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Mississippi College

MC Newcomer from China Wins Table Tennis Tournament

September 29, 2009

A native of China who began his studies at Mississippi College a few weeks ago, Zhicheng Liang came up big with his first-place finish in the Mississippi Open Table Tennis Tournament in Hattiesburg.

Taking home a nice trophy in his first tournament on Mississippi soil on Saturday was no accident. The accounting student who's known simply as "Johnson" to his teammates and friends on the Clinton campus is an outstanding player of the Olympic sport.

His table tennis coach in China is the father of MC table tennis team captain Ken Qiu. Johnson defeated Zhongyuan Huang, Mississippi State University's top player, in three straight games to win the championship match.

The tournament was held on the University of Southern Mississippi campus at the school's Payne fitness center. Johnson prevailed by scores of 11-4, 11-6 and finally 12-10 in a thriller in game three.

Last weekend's table tennis action attracted top ping-pong players from Mississippi and neighboring states like Alabama.

In recent years, Johnson's table tennis game excelled under the guidance of Qiu's father. He teaches physics and serves as an administrator at Guangdong Teachers College of Foreign languages and the Arts. On the campus in China, there are more than 50 table tennis tables and all stay in constant use.

Qiu, an MC business graduate student and staffer with the university's international programs office, says Johnson hit the ground running since enrolling at MC in late August. His frequent practice sessions at Alumni Gym and passion for the game is paying off, Qiu said. The nationally ranked MC table tennis team practices three days a week.

Johnson, who participated in tournaments in China the past few years, and his teammates are now getting ready to host the Dixie Division on the MC campus Oct. 31.

A part of MC's Homecoming weekend, the Choctaws will face teams like the University of Alabama, Southern Miss, Mississippi State, West Florida and Alabama-Huntsville. The tournament is from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. at the Baptist Healthplex.

The National Collegiate Table Tennis Association event is free and open to the public. MC hopes to keep its crown as the reigning Dixie Division champs and return to the Nationals in Wisconsin in April 2010, says university news coordinator Andy Kanengiser, the team's sponsor. "We are building a very strong team at MC in just our third season and should surpass last year's accomplishments at the Nationals in Minnesota."

Photo: MC table tennis team captain Ken Qiu and Zhicheng Liang