Santa Monica College (SMC) students and table tennis players Ayush Kapoor and Tiziano Aiello have qualified to compete in singles and doubles events in the 2018 iSET College Table Tennis National Championships to be held April 20-22, 2018 in Round Rock, Texas. The championships are organized by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA). SMC will be the only community college at the national tournament.

Earlier this year on February 4, SMC’s Ayush Kapoor won the NCTTA SoCal West Division men’s single title by defeating David Zeng of UCLA. The SMC team—composed of Kapoor, Aiello, and teammates Hu Xiongtao, Cody Rains, Brooks Leonard, and Yang Hongjian—finished in 2nd place in the team event, defeating teams from USC; Pepperdine University; Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo; and Cal State Northridge (UCLA won first place).

Aiello—who has played table tennis since middle school in his native Catania, Sicily—was Sicilian junior champion thrice. Playing at the nationals “means a lot to me,” he said, “and proves that I am still competitive despite not playing for many years. It is an honor for me to represent Santa Monica College nationally.”

Kapoor, like Aiello, began playing table tennis as a child—in India. He played in a number of national tournaments in India, but “getting a chance to do so as an international student is an altogether different experience,” he said.

“SMC’s support has been extraordinary throughout,” said Kapoor.

The SMC Table Tennis Program — an inductee into the California Table Tennis Hall of Fame — has a storied history in the world of table tennis. In 1971, the late Glenn Cowan (1952-2004) — a table tennis champion since childhood, and an SMC student from 1969 to 1972 — was the youngest member of the first U.S. table tennis team to go to China and compete in what became known as “Ping-pong diplomacy”, a process that helped open the doors for diplomatic relations between the two nations. Cowan was posthumously inducted into the California Table Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014.

Retired SMC professor Jo Kidd founded SMC’s Community Recreation (Co-Rec) Program and introduced table tennis—often referred to as “ping-pong”—at SMC as a physical education course with transferable units. (She was also honored by the California Table Tennis Hall of Fame for these efforts). SMC’s free community recreation program — now known as Sunday Co-Rec Sports —invites students and community members to the SMC Pavillon to play table tennis, badminton, and basketball. The program holds weekly round-robin competitions, and has also hosted USATT tournaments.

“SMC’s table tennis program is undoubtedly one of the best in the nation and also very well known internationally,” said coach Kamran Khairzad, who competed for SMC 25 years ago under Professor Kidd. “We have attracted many international students to our table tennis teams and classes through the years. I am proud of the legacy handed down by Jo Kidd, and enjoy ‘returning the favor’ by recognizing new talent at SMC, training them to compete at the next level!”

USATT – organized under the United States Olympic Committee as the national governing body for the sport of table tennis in the U.S. and a member of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) – promotes opportunities for athletes and coaches to participate in more than 250 clubs and over 350 tournaments across the nation annually, and selects and trains teams for international competition, including the Pan American and Olympic Games.

For more information about SMC’s table tennis programs and annual tournaments, send an email to smctabletennis@gmail.com or visit www.smctabletennis.com.

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