Politician vs. ping-pong champs at Fresh Meadows middle school

Photos courtesy of the office of Rory Lancman

A championship middle school table tennis team in Fresh Meadows traded tips with an expert and showed their skills against a councilman in a very special team meetup on Friday.

Councilman Rory Lancman and American Youth Table Tennis Organization President Ben Nisbet met with the M.S. 216 George J. Ryan Middle School table tennis team for the event, which marks the beginning of the seventh table tennis season at the school.

M.S. 216’s boys table tennis team has won two city titles in the past three years.

During his time at the school, Lancman challenged eighth-grade varsity player Joshua Capulong to a match.

Lancman — who played tennis during his own adolescence — said he was surprised to learn that playing table tennis is also a great physical exercise. He was happy to see children in his district learning sportsmanship through their involvement in such a successful school team.

“Table tennis is a great way for kids to learn teamwork and coordination,” Lancman said. “It’s great to watch these kids develop through the season and see the program growing to reach more students.”


Nisbet praised the expert table tennis instruction given to Ryan Middle School students.

He deemed table tennis a “lifetime” sport and spoke about the opportunities available to students who continue to play well into their higher education years.

“Table tennis is an official varsity high school sport,” Nisbet said, “so school students at Ryan who have a positive experience with table tennis will now have the opportunity to participate at the high school level, college and beyond.”

Head coach Paul Vigoda said that it has been exciting to see an increased interest in table tennis at the school, and that the visits from an elected official and expert table tennis player demonstrated that the outside world also has an interest in the sport.

“The success of the program has not only brought pride to the school, but has also given students the sense that there are more opportunities to play a sport outside of basketball, soccer, baseball or football,” Vigoda said.

The students felt that it was an honor to be recognized by such esteemed figures and admitted to feeling a little nervous playing in front of a political figure such as a councilman.

“It was nerve-wracking yet exciting at the same time,” said Gabriella Khalderov, “because of course, he’s very powerful and important to the school and the district, so it’s an honor to be playing for him and with him.”

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