Singapore Adventure

Monday, September 11, 2006

Old Mac Don Ald!
by venitha

"I think these guys would even beat your dad," Jim murmurs in awe.

Well, yeah. We've both lost every game we've ever played against my father, even those he's played left-handed, defense only, and blindfolded. Okay, maybe he wasn't blindfolded, but you get the idea. He kicks butt. These players today, though, the top ranked in the world, could teach even my dad a thing or two, in particular that cool jump serve.

To console myself for missing the opening kick-off of the NFL season, I have roused Jim from his hangover and dragged him to the Toa Payoh Sports Hall for the Volkswagen Open Singapore Table Tennis Tournament. Table tennis is a serious sport, and today's prize money is US$100,000. A quick perusal of the player roster confirms what I already knew: Asians, particularly the Chinese, are dominant. There is a single entrant from the US; her name is Gao Jun.

"Who are you rooting for?" Jim asks as the men's doubles final gets underway, and I give this momentous decision some thought. The team from China, or the team from China? No help there. How about the team with the best names? No, they both have a Mr. Ma. I finally opt for the pretty purple and blue uniform. Unfortunately, my support curses them, and it's the team of Mr. Ma in China's predictable red and yellow that emerges triumphant from their complex weaving and bobbing dance. Among amateurs, doubles table tennis must be a contact sport.

The singles games, with their faster rhythm and longer volleys, are far more fun to watch, and the women especially play with grace and finesse. The Chinese duo victorious in the women's doubles plays each other in the women's singles final, and I throw over Miss Pretty In Purple for the smiling - smiling! - and perkily pony-tailed underdog, the lowly fifth-ranked in the world. The stoic Miss Numero Uno, however, is not to be ousted, not even with the audience raucously backing her opponent.

"! Old Mac Don Ald!" I'm happy to cheer along, and I'm looking forward to learning just what animals are on the Chinese branch of the old man's farm when Jim interrupts with a laugh and the fact that the cheer is "Wang Nan xxx yyy," where Wang Nan is my smiling player. xxx yyy, well, he doesn't know, but it's likely the Mandarin equivalent of something like rah rah. I'm duly impressed by this deduction from someone whose other accomplishments for the day include lying in bed wishing he were dead well into the afternoon, spilling a bottle of water on his laptop, and splattering himself and his sympathetic wife with soy sauce. So apparently a hangover makes Mandarin more understandable. Noted.

The men's singles final gets underway, and it's quickly apparent that they've saved the best for last. Soaring lobs, smashing attacks, and lightning-fast volleys mesmerize us, and we're treated to a thrillingly close match, a country rivalry (China vs. Chinese Taipei), and what is undoubtedly the best hair of the finals, women included.

"Who ya rootin' for here?"

"Oh, definitely the guy with the hair. Old Mac Don Ald!