By Haley Gurule
When East Central University students seek a certain person to play them in ping pong, they often ask Norden Tamang.
Chances are Tamang, an ECU freshman from Nepal, is going to come out the winner, considering she won the 37th National Table Tennis Championship for 2015 for the junior division in her home country of Nepal.
Tamang reached the national tournament by winning one of 75 district tourneys in her home country. She also captured a pair of bronze medals while competing in a tournament in New Deli in June.
“Everyone knows me around campus now and they always ask to play a game of ping pong with them,” said Tamang. “The students enjoy themselves when I go and play with them. They feel so happy whenever I play and that makes me happy.”
Tamang first realized she was a ping pong standout when she took first place in her first tournament in an under-12 age division in Nepal. Winning inspired her to do more hard work as she kept practicing and pushing herself to excel.
With Nepal’s junior national table tennis tournament in mind, Tamang practiced every day for two hours and even on holidays.
Winning that junior national title is something she thinks about quite often.
“It felt so amazing when I had won. It was so great to experience that moment,” Tamang said. “After the match, I kept thinking about the game. I realized that it’s not always about practice, but learning from our struggles, because it makes us better.”
Tamang’s practice efforts also led to a sixth-place finish against more experienced players in the Nepal Senior National Tournament.
As a result of her success over the years, she has participated in many international games throughout her table tennis career, including tournaments in Southeast Asia, India, New Delhi and Bangladesh.
“It was so exciting for me to go and see all these different places. They are so different from Nepal and they were beautiful, so I enjoyed it,” said Tamang.
Her successful journey in table tennis began at the age of 12 while she was in the sixth grade.
“My school only offered two (recreational) choices, Tae Kwon Do and ping pong, so I picked up ping pong and I have been playing ever since,” Tamang said.
She credits her mother (Maili Tamang) and sister (Sarah Tamang) with keeping her grounded and focused, not only on ping pong, but her education.
“My mother and my sister are the most inspiring people in my life! My mom is such a strong woman with good morals,” said Tamang. “She raised me and my sister to be good people. They both helped encourage me to play ping pong while still helping me make time to focus on education.”
Her mother’s encouragement toward education paid off. Tamang was in the top third percent of her entire class and she received a couple of checks for her educational success. On top of her academic achievements, Tamang said she received a full scholarship for being a national ping pong player.
After winning her championship and coming to America for her education, Tamang says she likes to play for fun. But along with keeping education as her top priority while she is here, Tamang hopes to try out for the 2016 U.S. Open in table tennis next year and represent her new home away from home, ECU.