and table tennis paddle.
Manalang was introduced to the sport by his father, who knew the basic rules and offered to teach him. After watching a few videos of Dimitrij Ovtcharov, his favorite table tennis player, Manalang was inspired and decided to pursue the sport. Now, table tennis is a large part of his daily life.
â€ś[Ovtcharovâ€™s] style of always attacking the ball when he gets the opportunity and always being consistent is something I hope to have someday as a player. Thatâ€™s one of my main motivations. I love watching him play, and it makes me want to [reach] that level where I can play him one day,â€ť Manalang said.
Manalang is a member of the Los Angeles Table Tennis Association, where he trains at least once a week alongside other table tennis players. He also works with specialized coaches that refine his technique and swing control.
â€śOverall, [being part of] that team has really taught me a lot. Itâ€™s great that I get to meet new people who can give me different pointers on how to become better [and] point out my weaknesses. I do the same for them, too. Itâ€™s a mutual thing that benefits everyone involved, and thatâ€™s what is so great about it,â€ť Manalang said.
In addition to practicing with his team, Manalang also practices on a table for three to five hours every week at home to further improve his hitting patterns. He works on multiball, which is hitting balls across the table in several different locations at a fast pace. To maintain his fitness, Manalang runs the track a few times a week and practices with light weights.
â€ś[Practice makes me] feel relieved because it helps me keep my mind off of things like school,â€ť Manalang said. â€śI’ve improved a great amount from when I first started. A lot of that comes with just practicing and being focused on your goals.â€ť
Table tennis competitions are based on the round robin system for the first few games, in which players are placed in random brackets and play amongst their bracket. Then, players who earned the most points are matched up against one another to play elimination matches. So far, Manalang has been to four competitions and placed third in the Los Angeles Table Tennis Association Open.
â€ś[During competitions], I sometimes feel a little nervous, but after a while I get more comfortable with my opponents and Iâ€™m able to zone in on the game. Especially during elimination games, the atmosphere changes a bit and it becomes more intense,â€ť Manalang said. â€śIn [table tennis], people assume itâ€™s just about hitting the most powerful shots but itâ€™s also about the strategy behind every player. My strategy of attacking strong on the third ball is where I was able to dominate the game, and my attacks definitely helped me win [the Los Angeles Table Tennis Association Open].â€ť
Looking toward the future, Manalang hopes to try out for the U.S. National Team and participate in the 2024 Olympics. He is also working to play more competitive tournaments to improve his rank.
â€śI love it because itâ€™s a time for me to be competitive and show my competitors what Iâ€™m made of. Itâ€™s also about self-awareness. I try to be honest and point out my mistakes [so I can] practice what I messed up on. There are times where I lose, but those obstacles were temporary. If youâ€™re work hard and play smart, youâ€™ll be able to overcome them,â€ť Manalang said.
By Sarah Aie,Â Sports editor
Photo courtesy of Bryson Manalang