In the bustling NYU Shanghai Qiantan campus, the school held its first-ever sports invitational on Oct. 28-29. 

In the morning, the first matches began with NYU Shanghai (NYUSH) and Duke Kunshan University (DKU). Though the two captains, Ashley Chen and Xiaowen (David) Zhu, gained full victory in singles, the Qilins were stuck in doubles and were defeated at 2:3. Talk about how mixed doubles was very close and how this gives us hope for the DKU invitational to go beat them there. For the mixed doubles, for example, talk about how the match scores were 2-2, and in a very heated final game, the team lost 8-11 which is still very close.

During the men’s doubles, a DKU player who hypes himself up when winning a point caught my attention. When being interviewed, in contrast to his passionate performance at the table, Lei Wu was very calm. He remarked, “This is my first intercollegiate match since I entered the DKU table tennis team, and I’m really glad that I can win, so I cheered passionately. I think the strengths of the two teams are quite close. I want to thank NYUSH for giving me the stage to express myself.”

Lei Wu and Phuenfah Orachorn in men’s double (Jingyi Ma for On Magnolia Square)

DKU’s opponents, our school’s team members, were both 1st years. Xingchen (Bert) Liu recalled, “Indeed, we feel that we’re a bit less competitive than DKU players. We didn’t show our fullest potential, and the cooperation between me and my teammate was not good enough. Though, we tried, and that matters.” Phuenfah (Sky) Orachorn from Thailand, his teammate, was one of the few international players in this match. He added, “I think today’s match is pretty competitive. But I think, at the last few points, perhaps I can make a better choice. Overall, my serve is effective in the games, and I made some good loops. I would also like to give credit to our opponents’ performances.”

In Saturday’s matches, the team saw some familiar faces from other schools. Among them was Haolin Li, also known as the “Gold Left Hand” from the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) because of his fierce attacks. One match of note is between him and the best player from East China Normal University (ECNU), Shupeng Wu, who is also a left-handed player. It’s very rare to see two high-level left-hand players in men’s singles table tennis games in inter-school matches. Typically, left-handed players are paired with right-handed players in doubles matches. Li said, “When practicing, I’m with right-handed players all the time. So when I’m also playing with a left-handed player, I feel very awkward. We both need to make changes in our strategies. My opponent did very well today.” He commented on UNNC’s team members’ performance, “They did quite well and won all the points that they should have won. We will keep on focusing on details and strategies. Some of our team members are 1st years and they still need time for cooperation. We will work together to push our team forward.”

Haolin Li making a loop from beneath the table (Jingyi Ma for On Magnolia Square)

For the ECNU table tennis team members, this is their first time participating in a tournament with Sino-foreign cooperative universities. One of their team members, Shangao Wu, praised NYUSH for providing an excellent court, as well as coupons for the campus cafeteria. 

He also mentioned, “Our school team only has players who use inverted pips. Today, we met other players with long and short pips. Also, this year we have a great number of left-handed players. Their different ways of playing add more uncertainty and fun to the matches.” 

During Saturday’s matches, the two captains of the NYUSH table tennis team each played three singles games. When asked about what progress she and our team made in the past half year, Captain Chen told me, “I think the women’s singles’ performance is still stable. Compared to the XJTLU Cup last semester, we were able to win more points and games against UNNC. The mixed doubles team almost won. Overall, the team made a really good performance.” Captain Zhu was a bit shy when being interviewed. “When we were playing doubles with UNNC, we made good defense and won a lot of points through our serve. Still, there’s a gap in strength between us and our opponents, and we need to make progress. I think our team’s cohesion has lifted in the past half year, and we’re all enthusiastic about training.”

Captain Ashley Chen (Courtesy of NYUSH Qilin Cup Official Broadcast Group)
Captain Xiaowen Zhu (Courtesy of NYUSH Qilin Cup Official Broadcast Group)

This is the first Qilin Cup and the second time the team has participated in an inter-school tournament. In the end, NYUSH won the Violet Prize at the Qilin Cup, yet everyone was delighted to step on the stage and cheered wholeheartedly. After the awards ceremony, NYUSH’s table tennis coach, Coach Shang concluded, “Today’s match is an excellent chance for us to learn. I hope our team members focus on the process instead of results. We showed team spirit in the matches, but we still need more time and practice. In all, we should hold an attitude of ‘Whatever happens will bring benefits to us.’ I hope our team will become better in the future.”