Gavin Rumgay: Scot targets World Championship of Ping Pong glory
Admit it, you thought table tennis and ping pong were the same thing, didn't you? Interchangeable terms for that sport with the wee paddle bats and the white balls?
Well, I'm here to tell you that they are significantly different. In fact, this weekend I'll make my annual switch from criss-crossing the globe playing table tennis to strutting around a boozy and boisterous Alexandra Palace in London playing in the World Championship of Ping Pong for a $100,000 prize fund.
A total of 64 players from 20 different countries will gather for an event masterminded by sporting impresario Barry Hearn. And, as you can imagine, the man who transformed darts and is working his magic on snooker has made a real impression on ping pong too.
As well as the bulging prize pot, there is the atmosphere. It's like nothing else I experience in my year.
- Trump, TripAdvisor & table tennis - four days in North Korea
- James Corden, Colin McRae & dodging goats in Nigeria
- Pregnancy pillows, honesty bars & Minsk holding cells
'Mad Dog' John McDonald - best known for his work with the PDC darts - is the MC and he juices the crowd right up. It works for me, too, and this year I'm going to stride out in my kilt.
The 2,000 strong crowd are crowded round the show court and you can hear every individual shout of encouragement and abuse. The evening sessions are always especially good, with an increasingly well-watered crowd really getting into it. As a player, you almost feel like they are part of every rally.
Millions of viewers worldwide will tune in and all because Hearn has catapulted a minority sport on to prime time TV.
So what is the difference between table tennis & ping pong?
Ping ping is a mixture of speed, power and old-fashioned skill thanks to the technology-free sandpaper bats that we all use. Nobody has any equipment advantage.
I'm the eighth seed and I'll start my campaign on Friday against Ireland's Zak Wilson. The system is complicated but, basically, if I win my first two matches, I qualify for the last 32. If not, I'll have to take my chances in a third contest.
I've been working hard for this and I want to be Scotland's first World Ping Pong champion.