Sorrento Valley athlete earns spot on US National Table Tennis team

Neighborhood All-Stars

SAN DIEGO — Ball is life and for 33-year-old Earl Alto, that ball is a ping pong ball.

“It’s very deep,” Earl Alto said. “There’s a lot of spin, a lot of complicated serves, a lot of weird stuff and then there’s also for some guys, they make it more athletic. It all counts all the same.”

The Sorrento Valley man recently won a coveted spot on the U.S. National Table Tennis team following a gutsy performance in a tournament in Texas — the first tournament he’s ever competed in.

“I just went there, I tried to do my best,” Alto said. “I was trying to just have fun. And then, when I found out that I had a really good chance to make the team, I was kind of surprised and I just took it.”

The San Diego native has been playing table tennis since he was 11 years old, becoming a national-level coach nearly two years ago. He now teaches at the After School Learning Tree Table Tennis Club. 

“In life, very few times you get chances like that,” Alto said. “To do something you want to do and be pretty good at it, and have a chance to get to the top. So I just have fun with it.”

Alto is considered a defensive player, or “chopper.” He hits ping pong balls at speeds upwards of 80 miles per hour.

He isn’t on the Olympic team, but he is hoping to make the short list in competing at the prestigious World Table Tennis Championships and Pan American games later this year. 

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