Tuesday 27 December 2011

Ukraine's Gem Eyes up Euro Gold

It was great to finally get back this interview from Margaryta, I've been giving her hell for a while and she finally gave in. Margaryta plays in the Russian League competition while living and studying in Ukraine, I get the occasional opportunity to have a chat with her while she's home in Ukraine which is always cool, she's a great invididual and a very talented table tennis player. Thanks Margaryta! :)

Full Name: Margaryta Pesotska
Age: 20
Date Of Birth: 9/8/91
Nation represented: Ukraine
Highest World Ranking: 45

Equipment Used?

Blade: Tibhar Balsa L-4
FH Rubber: Tibhar Sinus 2.0
BH Rubber: Tibhar Sinus 2.0

Your Career

How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?
I have been playing already 15 years. I started to play tt in Poland when I was 5 years old. My mother worked as a coach and I always was near her playing with a bat and table tennis balls, she saw that I liked it and since then decided to teach me to play.

What has been the highlight of your table tennis career so far?

My best highlights in tt were: 9 European Champion Youth and Cadet titles (gold medals during my junior and cadet career)-team competition,double,single.;World Champion in cadet category in 2005 in Santo-Domingo, 3rd place in European Championship Women's Singles 2011.Qualified for Beijing Olympic Games at 16 years old.

What is your next big goal for table tennis?
For this moment my next big goal is to win gold medal in European Championship.I know it is very difficult, but I will try.And of course to be qualified for Olympic Games 2012 in London.

Who has been your biggest rival out on the table since you started playing?
Asian players are the biggest rival in my sport. Always difficult to play against them. But I work and I hope in the future results would be better.

Who is your favourite international player and why?
I don't have one favourite player, I just like to watch all the top players playing, every one of them has their own style of game and individual ability.

Are you a supporter of skirts and sports dresses for women or shorts?
I think it looks more attractive in womens tt playing in skirt and dresses, some fashion must be present. And for spectators it brings more pleasure watching top women playing in such attire. So now I also play more in skirts than in shorts.

What do you think of the state of women's table tennis around the world?
Table tennis in all countries is developing differently. In some countries tt is very popular, but in some others pay less attention to this kind of sport. But as we all know women's table tennis is strong in Asia. These are best players.

Off the Topic Questions

Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?
My favourite sportspersons are like Timo Boll, Vladimir Samsonov, players who fight for every ball, and behave worthly during the game.

Favourite food?
I like domestic food and Japanese

What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis?
Studying at university, spend time with friends and sometimes just like doing nothing ;)

Ideal holiday destination?
I would like to visit Venice and the Caribbean Islands

Margaryta plays Daniela Dodean at the 2011 Austrian Open

Your Team Mates

Who’s the funniest player in the training hall?
As I don't have a lot of players in my hall, difficult to name the funniest or who train the hardest, but in my national team I can say that all girls are good and I like to communicate with them, they are all very funny, especially Any Gaponova :)

And Lastly

Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for other table tennis players looking to succeed?
I would like to add that if you have a dream, believe in it and try to do best for your success and sooner or later your dream will come true.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Major Contenders Prepare for Oceania Olympic Qualification

After seeing the positive response to William Henzell's video journal of his training in the build up for London 2012, I was itching to blog about the Oceania Olympic Qualifiers and was given the idea to ask the main contenders how they are preparing for the event to have their best shot at qualifying. I got responses back from most of the players though I'm still harrassing a couple and will edit their responses in if or when I get them, I am hoping to hear back from top Australian players Miao Miao, Robert Frank and Simon Gerada. For now, the main contenders from Australia and New Zealand and how they are preparing for the Oceania Qualification tournament for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

William Henzell (AUS): Currently based in Austria
Event Favourite William Henzell
Image courtesy of Pingskills
"I've really put everything into this Olympic campaign. I quit my job and moved back to Europe to play full time table tennis in Austria at the Werner Schlager Academy. We practice between 3 to 5 hours per day, 5 or 6 days per week. Most weekends are taken up by league matches or international events like Pro Tours or the World Cup.

My form is headed in the right direction and I feel stronger and more consistent from the training and matches. The Olympic Qualification will be extremely tough with only 2 singles spots up for grabs for the players from Oceania. It will all come down to 1 or 2 matches in the end."

William's 9th installment of his training journal

John Cordue (NZL): Currently based in Germany
John Cordue
Image courtesy of John's Site
"My preparation for Olympic qualifiers consists of training 7 to 9 times a week with various training partners who play 3rd, 4th, and 5th division (I play 4th). I supplement the on the table training with running 2 to 3 times a week and circuit training 2 to 3 times a week. I get great match preparation from my league matches which I play every 1 to 2 weeks as well as some tournaments inside Germany which will be played around Christmas time.

As far as international tournaments go I have already played the Norway Cup and the Swedish Open with the next one being the Finland Open stating next week. This will most likely be the last International tournament I play before the Olympic Qualifiers as I have a full calendar of club matches before I return to New Zealand in the middle of February. The International tournaments are a vital part of my preparation as the playing environment will be similar at the Olympic Qualifying tournament.

I think the main difference between my preparation for this upcoming Ocenaia event and previous Oceania events is the amount of matches I am playing here in Europe as this has helped me make improvements in my mental game and made me a lot more tactically aware when playing matches."

David Powell (AUS): Currently based in Poland
David Powell
Image courtesy of Greg Letts' Blog
"I moved to Poland in late June 2011 to start playing professionally with a club in order to gain my best preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games Qualifying events. Since June, I’ve been training up to 25 hours per week and playing matches for my club in where I have finished 9-9 for the first half of the season. During this time I have played in as many International competitions as possible including the World University Games (china), World Team Cup (Germany) and early next year I will be playing the Hungarian Pro Tour. I’m currently training with top 10 players in Poland including Pawel Chimel, Piotr Chimel and Tomasz Lewandowski. It’s a bonus that I’m able to play with top 250 player’s day in day out, and I’m now starting to see some results.

My goal for the qualification events next year is to simply play quality table tennis and try to implement my previous 8 months training into those matches, and ultimately qualify for the Olympic Games."

Sarah Her-Lee (NZL): Currently based in Germany
Olympic hopeful Sarah Her-Lee
Image from Sarah's Blog
"Firstly I would need to be selected for the NZ team.. and I hope I can make the team because I have been training very hard full time since the beginning of this year. I am very lucky to be in Germany right now playing for a club and also playing ITTF sanctioned tournaments. I train 10-11 times a week, with my club and the club coach and some players who does not represent my club but trains here. I am also doing some physical training as well as tactical analysis from watching my matches. My goal is to finish top 3 at the qualification tournament."

Phillip Xiao (NZL): Currently training in China
Phillip Xiao
Image by Matt Hetherington

My preparation for the Olympic qualifiers involves 6 weeks training with a province team in China organised by my coach Jiang Weizhong and and then off to Korea for anther 3 weeks training organised by Mr Han. Training here has been good and it involves a lot of technical training

My goal for the Olympic qualifiers in march is make the top 3 and come top from New Zealand. Really looking forward to the challenge and testing my progress against the best from Oceania.

Trent Carter (AUS): Currently based in France
Trent Carter
Image courtesy of Greg Letts' Blog

"I am currently training in Montpellier, France, I have now been here one and a half months of a 3 month stint. I am playing league for the club, which is in the 3rd league in France and I have won 8 games and lost 2. Training is 10 sessions per week and 1 physical session a week. The players are a very similar level to mine plus a former Chinese super league player and Michel Martinez who I believe is around number 5 in France. I will arrive back in Sydney around 2 weeks before trials to make myself in the best possible shape. Compatriot Robert Frank has also been training here for the last month since the world teams cup, but he will be leaving on Tuesday.

It has been great sharing a room with him as it helps beat boredom and it is great to speak proper English to someone.

For me to be able to qualify for the Olympics it is crucial that I have fast footwork around the table, my forehand needs to be strong and a consistent backhand. This three months training will hopefully have all these aspects in working order."

Sunday 11 December 2011

Romstal Girls Kick 2012 Off Early

That's right the lovely Romstal Romania ladies are back with their annual calendar for 2012, last time the team were featured in some flash dresses and stunning makeup. This time it's back to their favourite sport table tennis!
So it's Calendar Romstal 2012. Check it out! You can visit the sponsor page here.

The star lineup of Elizabeta Samara, Bernadette Szocs, Daniela Dodean, Camelia Postoaca and Iulia Necula

With a great lineup of professional photos for the calendar these ladies are looking great! Joined by teammates Adrian Crisan and Andrei Filimon they complete the full calendar for 2012!

Congratulations ladies on creating an awesome Calendar and showing off your talent both on and off the table! Make sure you check out Romstal if you are interested, they are the sponsor for the Romanian National Team, so support the players and take a look! :)

"No Pain, No Gain" Keinath Lives up to His Favourite Line

Thomas is an energetic and successful table tennis player who has had a lot of success in Eastern Europe and the United States over the years, including having 2 victories at the US Table Tennis Open and frequently appearing in the Challenger Series where he has had great success. On his site he confesses to being one of the craziest players in the top 100 World Rankings, a real character and great to watch! Thank you Thomas for the interview.

Full Name: Thomas Keinath
Age: 34
Date of Birth: 31.08.1977
Nation Represented: Slovakia and Germany
Highest World Ranking: 53

Equipment Used: Joola
Blade: Sting FL
FH Rubber: Haifu
BH Rubber: Joola Explore Max

Your Career:

How long have you been playing table tennis, when and how did you start?
 I started when I was 8 years old

What is your biggest and proudest moment in table tennis to date? 
The Brazil Open. I was 3rd place. I beat 3 Top 20 WR Players. And the US Open. I won that two times.

What is your next big goal for table tennis?
I want to play the Olympics next year.

Why do you think the Chinese are so dominant in the sport? Who do you think will be the next country to rise and start beating them?
Nobody. Maybe Japan. Many young player come up.

What do you think the sport of table tennis is lacking around the world? What could be done to improve it from an international player’s perspective? 
Practice in China. 
Thomas works towards developing the sport already and has a table tennis school and a table tennis shop under his business Keinath Sport. He also has his own site at http://www.thomas-keinath.de/thomas-keinath/

Thomas also has a forum at www.tischtennis-community.de/forum

Who is you favourite international player?
Timo Boll and Wang Tao

What do you think is the hardest thing about playing table tennis internationally? 
Service and return and counter loop. You must pratice these 3 things very much.

What do you think is most important in creating a successful international player? 
Pratice very hard and train many balls and try to play many tournament

If you are winning 10-0 do you give a point or try and win 11-0? 
In very very important tournament I try to win 11-0. Everything is possible that you can lose.

Do you feel the Challenger Series is good for developing your game and do you enjoy the competition?
 Yes I enjoy this tournament and I can try more things that I learn in pratice.

Off Topic Questions

Favourite food: 
Chinese food and Slovakian food
Favourite Movie: 
All funny movies
Dream Car: 
If you were stuck on a desert island, which table tennis player would you have with you there?
My girlfriend. She playing also very good. And my best friend Torben Wosik and Zoltan Feyer-Konnerth
First thing you would do if you won $1 Million:
I will buy a new house.

Thomas' US Open 2010 Final against Sharath Kamal Achanta

Saturday 26 November 2011

A Trio of Answers from Vegas' Hottest Act

I decided to up the stakes with this one, the interviews were getting a bit too uniform for me and I wanted the chance to get a bit more creative. One trio of amazing young ladies I knew would certainly participate in my fun are Carmencita, Luoana and Cynthia Alexandrescu who have just asserted themselves in the public arena with this new page on facebook HERE. Thanks ladies for taking the time to answer some of my more intruiging questions so we can all get to know you a bit better!

Full Names:

- Carmencita Doinita Alexandrescu
- Luoana Johanna Alexandrescu
- Cynthia Jessica Alexandrescu

Dates of Birth:

- June 25 , 1968 - Carmencita
- October 17 , 1991 - Luoana
- December 30 , 1997 - Cynthia

Luoana, Carmencita and Cynthia
Please check out www.castanosport.com

Im interested to here from Luoana and Cynthia first for this question. Whats the attraction to table tennis? For girls your age there are so many opportunities for other things, sporting, musical and cultural, what makes table tennis number one for you guys?

- Luoana: My attraction to table tennis is watching my mom play and seeing how happy this sport makes her. It’s good exercise, great way to keep yourself in shape while you are having fun , and make lots of friends all over the world.

- Cynthia: My attraction to table tennis is the nice outfits, equipments , and fame. Table Tennis is number one for me because it’s a very challenging sport , different and unique than other sports.

You guys have recently been involved in some table tennis events in different places. What has been your favourite table tennis event so far, whether a publicity or competitive event?

Our favorite event was the World Championship of Ping Pong held in our city Las Vegas February 2011, which aired on Fox Sports and local sports channels in over 800 million homes around the world. We had the chance to spend time with some of the top players from all around the world. It was lots of FUN and fantastic experience ! Check out the site here.

This is a clip from the World Championships of Ping Pong 2011 with some celebrity umpires ;)

More photos from the event of the players and of course the star umpires

Whos the best player in the family? Are you guys quite competitive among yourselves or are you just happy to be there playing against each other for fun?

- Luoana &Cynthia: Our mom, Camy  is the best player in the family. We have a table and play at home sometimes. We play for fun but after a couple points we start getting into our competitive mode. Especially in doubles against our mom and our dad Adrian who is an ex-professional soccer player but loves to play table tennis!

Where is your guys favourite place to dine out together?

It’s hard to choose especially in Las Vegas there are endless of places to go eat,  but we enjoy a lot of Thai & Japanese Restaurants.

How cool is it to live in Vegas, I mean that place goes off I saw some of your Halloween photos and everything is so intense there. What do you guys do for fun on weekends etc?

Las Vegas is a crazy exciting city! For fun we usually hang out with our friends and go walking and shopping on the Las Vegas Blvd ( Strip ) or watch some Vegas shows. Also sometimes we play table tennis on the weekend and after go out to eat or watch a movie with our Table Tennis friends. Vegas always has interesting events going on where we are invited to, and enjoy different types of experiences.

The Girls turn Dolls for Halloween 

If each of you could choose a celebrity (actor, musician etc) man of your dreams who would it be?

- Carmencita:  Paul Walker ;)
- Luoana: Taylor Lautner <3
- Cynthia: Hayden Christensen <3

Who is your favourite table tennis player on the international stage and why?

- Carmencita: Jean-Michel Saive , he always was my favorite player and good example not just table tennis but life in general that it’s never too late , never give up , and keep fighting for what you love !

- Luoana: Timo Boll is my all time favorite player , I love his backhand and enjoy watching his games. I also like Dimitrij Ovtcharov , he has a very unique signature serve and has lots of potential to be number one in the future!

- Cynthia: Michael Maze is my favorite player because no matter what injury he has he always fights to play the sport he loves and  also because he is a unique cool player with awesome tattoos :D

Where do you want table tennis to take you in the future do you have big goals or is it just something you would like to be a part of regardless of your level of play?

- Carmencita: I would love to go forward with what I started, to coach the present and future generation, and to be more involved in different international events relating table tennis. One big goal is to have my own unique International Table Tennis Academy with coaches and players from different countries!

- Luoana: I wish I started playing Table Tennis when I was younger. But at the time I liked soccer a lot and my dad took me to play on his team he was coaching. Now I regret not starting earlier. I took Table Tennis serious about two and a half years ago after I graduated from High School and had more free time on my hands. My goal is to make my USATT rating higher, keep coaching the little kids at ITTF Hot Spot ICC Table Tennis Club in Milpitas, to be involved in different events around the world regarding Table Tennis , and to keep going forward with my studies to have a good future and help my family !

- Cynthia: One of my big goals is to make it to the national team. I started taking Table Tennis serious about two years ago , which is not a very long time. But I will practice hard and try my best to reach my goal !

CLC Trio at the National Air Show Recently

 Ok lets have some fun now. For each of these, I want all three of you to answer separately. Write down the first word that comes to mind for each of the words I write below :P

Ok first one, when I say....
You say:
-Luoana: Pong

You say:
-Carmencita: Freedom
-Luoana: Bahamas
-Cynthia: Getaway

You say:
-Carmencita: Ferrari
-Luoana: Ferrari
-Cynthia: Ferrari

You say:
-Carmencita: Happiness
-Luoana: Dance
-Cynthia: Dancing

Table tennis:
You say:
-Carmencita: Love
-Luoana: Paddle
-Cynthia: Sport

Ping Pong's Best Looking Family!
Ok scenario time, these are fun and great for insight into character and the way people think :P
Each of you give a short answer and be creative!

Scenario 1:
You are trapped in a burning building and have in your bag a can of deodorant, a table tennis bat, a sports towel, a bottle of water and a pair of table tennis shoes. How do you escape?!

- Carmencita: To escape I put on my table tennis shoes so I wont slip and fall , then pour water on my sports towel which I use to cover my mouth, I spray deodorant by my nose so I don’t smell the smoke and I cover my head with the table tennis paddle. This is my escape plan :D

- Luoana: The way I would try and escape is I put my table tennis shoes on, put the towel over me , hold the paddle to my face. That way my feet, body, and face will be protected. I run through the fire out the door, use the water to stop my towel from getting all on fire and last but not least use the deodorant to smell good and fresh like nothing happened ;D

- Cynthia: My escape plan is first of all I don’t use the deodorant because it’s flammable , I use my table tennis shoes so I wont slip or step on glass, I use my sports towel to cover my mouth so I wont inhale smoke and to roll over the fire without burning my self. Then I use the bottle of water to stop mini fire traps on my way out and the paddle to knock down doors! That’s my escape plan :D

Scenario 2:
You are caught at the table tennis stadium on Valentines Day and someone gives you a gift, feeling like you should give something in return and using table tennis equipment only, what do you make for them? :P

- Carmencita: I would put together 8 Orange Butterfly 3 star table tennis balls ;D arrange like a heart with Butterfly glue , because it sticks really good togetherJ Then draw on the table tennis balls little hearts and my signature …… Happy Valentine’s Day <3

- Luoana: On a table tennis paddle one side I will make the shape of a heart with table tennis balls and on the other side I cut out pieces of Red Tenergy 05 rubber and spell out : Happy Valentine’s Day ;)

- Cynthia: I would make a customized paddle with their name on it and paint it their favorite color. I would also give them chocolates shaped as table tennis balls <3

The lovely ladies feature in this artpiece by Mike Mezyan

Scenario 3:
Somebody embarrasses you in public and you have the chance to get them back in front of lots of people. You have a bucket of water, a weak firework with matches, a chocolate cake and a raw steak. Go get em! What do you do?
- Carmencita: I don’t use any of the tools I have all I do is … I turn and leave !

Luoana: I stuff the raw steak in the yummy chocolate cake and use the weak firework as a candle. I use the matches to light up the cake and then the cake explodes all over the persons face. Then I take the bucket with water and pour it all over the person to help clean up the damage >:p

- Cynthia: If someone embarrassed me in public and I tried to get them back , I would throw water at the person first , then I would throw raw bloody steak on their face , and then smudge chocolate cake all over them ! ;D

Thanks for the time ladies!

Monday 14 November 2011

Oceania Champion Building Pathway to London

Over the past weeks we have been able to bring our good friend William Henzell into our homes, no not literally, via youtube. Now based in Austria, William (via TTEdge's youtube channel 'tabletennisedge') has been sharing his European experiences with all his supporters. From his first weeks starting off training in the inaugural Werner Schlager Academy in Schwechat, Austria, William shares his experience in returning to the intensity of full time training in Europe.

William's Log #1

William's Log #2

William also elaborates on his performance at the Austrian Open which took place at the Academy, he analyses his abilities throughout the matches and explains the feeling of returning to the Pro Tour and how different it is from his experiences playing in Europe in the past, when he was arguably fitter and faster and of course a bit younger, but for William's sake we won't take that one any further.

William's Log #3

A major point which William makes is how different this intensity is compared to his time spent back in Australia and the real difference between training full time and juggling training with a job. His 3rd video shows some of the physical training which is directed at the WSA.

William's Log #4

This video is centred around gym workout sessions and William gives us some insight into what he is feeling in terms of improvement in speed and movement around the table as a result of the physical programmes.

William's Log #5

The Swedish Open is a familiar competition for William who played in Sweden from a very young age. Here he elaborates on how tough the schedule is becoming between training, competitions and league matches. He also analyses some of his performance at the Swedish Open.

As William anticipates his upcoming team event, the Intercontinental Team Cup in Magdeburg, Germany, he talks about Australia's opponents and where the team stands against them. He specifically spends time speaking about how he will be preparing and what strategies he expects to need and areas he needs to avoid i.e fast open rallies etc where he felt he may be disadvantaged.

William's Log #6

William's final video to date (below) is a reflection of his performance at the World Cup Singles Event in Paris, France. Particularly he shares some of his disappointment with one of his matches which was crucial in his need to win the Event as the result went to set countback. He highlights his win over Gustavo Tsuboi and shares some clips of his matches while he speaks about his performance.

William's Log #7

So there you have it! That's William's journey in Europe to date, some great experience shared and definitely one to keep up to date with. I have really enjoyed this particularly as I myself will be moving to Europe in just over 6 months to train full time in the Czech Republic and I think for any player wanting to move to train overseas these videos have some real value. Best of Luck on your way to 2012 Olympic Qualification William and we will of course be following closely behind!

Image courtesy of ABC Adelaide

Sunday 13 November 2011

Wheeling His Way to the Top

The 38th Mitsubishi New Zealand Para National Champs was an eventful day for me and I'd like to take the opportunity to do as I did for the Northland Open and delve into a bit more of a personal perspective. I was the Tournament Manager for the Table Tennis Championships but at the same time I was also there to support two para players I have been involved in coaching this year, wheelchair player Shakti Krishnan and Jacob Phillips who is a standing player. Not only these two but a good friend of mine Victor Kamizona from my old table tennis club in Tauranga who I have known for over a decade was competing. 

Me coaching Shakti at the Para Nationals
Image courtesy of John Tuki

Para table tennis is an area we should really be looking at developing, we have some very talented players and great opportunities to set them on pathways to being successful. The para nationals is a great opportunity for these players to come together in a social atmosphere and play the sport they love. For me I was requested to coach Shakti which I was glad to accept. I had spent quite a bit of time with him trying to help develop his game. He's only 13 years old and incredibly talented, great hand speed and quite agile for a wheelchair player, he has a superb ability to play angles and also to generate a bit more topspin on his shots than the other wheelchair players he had to compete with. I had also spent a lot of time feeding multiball frequently across his middle area to try and strengthen and define his shots across the weaker zone for all wheelchair players. So the groundwork was there for some results and they certainly came.

Players and Admins at the 2011 Mitsubishi Para NZ
Table Tennis Championships
Shakti was able to claw his way back from 3-4 point deficits in each of the 3 sets against his first opponent James Goulding to win 3-0. James is an experienced left hander and was the highest ranked player there on World standings and hence was first seed. It was a great win for Shakti who managed to get a strong focus at the end of each set when it really counted to seal the deal. Shakti also beat Irimana Kingi 3-1, although he struggled in parts to find rhythm he was able to show dominance in that match too. The big match for Shakti was against the defending champion from Otago, a player he hadn't been able to beat before, John Marrable. The match against John was a great match and caught the attention of most of the present spectators. I managed to find some areas for Shakti to exploit and in the 5th and final set, everyone was watching very nervously, probably me most of all as I really wanted him to prove he could win the match. He did manage to with some great tactics and play which left him with one match to go against Brian McLean of North Harbour. Brian is also a very experienced player and was quite to show that out on the table. He played some great wide shots to Shakti's backhand and really took advantage of key strategies which were working for him. For Shakti he was struggling a little to pinpoint the area that I wanted him to serve to and it was costing him. He led a great comeback in the match but Brian held on to win the match 3-2. With all the round robin results finalised it led us to a countback and with his wins over James, Irimana and John, Shakti was the victor and finished in 1st place. It was really satisfying for me for him to gain that result. A 13 year old and a National Champion, I think it needs to be publicised as much as Roger Rao's 2010 win. 

Para New Zealand CEO Fiona Pickering supporting the
table tennis event down at Waikato Stadium
Image courtesy of John Tuki
Jacob performed exceptionally and drew attention to his improvements in the last year, I had numerous comments in that light. With some new serves and much more consistent strokes which I had tried really hard to repeat with him, he had really clicked the week before the competition and was playing much better and finished 4th among the standing players which I was really pleased with. Victor was the champion of the standing players and took home the gold medal, his antispin and long pimples combination no doubt difficult for the other standing players who are often restricted in their offensive strokes. So it was very satisfying to see those 3 guys achieve so much. Shakti combined with John Marrable to win the gold in the wheelchair doubles and Victor won the standing doubles with Ayush Bhatnagar who was the silver medalist in the singles for the standing players and has a very nicely developed technical game and some great shots. 

All in all some great success and a great bunch of people. I would like to thank John Tuki for helping to organise the event and coming over, and of course coaching against me for John Marrable in the crucial match, Henry Redmond for his classification of the players, Fiona Pickering (PNZ CEO) for taking the time to come down and supporting our efforts in the table tennis event, the team managers, Brian Barker specifically for his involvement with NZ Para activites and for me a very important thank you to Chloe Wickman, my liason with Parafed Waikato who has been supporting the players and the event many months prior to it taking place and was great to work with. Thank you all and I hope Para table tennis will really grow further in the years to come!

Zhang Jike on Top of the World Again

With many questions surrounding a lower back injury, Zhang Jike quickly silenced them by claiming the inaugral 2011 Leibherr Men's World Cup title. This is the second time he has shone in a major world event after winning the World Championships in Rotterdam in May. The final was a 6 set affair with 2010 World Cup winner Wang Hao taking on the current World Champion. The defending champion got off on the perfect foot, claiming the first 2 sets in the match, but Zhang Jike clung on and won the next 4 sets to take the title in Paris. With Ma Long on brilliant form and Wang Hao performing at a very high level, Zhang Jike throws himself back into the top of the mix for Olympic Games selection.

World Cup Champion Zhang Jike
Image from Bettor.com

In the bronze medal match it was celebration for Korea as Joo Se Hyuk carried on his wicked form from beating Timo Boll in the quarterfinal to take out another of the world's finest players, Jun Mizutani from Japan. With Joo having less success in major events lately this is a great result for him and a great advert and inspiration again for defensive players around the world.

Here is Joo's quarterfinal match against Timo Boll which he won 4-3.

Thanks to ttCountenance for continuing to provide the best TT videos in such efficient time!

Saturday 12 November 2011

Defender on the Offensive

The Semifinalists are decided for the 2011 Leibherr Table Tennis Men's World Cup. It was disappointment for European fans around the globe who's pinned hopes on Germany's Timo Boll were lost when a determined and on-form Joo Se Hyuk ended Boll's World Cup goals. It was a 7 set showdown which saw one of the world's most reputable and skillful defensive players assert himself against Europe's best. A triumph for Korea which was almost repeated with their 2nd player Oh Sang Eun, his 7 set match was with Japanese star Jun Mizutani who claimed victory in the final set, securing a channel for Japanese supporters going into the semifinals. Both were incredible matches and had viewers around the world on the edges of their seats in the fray of some amazing execution.

World Class Defence from Joo Se Hyuk
Image from Ping Pong Italia
For China it was plain sailing, Wang Hao avenging himself with a 4-1 win over Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov who defeated him in the World Team Cup on home turf in the Germany city of Magdeburg just over a week ago. Certainly Hao didn't look to be taking any chances, looking forward to his task of defending his 2010 title. Ironically his teammate Zhang Jike finds himself aiming for the final on the opposite side of the draw. Mizutani was also a semifinalist in the 2010 competition. So here we see 3 of the 4 semifinalists repeating their elite performance from 2010. Will the result be the same or different? The finalists have the potential to be the same, Mizutani faces Wang Hao this time and we know that although Joo is on form, Zhang Jike has an amazing affinity for playing choppers with impressive leg strength and great touch. It's all down to 2 matches to determine the finalists, be sure to tune in to ITTV!

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Brazil's Champion on Comeback for London

Having recently returned from Magdeburg where he contributed to Brazil's win of the Intercontinental Team Cup yet again, Thiago was kind enough to do this interview with me. Having been well into the top 100 players in the world Thiago is now recovered from injury and is looking to get back on form in time to try and qualify for the Olympic Games in London 2012. Thanks Thiago and enjoy reading everyone!

Full Name: Thiago Monteiro
Age: 30 years old
Date of Birth: 15/06/1981
Nation Represented: Brazil
Highest World Ranking: 59 (Sep 2008)

Equipment Used:
Blade: Cournilleau Hinotec OFF
FH Rubber: Cournilleau Pilot Advance
BH Rubber: Cournilleau Pilot Advance


How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?
I play for 25 years, I start with my father at age of 5 years old!

Who has been the biggest influence on your career so far?
My father was the biggest influence, my first coach and advisor until today!

What does your training schedule for a week period involve?
I practise table tennis twice a day from Monday to Friday and once on Saturday. With 2 or 3 physical sessions during this time. Nowadays I am coming back from injury and it has been a little less than what I would like to.

What is your next big goal for table tennis?
Next big goal is to qualify for London Olympics.

Who has been your biggest rival out on the table since you started playing?
I have had some at every stage of my career. At the beginning some friends in my country who were fighting with me for spot in National Team, then some opponents in international competition.

What do you think is the most important thing in table tennis for becoming a successful player on the international stage? 
There are many things such as discipline, will, intelligence, support from the family. It is impossible to have everything but one need to have some of those to be successful.

Previously you have been well into the top 100 players in the world, is that a position you are fighting strongly to regain?
Yes, I was well but got injured but I am better now and I am practising to be back to my former level as soon as possible. It makes life much easier to have a higher world ranking sometimes.

Why do you think China currently dominate the sport?
Chinese have the best coaches, work harder, study the game, invest a lot. Normal that they are too good, it is very simple actually! They devote their lives to the game and just get back what they deserve.

What is the state of table tennis in Brazil? Do you see table tennis ever becoming a popular sport there?
Table tennis as a hobby is quite a popular sport in Brazil. we are putting a good effort to make it more professional and bring more people to official competition but it takes time. To have the Olympics in 2016 can be a defining moment for us if we do a good job!

Thiago in action
Image from tabletennista

Off the Topic Questions

Who is your favourite sportsperson of all time?
I am not the kind of person who has idols but I like some; such as Ronaldo, Senna from Brazil, Valentino Rossi, Kelly Slater, Jordan. In table tennis I like Waldner, Samsonov, Gatien.

Favourite Food?
I like brazillian barbeque or anything mom cooks when I am home!

What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis?
I read, watch movies, surf on internet. I like to play other sports but I avoid not to get injured.

Dream Car?
Ferarri, Porsche, Lamborghini or some nice car of that style

Ideal Holiday Destination
Fortazela, which is my hometown in Brazil, or any place with hot weather. Hot water beaches and a nice night life!

First thing you would do if you won $1 million?
I would not change my life much if I had 1 million. I like what I do so my life would be pretty much the same and I would actually think of a way to make this money work for me so I never need to work anymore!

Your Team Mates

Who is the funniest player in the training hall?
From the players I have spent time with I would say my good friend Thommy Keinath

Who trains the hardest? 
When you practice with professional players they all train hard, that is not really a problem!

Who has the best nickname?
The best nickname it is the one that Hi Zhiwen has from Spain. He is kindly called Juanito.

And Lastly

Would you like to add one last tip, or inspirational message for other players looking to succeed?
Enjoy life and have fun!!!

Sunday 6 November 2011

What comes after 10-0?

We have, most of us, been in the situation of being up 10-0 in a game. What comes after 10-0? 11-0 or 10-1? Are you merciful or strictly professional? How do you view winning a game 11-0? Is it a psychological advantage for you, a way of crushing your opponent for the rest of the match? Do you respect your opponents too much to do it? Will it reflect badly on you for doing so? It is interesting to see the widespread opinion and values on demolishing opponents without a glimpse at a point coming their way. I took the liberty of asking a few players what their thoughts were on winning 11-0 against opponents. For me personally I don't do it very often at all. There would be two occasions:

A) I have a point to prove, someone has either beaten me 11-0 or someone has really done something to annoy me in a match.

B) There is a bounty on the line, i.e in Waikato if you beat someone 11-0 they have to buy you a box of beer. Among friends where there is no disrespect intended etc.

Image from TableTennisTalk
What do others think?:

'Nothing special...that is part of the game, no more, no less' Thiago Monteiro, Brazil National Mens Team

'Generally I don't like, I give one point' Gionis Panagiotis, Greek National Mens Team

'I think there is no reason to give a point, if you are much better and can win like this, then do it. From my own experience I was 10-0 down and he gave me a point and I won the set 12-10. But anyway most of the time I give a point, especially for the players I respect, but I only do it because the other players will have not so good opinion about me if I don't' Hunor Szocs, Romanian National Mens Team

'In many ways it is more disrespectful to give away a point than to win 11-0. I'm not fussed either way. I've heard National Team players who think it's bad karma to win 11-0 but I'll stay on the fence' William Henzell, Oceania Champion

'I think you should win 11-0 if you can do it. If somebody had 10-0 on me I want to win a point, not get given one.' Hampus Soderlund, Ranked 11 Swedish Mens on World Rankings

'I think you should always try and beat players as easily as possible! Obviously if they really don't have a chance and can't really play then I would say not to. If they are decent then it's about getting ready for other matches and you shouldn't give any points away' Liam Pitchford, English Number 1

'Many players will give one point if it's 10-0, then it will end 11-1. I have never had this decision because I was never leading 10-0 so I don't know' Patrick Baum" Finalist 2010 and 2011 European Champs

'I prefer to lose 11-0 as if I win 11-0 he will have more respect about me. Some players give one point but sometimes this is not so nice so I would prefer to lose 11-0' Abdel-Kader Salifou, 2005 French Junior Champion

'I think it's something to show your supremacy, and I hate it when your opponent gives you the point when it's 10-0 for him' Quentin Robinot, 2009 European Youth Champion

Is 11-0 a good thing or a bad thing?
Image from China Digital Times
So that's the some mixed opinion for you. As for me, I know at least one player who would be happy to receive a point when down 10-0, and that's Adam Bobrow :)

Special thanks Matt Solt for the starting idea.

Monday 31 October 2011

What makes the Chinese so Dominant? Take 2: The Professionals Speak

Here is a list of quotes from my interviews with international players about why the Chinese continue time and time again to win international titles, top the rankings and remain the dominant force in world table tennis. 

China dominates at the 2008 Beijing Games
Image Courtesy of Xinhua News

'Because they start very young and they have very good organisation for this sport. They work a lot for this and the coaches are top.' 
Gionis Panagiotis - Greek National Mens Team

'Simply, this is the national sport in the biggest country in the World (population).' 
Jean Michel Saive - 1994 European Champion and Former World Number 1

'They are very athletic, unbelievable power in their strokes and mentally, they are very strong' 
Patrick Franziska - 2010 European Youth Champion

'Chinese work harder, are more professional, more organised, also they have many more players. Most of the top Europeans live far away from each other, we should practice more together like the Chinese do, this seems to work for them and is something we lack.' 
Vladimir Samsonov - 3 Time World Cup Winner and Former World Number 1

They have: traditions, good system, good history, knowledge and money. Combine this with a BIG number of players. The status of table tennis is high in China. Parents are dreaming of having future champions. All these things make the competition inside the country very hard. This drives the level of the sport up!!' 
Peter Karlsson - Swedish National Coach and 2000 European Champion

'Imagine creating the best athlete and then re-producing that athlete over and over again. And only modifying the system based on the next perfect athlete. The Chinese use this system right across as many locations in the country and reproduce the system in different tiers.' 
Simon Gerada - 2000 Oceania Champion

'Numbers and dedication. If you've got millions of people who are desperate enough to do whatever they can to succeed then you've got a winning recipe. Most other countries rely on a handful of players who are serious enough to do what it takes.' William Henzell - 3 Time Oceania Champion

These are things which are being raised time and time again. The sooner the rest of the world can move towards this seemingly flawless system of producing World Class players the better. I think the population issue is a big advantage for China, but imagine if a country like the United States adopted a training programme like the Chinese. Unfortunately with Table Tennis such an overshadowed sport in the States by Football, Golf and Basketball along with many other sports, the Chinese do hold that every lingering advantage of having table tennis as their national sport. As Henzell said though in comparison we seem to have a group of serious players in each country trying to compete to this end. It can work, Sweden were vastly successful with a much smaller number of players than China back in the 70s and 80s but the problem as we are seeing now is that the pool of players diminishes and is sometimes not replenished, where China is overflowing with new players all over the country, and not just players, amazing coaches too.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Gionis the Greek God of Ping Pong

It was my pleasure to continue interviewing some of the sport's greatest players in Europe this week, one player who had caught my eye at the recent European Championships in Gdansk, Poland was Gionis Panagiotis of Greece. Gionis has a unique style and showed complete class in defeating Bastian Steger, one of Germany's finest players. Gionis was kind enough to do this interview with me, thanks Gionis! 

Name: Gionis Panagiotis
Age: 31
Date of Birth: 07/01/1980
Nation Represented: Greece
Highest World Ranking: 36

Gionis on defence
Image courtesy of ITTF

Equipment Used:
Blade: Butterfly OFF Korbel
FH Rubber: Tenergy 05 2.1
BH Rubber: Feint Long II 1.1


How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?
I'm playing since 1989...and I started for fun in a small club near my house.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career so far?
That I really love it by myself!
What does your training schedule for a week period involve?
Monday Wednesday Friday 2 times practise 2.30 hours each and Tuesday Thursday one time 2.30 hours and sometimes weekend!
What is your next big goal for table tennis?
Olympic Games in London
What do you think is the most important thing in table tennis for becoming a successful player on the international stage?
Many hours of practise first and then physical, cleverness and good psychology!
You have an interesting style in that you chop on your backhand and switch between slow return and offensive play on your forehand. What inspired that style for you?
When I was young my coach said that I must be a defender because in attack I was not so good...but this style with attack in forehand I first try it 21 years old because I understood that for making a bigger step in my career I must be more aggressive player so I must attack more to compete with the top players...and I did it!

Why do you think China currently dominate the sport?
Because they start very young and they have very good organisation for this sport. They work a lot for this and the coaches are top.
Do you think Greece has a strong future in European table tennis compared to other nations like France and Germany?
I think in Greece is not so easy like these countries because table tennis is amateur and the children first look to study and then to find the time for table tennis...but the federation and the coaches are trying a lot.
Off the topic Questions
Who's your favourite sportsperson of all time?
Lionel Messi
Favourite food?
What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis?
Football on Playstation
Dream Car?
Ideal Holiday Destination?
Exotic Island
First thing you would do if you won $1million?
I buy one very nice house
Your Team Mates

Who's the funniest player in the training hall?
Leuteris Makras
Who trains the hardest in the training hall?
Kalinikos Kreanga
Who has the best nickname?
Tasos Riniotis (peroukas)
And Lastly

Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for other table tennis players looking to succeed?
That if you want to reach a top level player only the talent is not enough...need a lot of work and many hours of practise!

Gionis defeats Bastian Steger in the Euro Team Quarterfinals