DECATUR, Ala. - Moments after winning the 16th annual Decatur Open on Aug. 18, Arjun Shankaren was all smiles. After all, he bested the 71-player field winning $300, a trophy and gold table tennis tie tack, but his elation went further.
"I am so happy to win this thing," Shankaren said. "I get my name on the plaque with all of those other guys. Look at them all, Sean (O’Neill), Jimmy (Butler), Amy (Feng), Tai (Long Tey). Getting my name on the plaque is just as good as the money."
Shankaren’s winning efforts earned a spot for his name on the tournament champions’ plaque which is on display throughout the year in the lobby of the tournament venue, Aquadome Recreation Center. Shankaren, a native of India and resident of Louisville, Ky., defeated former Polish national cadet team member Slawomir Waclawik of Nashville 4-3 in the finals.
The pair put on a display of dazzling shots in the finals with Shankaren playing off the table returning the hard-hitting Waclawik’s powerful forehand shots. Shankaren is no stranger to picking up checks at the popular 2-star event. In 2004, Shankaren fell in the finals to Tai Long Tey and in 2006, he lost in the semifinals to Soon Chian Lim. Lim was the top-seeded player this year, but withdrew after three matches due to illness. Waclawik pocketed $150 for second.
Shankaren, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, defeated Liedy Handoko of Memphis, Tenn., in one semi while Waclawik rallied to nip Jason Denton Denton of Ardmore, Ala., 3-2 in the other semi. Denton and Handoko each received $80.
Shankaren and Handoko gained entrance into the tournament as the two highest bidders for the final two spots on eBay. Quarterfinalists were Warren McNeil of Dothan, Ala., Chance Friend of Plano, Texas, Ujwal Shresta of Birmingham, Ala., and Peng Liang of Brentwood, Tenn.. They each received $50.
T.J. Nguyen of Birmingham, Ala., defeated Paul Holliger of Louisville, Ky., to win the BBB division. Nguyen was awarded $80, an acrylic trophy and silver tie tack. Holliger won $50.
All players received a tournament T-shirt, Gatorade table tennis towel, pizza lunch, Pepsi products and a chance to win one of more than 30 door prizes. The tournament received coverage from The Decatur Daily newspaper. Two articles as well as action photos of Friend and Handoko were published.
Tournament sponsors were Pepsi Cola of Decatur, Lang’s Sporting Goods, Bumpernets of Birmingham, Lane Music of Memphis, Burningtree Country Club of Decatur, Nucor Steel Co., of Decatur, Sutton and Associates / Alabama World Travel, Robbins Table Tennis Specialties, The Decatur Daily, Awards and Engraving Plus, Microtel Inn and Suites, Jimmy Smith Jewelers, and Memphis Piano. Tournament directors were Walt Chenault, Michael Wetzel (NU/CR), and Chip Patton. Tournament committee members were Fred Mitchell II, Ernesto Kawamoto, Laura Taylor, Caralyn Patton, Logan Wetzel, Ed Watts, David Wilder, Tailian Chen and Dwight Owens. The North Alabama Table Tennis Club and Decatur Parks and Recreation were the hosts.
Complete results of the 16th annual Decatur Open:
First: Arjun Shankaren; second: Slawomir Waclawik;
semifinalists: Jason Denton and Liedy Handoko;
quarterfinalists: Warren McNeil, Chance Friend, Ujwal Shrestha and Peng Liang.
First: Vijay Deshmukh; second: Kin Chan;
semifinalists: Scott Landon and L.A. Johnston.
First: Mike Harris; second: Danny Crowson;
semifinalists: Ted Melton and Carl Lewis Sr.
First: T.J. Nguyen; second: Paul Holliger;
semifinalists: Andrew Davis and Jonas Boateng.
First: Alex Lehocky; second: Chris Sharp; semifinalists: Todd Friend and Yang Xiao.
First: Cheryl Friend; second, Kim Nguyen;
semifinalists: MacKenzie Friend and Jonathan Fonbah.