If competitors at Saturday’s ping pong tournament were looking for soft serves, then they should have gone to Dairy Queen. From experienced players to national champions, the matches were intense.
On Saturday, April 2, International Student Services partnered with Recreational Services, the Missouri Western Foundation and the Division of Student Affairs to host the Third Annual Dr. Krikor Partamian Ping Pong Tournament. The tournament raised funds for upcoming ISS events and was also aimed at creating awareness about what the ISS offers.
“Fundraising is important, but this year we also wanted to have opportunities for community members to meet with international students, and bring awareness more than anything,” said Fumi Cheever, the Director of International Student Services.
In order to achieve this, Cheever and her staff set up informational boards about the 37 different countries the 137 international students attending Western are from. There were also several international students both playing in and attending the tournament, and different events the ISS had put on in the past and had planned for the future were presented to the crowd.
One such event the ISS will use funds for is to attend the International Education Day in Jefferson City, Missouri.
“We’ll be spending all day there meeting other international students and organizations from Missouri universities so we can broaden our horizons on education and events. I’m looking forward to meeting new people… and interacting with other students from around the world,” said Dena Hidzir, an international student from Malaysia and the co-emcee for the tournament.
Other events the ISS hosts through these funds include the International Fair in the fall and various cultural events, like the Holi Festival and the Chinese New Year celebration.
According to Cheever, the ping pong tournament was started three years ago in honor of Dr. Krikor Partamian. Partamian served on the Missouri Western Board of Governors from 1996 to 2002 and was the Syrian National Ping Pong Champion in 1960. While serving on the board, Partamian was highly involved in the ISS and helped build the program to what it is today. The previous ISS administration used this connection to form the tournament, and due to its success, has continued for three years.
This year Partamian played an exhibition match during the tournament against current Missouri Western President, Dr. Vartebedian. Partamian won, although not without a struggle. Vartebedian is pretty good at ping pong!
The double-elimination tournament was comprised of 32 competitors. These included Western students, Western faculty and staff and players from the community.
Bill Lyons, a player from a local table tennis club, has been playing for 18 years now. The past two years, Lyons, who is 72 years old, placed second in the tournament.
“I first heard about the tournament through advertising at the YMCA three years ago where I play in a league three or four times every week. I focus on what the opponent does and try to loop, or put a top spin on the ball. But most importantly, I try and have fun because I enjoy this sport. And of course, I try and beat whoever I can,” said Lyons with a chuckle.
Lyons ended up finishing third behind the two-year champion, Brian Hopkins, and the 2016 champion Jeff Johnston, who went undefeated the entire tournament.
Johnston, a 1984 Western alumni, is no newcomer to ping pong or a few of his competitors.
“I knew both Bill Lyons and Brian Hopkins before coming here today. At one time, Brian had a barbershop off of Frederick and it had three ping pong tables in it. When I found that out, I would come up from Smithville, which is 30 minutes away, to get a haircut because I liked playing ping pong,” said Johnston.
Since then, Johnston has gone on to win the National Ping Pong Tournament held in Las Vegas the past four years. Needless to say, Johnston is serious about ping pong, from the amount of time he puts in to the gear he has invested in.
“Probably compared to the other people here, my experience is higher than most. I’d say I’m kind of a ringer because the tournaments I normally play are national tournaments. I had a lot of fun today, though, and would love to come back next year,” said Johnston, who enjoyed being able to return to Western and help out the ISS while playing a sport he loves.
Based on the overwhelming popularity, next year there will probably be a fourth annual ping pong tournament. So until then, follow Forrest Gump’s example and practice until you’re playing it in your sleep… even if you don’t have anyone to play with.