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SUNDAY, AUGUST 19, 2007
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Liedy Handoko of Cordova, Tenn., returns a shot during the Decatur Open Table Tennis tournament Saturday at the Aquadome.
Daily photo by GaryCosby Jr.
Liedy Handoko of Cordova, Tenn., returns a shot during the Decatur Open Table Tennis tournament Saturday at the Aquadome.

Alabama’s hotbed for table tennis action
Decatur Open hospitality, chance to play lots of matches bring some devoted players to town

By Ashley Hargrove
sports@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

It isn’t time for the Olympics yet, but you didn’t have to go far Saturday to find some Olympic-level table tennis players.

They were in Decatur for the 16th annual Decatur Open Table Tennis tournament. The one-day competition drew 71 players from 10 states to the Aquadome on Saturday, and many in the field are among the South’s top players.

But what exactly brings such skilled table tennis players to the Tennessee Valley? Well, they say it’s a little bit of everything.

“Being able to play with players of your ability is a key to this tournament,” said Larry White, who is a writer for tabletennisplayer.com. “Many of the tournaments around the United States are single elimination, where as this one is played as a round robin. This tournament also offers more amenities, such as T-shirts, towels and door prizes, than any of the others that I’ve been to.”

White, a resident from Lavergne, Tenn., is in his fourth year of competing in the Decatur Open.

This year’s tournament field was filled within in 11 days of the beginning registration date, which included two spots that were auctioned on eBay.com.

Paul Holliger of Louisville, Ky., said the main reason for the popularity of the tournament is the way the event is run.

“This is a players’ tournament,” Holliger said. “It focuses on the players. The players that come want a variety and something that will keep them busy for a whole day.

“They get just that when they come here. It’s the total package. For $43, you can’t get a package like this anywhere else.”

Homer Brown, former CEO of Vulcan Oil and now general manager of BumperNets in the Riverchase Galleria, began helping sponsor the tournament in 1996, and announced Saturday that his store is negotiating to enlarge in hopes of adding space for more tables.

He said the additional space would allow more people to participate in weekend tournaments.

“A lot of the people who you see at this tournament, you meet through places like BumperNet,” Brown said. “Being a sponsor creates friends and helps bring a lot of people in, and that’s something that I like being apart of.”

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