Thursday 25 August 2011

Successor in the Wings for Germany's Top Spot

Another interview and another player who has cracked the world's top 20. Patrick Baum now ranked number 6 among European players and currently 23rd in the world, has made incredible grounds in the last few years and made his way into the German Men's team who succeeded in making the WTTC Teams Final against China in 2010 and of course made an astounding effort in coming 2nd at last years European Championships defeating former World Champion Werner Schlager of Austria and 3 time World Cup winner Vladimir Samsonov of Russia. It is an honour for me to present this interview to you all. Thanks so much Patrick!

Full Name: Patrick Timo Baum
Age: 24
Date Of Birth: 23.06.87
Nation represented: Germany
Highest World Ranking: 19

Equipment Used?

Blade: Baum Carrera Senso
FH Rubber: Acuda
BH Rubber: Acuda

Your Career

How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?
I started at 6 years old. I started because my older brother also played table tennis and I wanted to do the same like him.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career so far?
My father had the biggest influence on me, he showed me how to play and coaches me until I was 20. Also today I am practising sometimes with him.

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

Last year, when I got Vice European Champion in Singles was the best result right
Patrick's amazing Semi Final match vs Vladimir Samsonov at the 2010 European Championships
Video by TTCountenance

What's does your training schedule for a week period involve?
I am playing about 4-5 hours table tennis every day and sometimes fitness.

What is your next big goal for table tennis?
I would like to come under the top 20 in world ranking again.

Who has been your biggest rival out on the table since you started playing?
I didn't have a big rival out of table tennis.

What do you think is the most important thing in table tennis for becoming a successful player on the international stage?
I think you have to start quite early with table tennis, that you can learn everything and be very safe.

Do you think Germany has what it takes to win the World Team Championships next year?
I think we had a little chance last time in Moscow in the final against china, but it is hard to come to the final and then we will see.

Image Courtesy of ITTF

Off the Topic Questions

Favourite food?


What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis?
I like doing other sports, most of all football

Dream Car?
Audi R8

Ideal holiday destination?


First thing you would do if you won $1million?
Change into euro :)

Your Team Mates

Who’s the funniest player in the training hall?
Janos Jakab

Who trains the hardest in the training hall?
Many players are practising a lot every day

Who’s the funniest team player?
All of my team mates are very funny.

Who has the best nickname?

Bolle for Bojan Tokic

And Lastly
Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for other table tennis players looking to succeed?
I wish everybody all the best and a lot of fun with playing table tennis.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Ticks Across the Board for Carmencita Alexandrescu

It was my distinct pleasure to interview a very talented woman with a great passion for the sport of table tennis. Carmencita (or Camy as she likes to be known) is a woman of many hats in table tennis: a player, an ITTF coach, an umpire and of course a mother of two daughters who both play too. A great role model for everyone of all areas of the sport, hope you enjoy the read and thank you Camy!

Full Name:
Carmencita Doinita Alexandrescu


Date Of Birth:

Nation represented:
Romania /Belgium / USA

Highest  Ranking:
ITTF, Romanian, Belgian and American Coach ! 

Equipment Used:
Blade: Amultart ZL-carbon
FH Rubber: Tenergy 05
BH Rubber: Tenergy 05

Camy on the far left at Chris Paul's Topspin Charity Event 2014

Your Career
How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?

I started playing Table Tennis when I was almost 7 years old in 1975 on and off but I'm still involved till this day. I began practice performance in Clubul Sportiv Municipal Buzau . My parents decided to put me in this sport because they don't want to see me playing on the street and worry about me !

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

When I won the " Silver Bat " because of my multiple sportswomen medals

Who is your biggest rival out on the table tennis table?

I do not have a specific rival in my career . The only thing that bothers me sometimes are the players with long pips ! :)

You have a number of different hats in table tennis, you are a player, a coach and an umpire. How fulfilling is that and how did you get involved with all of these?

I love Table Tennis and nothing can make me give up no matter how hard some people around me try to make me give up !

What do you think of the state of women's table tennis around the world?

I wish from my heart to see the beautifulness , the feminity, the sexy women players around the world to use more often skirts , nice shirts more feminine with more curves . Making Table Tennis sexier like other sports example Tennis, Gymnastics or Figure Skating where the womens have long hair , nice make up and beautiful attractive clothes where lots of people want to see and enjoy ! I encourage every womens teams , Table Tennis Company's to support and promote the image and development of womens in Table Tennis !

Me and Camy hanging in Las Vegas
You are also a mother with two beautiful daughters who are both also players, what has been your favourite table tennis trip with the family so far?

We just went on a trip to Lake Tahoe California with players and coaches from India, China, and Italy organzied by ICC Milpitas the ITTF hot spot in America where I coach for the last three months in the Summer Table Tennis Camp. We had a wonderful time with different cultures !

What are your goals as a player, coach, umpire and mum for the near future?

I will be focused more and more in the coaching field because I want in the future to see more and more good players coming from USA in top world ranking ! Like a mom I want my daughters to study and make their dreams come true !

Off the Topic Questions

Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?

My favorite sportsperson was, is, and will be Jean-Michel Saive "The Fighter " because he is still showing me to never give up ,go forward no matter how old you are ,be nice ,funny and enjoy this sport . I will always have big respect for Jean -Mi !

Favourite food?

I love Sushi and Sashimi !

What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis?

I like to spend quality time with my family and friends , shopping with my daughters going to the gym and helping promote the Australian company ttEDGE that is directed by William Henzell which is also sponsoring us ! 


Dream Car?

Red Ferrari 

Ideal holiday destination?

I recommend Las Vegas because it's a unique place in the world with lots of fun and excitement !

First thing you would do if you won $1million?

Me and my daughters to have own sports fragrance .

Your Team Mates

Players : Zhou Xin -China , Anol Kashyap-India , Jiten Gidla -India , Maggie Tian -China , Ariel Hsing -USA , Lily Zhang -USA
And in The Coaching field Rajul Sheth , also the Director of ICC -Milpitas Table Tennis Club India/USA , Coach Massimo Constantini -Italy and Coach Jayanta Pushilal -India 

Who’s the funniest player in the training hall?

Maggie Tian because her accent sounds funny and she make us feel good around her !

Who trains the hardest in the training hall?

Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang they are juniors full of energy and with a lots of accomplished results ! 

Who has the best nickname?

The best nickname is Chinku a player from India that trains here in the club .

Carmen's Highlights Video 

And Lastly

Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for other  table tennis players, coaches and/or umpires looking to succeed?

We need good players , coaches and umpires all around the world with lots of dedication  !
Never Give Up ! And the best Quotation - " Winners  never quit and quitters never win "

Great words of advice there, love the quote too. Thanks so much Camy, keep doing the great work you do!

Monday 22 August 2011

Karlsson Holds Hope for Another Swedish Number 1

It was a great honour for me to secure this interview with one of Sweden's most successful players and renowned coach, Peter Karlsson. I hope you can all take something away from this interview. Thanks Peter!

Full Name: Peter Karlsson
Date Of Birth: 29/05/69
Nation Represented: Sweden
Highest Ranking: 4 ( 1994)

Equipment Used/using?
Blade: STAG Peter Karlsson Carbon
BH Rubber: STAG Peter Karlsson Gen2

Karlsson in Action 

Your Career

How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?Started at 7 with my brother at home on the kitchen table.

What was the highlight of your table tennis career as a player?
2000: Singles Champion at European Championships

1991: World Champion Doubles

4times World Champion in Teams (-89, -91, -93, -00 )

What is Sweden's philosophy on table tennis, I know you sincerely believe you can produce another world number 1, what does Sweden need to do to achieve this?
We have traditions, knowledge, history and a good system ( which needs to be improved). We dont have BIG number of players. As we only have a small number of players we need extreme personalities with:

1/ Driving force
2/ Ready to work hard
3/ Passion for the sport that makes them do something “extra”.
4/ Players who are ready to invest time and money to improve.

What has changed in Sweden since the era's of Waldner and Appelgren?
Life has changed..... kids today have so many things to choose from. Not only sport, also computer, all different types of games. The number of players in Sweden has gone down a lot in the last 20-25 years. The competition inside the country is not as hard as it used to be. BUT....I still believe we can come back to the top!!!

What do you think makes the Chinese so dominant at the sport currently?
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 makes the competition inside the country very hard, this drives the level of the sport up!!

What kind of training programmes are the top Swedish players undergoing presently (ie Par Gerell, Robert Svensson etc)?
I'm not the right man to answer this question...

What do Europe need to increase the standard of their game to compete with Asia in the next 5-10 years?

We need to improve the footwork and also we need to improve physically. I believe we need to spend more hours in the hall.

Who do you think in terms of team events will be the first country to beat China in the future based on their current trends and development of emerging players?
South Korea

Peter winning Gold in the Mens Singles at the 2000 European Championships
Image Courtesy of the Tribune.

Off the Topic Questions

Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?
Björn Borg

Favourite food?
French food...

What do you do when you aren't involved with Table Tennis?
Spending time with my family and friends.

Dream Car
Im not a big fan of cars.... but a Porche would be ok!!

Ideal holiday destination?
Thailand with my family

First thing you would do if you won $1million?
Today Im doing things for the non profitable organisation “Peace and Sport”.
I would definately increase my involvement with them if I won that much money.

Ma Lin vs. Peter Karlsson 2004

Your Team Mates (or coaching students)

Who’s the funniest player in the training hall?
Lin Zhigang , a chinese player who I played with 5 years in Nevers , France.

Who trains the hardest in the training hall?
I have seen so many players who have trained hard. Not fair to mention only one.....

Who has the best nickname?
Appelgren ( Äpplet= The apple)

And Lastly

Would you like to add an inspirational message to readers to help them achieve their goals?
Achieving goals is the end station of a goalsetting, right??

Lets make the journey ( which is very long!!) enjoyable!!!

HAVE FUN AND ENJOY WHAT YOU ARE DOING, this will increase your chances to be successful.

Peter Karlsson

Want to read more great interviews with other former World Champions, Cup Winners and Number 1's? Click for MORE INTERVIEWS.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Sweden's Rocky Balboa of Table Tennis

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Hampus Söderlund, a young Swedish player making his way to the top. Currently ranked 27th in the World in the Under 18 rankings and 10th among Swedish mens players in the ITTF Mens Rankings, Hampus is making big moves! Hampus was really enthusiastic about the interview and has answered the questions really well it makes for great reading, hope you all enjoy :) and of course Thanks to Hampus for doing the interview and getting it back so quickly

Full Name: Hampus Söderlund
Age: 17
Date Of Birth: 14 January 1994
Nation represented: Sweden
Highest World Ranking: 271

Hampus Soderlund
Image from ITTF
Equipment Used?

Blade: Timo Boll T5000

FH Rubber: Tenergy 05 FX

BH Rubber: Tenergy 05

Your Career

How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?

I've been playing for 10 years. My parents played so it was a normal step for me, to start to play.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career so far?
Oh, that’s a hard question. My coach for the moment is the former player Peter Karlson and of course so has he has some influence in me. Also some other coaches like Thomas Von Scheele in the national team. But my parents are the most influence over career so far!

What has been the highlight of your table tennis career so far?
Difficult to say. It was very fun when a did win the Swedish championship for U-21 earlier this year. This is the most fresh victory for me, that’s why I took this event. I still have the feeling inside.

What's your training schedule for a week period?
Normally I practise 2 times Monday to Fridays and some exercises for my body every day. Then we have 1 week training camp with the Swedish national team every month. And I am going to other countries to practise sometimes.

What is your next big goal for table tennis?
World junior champs in Bahrain. I want to practise well and develop my game for that tournament. And I want to make a very good performance there. I also want to play well for my club in the Swedish league. We will start now in September.

Hampus' 2010 match against Alexander Franzen of Sweden

Who has been your biggest rival out on the table since you started playing?
I would say Mattias Översjö, who also is a good friend of mine. We are from the same city and we did practise in the same group for 8 years. But we did separate, one year ago. He did move to the Swedish champs Elsöv and I moved to Falkenberg.

Who is your favourite international player and why?
Zhang Jike for the moment. He is playing in a way as I want to play. He has a very strong backhand,forehand and a very good body. I also like his way to receive with his BH flick. “Tabletennis is something difficult, but he is doing it so easily”

You participated in a teams event in Malta with one of our players Phillip Xiao give us your spin on what he's like as a team mate.
Haha I have very good memories from that tournament. Philip is a very nice person to play with. Very relaxed and humble. Philip is a great team player! I did take 3 golds and one silver in Malta. And he made that possible for me!

Image by Par Gerdin

Off the Topic Questions
Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?
I suppose I should say Jan-ove-Waldner. But I really like Muhammed Ali!

Favourite food?
Asian food extra point to Thai food.

What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis?
I am having my own blog I also like to move on me to go the gym, and to play thai boxing, Then of course I like to be with my friends and my family.

Dream Car?
I like this car. It’s a very cool sport car, but it is still not to much.

Ideal holiday destination?
The Maldives. I would really like to go there.

First thing you would do if you won $1million?

Buy that Porcshe!

Your Team Mates
Lukas Ryden, Omar Assar and Pär Gerell (only in swedish tournaments)

Who’s the funniest player in the training hall?
We have some India players in our practise group. I would say Ghosh he has very funny comments sometimes.

Who trains the hardest in the training hall?

It depends on the day. But Omar is always working very hard and consistent.

Who’s the funniest team player?

Lukas he is the relaxed one, outside the table.

Who has the best nickname?
I think I have the best nickname. They call me for “Rocky” like in Rocky Balboa. I cant say that I don’t like it !

And Lastly

Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for other table tennis players looking to succeed?
To have fun work hard and to listen to other persons ideas. But in the end always trust your own stomach feeling!!

Awesome! Thanks Hampus :)

You can check out Hampus' blog at

Thursday 11 August 2011

Oceania's Powerhouse of Ping Pong

Continuing in my theme of interviewing great and inspiring players I sent some questions to one of my favourite table tennis players of all time, Simon Gerada. I had the distinct pleasure of playing Simon in my first international table tennis match in Hobart this year and it was a very intimidating experience. I'm a great fan of Simon's style and aggression out on the table and love to watch him play! Here is his interview, enjoy!
Full Name: Simon Gerada
Age: 30
Date Of Birth: 20/03/1981
Height: 186

Simon at the GSSE Games 2011
Image Courtesy of  Time of Malta. 

Nation represented: Australia/Malta

Highest World Ranking: 180
Equipment Used?

Blade: Andro Allround
FH Rubber: Andro Hexer ($50 retail)
BH Rubber: Andro Hexer X ($50 retail)

Your Career

How long have you been playing table tennis for, when did you start?
Since 8 years of age, so 22 years now.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
My father, the support for one but he’s always given me a never too hard attitude.

What do you feel has been your biggest achievement to date?
Becoming the best player in Australia and Oceania in 2003. Simon also won the Oceania Championships Mens Singles in 2000 and has been one of Oceanias top table tennis players from a relatively young age.
Is there anything you would change in your table tennis career if you could do it all again?
What are your future goals in table tennis?
Make the Olympic games London. This will involve Simon playing the Olympic Games Qualification Tournament early next year and placing in the top 3 to qualify.

What's your view on the Chinese dominance at the moment; why are they so good do you believe?
Basically, the Chinese have developed a perfect documented system. 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 same system in different tiers.

What is your favourite shot in your game and why?

Forehand counterloop; because the opponent thinks they have the advantage with making the first loop before I play my counter which usually goes right on by them.
During your career where has table tennis taken you, in terms of training and playing?

Lost count along the way.
Who's the toughest opponent you have ever overcome in a match?

Many different moments and players during the different stages of my career. Simon was noted as the toughest opponent for another of Australia's best, William Henzell.
What is the most memorable match you have ever played?

Jan Ove Waldner at the World Cup in front of 6 thousand people.
What do you think are some of the key factors in becoming a successful table tennis?

Train hard and to have a good team behind you

Off the Topic Questions

Who’s your favourite sportsman of all time? Roger Federer

Favourite film? I have a top 10

What's your dream car? Ford GT40

What do you do in your spare time other than table tennis?
Family, Golf, Business (HWATT), Café

Do you eat well or eat junk?

PS3 or XBOX 360?
What would be the first thing you would do if you won $1million?
Go to the bank
 Some of Simon's great points from the 2009 Australian Open and Closed Championships.
Your Team Mates

Who’s the funniest player in the training hall? Dee Muhammad

Who trains the hardest in the training hall?
Ivan, Nathan, Derek, Zaki, Melissa and Muammad

Who has the best nickname? Lewy the Fly

And Lastly

Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message to us all?

Train hard and just do it!

Thanks Simon, all the best for the Australian Closed Champs and the not so far away Olympic Qualification Tournament!

You can also check out Simon's business HWATT (Health Wellness and Table Tennis) which runs multipurpose training and coaching programme's.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Is TT Media becoming Male Oriented?

So here's a question for you, how often do you read about women's table tennis or watch women's table tennis in comparison to men's? I for one confess to watching much more men's table tennis than women's but internationally we are facing a large problem, where are all the female players?! Here are my thoughts on the issues facing the sport and it's lacking X Chromosome :)

The stunning Biba Golic playing Killerspin League

Globally we face a huge problem with the promotion of table tennis, it is very muchly considered a minor sport and the bulk of player numbers are within China's population. To increase numbers there needs to be a lot more active media for table tennis and this is beginning to come through with forums, blogs and sites much like this one. The problem is all of these are biased and are largely focused on mens table tennis, many players prefer to watch the male game as the technical aspects seem to be more enjoyable to watch. Really though I enjoy watching women's table tennis a bit more sometimes as I find it captures more of the speed and agility of the game than the men's style.

The achievements of female players need to be publicised so that the image of our sport for female is one full of opportunities for success, they need role models and players to idolise just as male players do. Also I think nothing is really being done to promote the sport to the groups which are missing from the game, regional and national bodies should really be moving into profiling events to attract new players to the game. Also the majority proportion of table tennis coaches are male and this can have a negative impression upon young female players along with the high number of male players. Not many junior girl players would enjoy being the only girl in a club and I'm sure girls frequently get sick of playing mixed events when there is a lack of female entries.

A real problem for female players is that they tend to place a much greater emphasis upon the importance of their education, particularly in New Zealand we see a large number of female players leave the sport around the ages of 15-17 to pursue their academic studies as they find juggling table tennis and school too much of a hassle and don't see much of a future in the sport. The real thing table tennis needs is an incentive to balance it or at least put it on par with academic education but to achieve this is a long and arduous task for the ITTF.

The morale of the story is we need to get more female players involved one way or another, it's the key to attracting more players. More female players through role modelling and media coverage of opportunities for women's players and of course more males for a string of more obvious reasons :P

Tuesday 9 August 2011

What makes the Chinese so Dominant?

This is my own personal opinion and observation on what makes the Chinese so dominant in our sport in this era of the game. Granted the Chinese have always been at or near the top of the sport but what are some of the main reasons for that. I prefer to take a political perspective on it, I think the most standout reason is simply because China is a communist nation with a massive population.

Victory for China becomes the Norm 
Communism, Population and Table Tennis

It's a simple combination which has lead to world dominance and is slowly leading China to excel in a large multitude of sports. Their athletes were born atheletes, born to train in their codes. This has led to a strong socialisation which is unique in asia of parents really pushing their children to succeed no matter what the sacrifice and we see that not just in sport but in education particularly also. There is such a massive population in China that when combined with this socialisation everything becomes highly competitive, the athletes adapt to become very self driven and strictly disciplined to train repetitively for long periods of time, this tends to be a point of difference from other places around the world where the emphasis is not so much upon technical perfection.

The communist slant is simple, the Chinese have avoided the simple fact that there is not enough money pumped into the sport. Talented players around the world are faced to sacrifice their sport for education and employment, this is the way of the western world and only the top most talented sports people are supported enough to chase their dreams. China is different, those born table tennis players are supported by the state, young children forfeit basic education in some cases to focus on developing their skills as elite table tennis players with packed day schedules of training to perfect technical strokes, footwork and improve agility around the table. There is a high use of multiball training for this purpose.

The simple truth is that with prize money like $50,000US for the World Cup winner Table Tennis lacks financial incentive for skilled players to commit to being professional players and lacks publicity as a competitive sport to attract numbers. China has a pool of over a billion people from which comes millions of table tennis players. From those huge numbers of players and with that training ethic and discipline it is no wonder the Chinese are able to produce the world's best players.

In order to compete with those players the rest of the world require a strong dedication to training, a desire as strong as the Chinese to succeed even if sacrifices are necessary. Starting young we need players to grow into the sport and continue to develop and be hungry for achievement and competition and to dedicate their time to playing table tennis. This requires financial incentive which is a major setback in the sport currently and also publicity, professional sportspeople want to be recognised for their efforts and successes!

So essentially those are the areas where China beats the rest of the world and of course some of those failings are in the global image of the game and its development as a sport. I think if Table Tennis took the same kind of marketing and financial framework approach as Tennis to build sponsors and spectators and then tap into television networks and have profile league events around the world then we would start to see greater income potential and then table tennis would offer a bit more staying power to athletes with talents which can be built to knock China off its perch.

Until then they are most welcome to sit there as each and every one of their athletes has worked tirelessly to achieve their successes!

Chinese Superleague 2010 Xu Xin v Chen Qi
Courtesy of TT Provider

Sunday 7 August 2011

Two Eras of Success in the Sport

Christine Little was a person that I was really looking forward to interviewing, having been at the 75th Jubilee of TTNZ in 2009 where she was inducted into the Hall of Fame I was driven to get a perspective on two very different eras of table tennis in Oceania from a player who had swiped up numerous titles in both of them. with 2 Oceania Championship Womens Titles, 3 NZ Open Titles and numerous Veteran event titles which she details in her career highlights. Chris is a very energetic and friendly table tennis player and it was a pleasure to read her responses to my questions. Hope you enjoy too!

Full Name: Christine Joy Little
Date Of Birth: 17 February 1957
Nation Represented: New Zealand and Australia
Highest World Ranking: n/a

Chris Little sporting a silver medal at the Australian Veteran Championships 2009 with 050 Mixed partner Craig Campbell.
Equipment Used?
Blade: Barry Griffiths – used to be Power Drive
FH Rubber: Sriver 2mm
BH Rubber: Sriver 2mm

Your Career

How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?
I started playing TT at home around age 9 or 10 (with 5 siblings, sport was a great outlet and hobby) - first on the kitchen table then on a proper TT table – then at school and interschool competitions - then club TT - then state representative – then National rep.

Eugene Herman was a teacher at my high school in Adelaide and played with the students after school on certain days – this developed a TT culture our school which produced some fine players. He was a left-handed hard bat chopper who was extremely consistent and had the wicked ability to smash the loose ball. Everyone started with various points on the board before he would invariably catch up and win. A great way to challenge the players and a hard player to beat.

I moved to Melbourne for a year when I was 17 in order to practise and compete with the best players in Australia. My feeling was that you had to play against the better players in order to improve and hopefully, learn to win.

So for about 44 years with a 13 year break

from 1994 – 2007.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career so far?
Hard question – no ONE person, but collectively, all the amazing TT players (and a few coaches) competing simultaneously throughout my TT career. In particular: Neil Ward - great friend and practice partner, Murray Thompson - coach, Bill Oatey -first coach, Steve Knapp - awesome mixed doubles partner and cohort, Eric Rosario - introduced me to weight training in Melbourne, Malcolm Temperley - friend who had a tremendous love for the game, and my sister, Jenny - who used to halt the stop watch during footwork practice, whenever I collected the ball.

What was the highlight of your table tennis career?

Here are a few of them:

Past tense: playing my first Commonwealth and World Champs at age 17 and winning the Australian Open Singles the same year at 18.

Winning 2 consecutive Oceania Singles titles in 1978 and 1982, the second one as a Kiwi.

The 1985 NZ Open Singles title against Jan Morris – I lost the first game but after that won comfortably. Jan as a very successful and popular player in NZ but I had an 18-3 (or something close to this) win loss record against her and loved playing her.

The 1986 NZ Open Singles title against Ann Gyongyos which I won extremely comfortably and was playing some of my best table tennis ever.

Induction to the NZ TT Hall of Fame in 2009.

Chris' induction into the TTNZ Hall of Fame at TTNZ's 75th Jubilee Celebration, Whangarei, 2009.
Image Courtesy of TTNZ.
Veteran career:

Playing well enough to beat Annie Ramberg in the 050 singles final in Sydney in 2009 at the Aussie Vets.

She won the European 050 singles a couple of years earlier.

Winning 4 consecutive Over 50 singles titles at the NZ Vets from 2007-2010.

Winning 3 consecutive 0ver 50 singles titles at the Aussie Vets from 2007-2009.

Beating Mr Han and Tutty Tanfana in the NZ Vets 040 mixed doubles final in 2010 with partner Craig Campbell. Any win over Mr Han has got to be a TT career highlight.

Winning the 040 Aussie Vets doubles in 2010 with Sarah Sandley – we had won the NZ Open doubles back in 1987.

Playing for NZ as a veteran with some wonderful people as team mates – it’s been like a whole new TT career.

How do you feel the game has changed playing now from when you were younger? More specifically what is it do you think that allowed a higher standard of players in New Zealand in your era as a Senior Representative than those in our teams now?
It’s always tricky to compare TT of different eras – too many variables. Although, less female players now is a big factor and maybe there are more distractions in life these days. Less players means that people don’t have to climb up the ladder over time to (a) achieve results and (b) make teams. Thus, they’re representing their association or country, perhaps, much sooner than in the past.

I also think TT practice was something we all loved and we continuously challenged ourselves to improve. We were all very self-motivated.

Winter interclub in Auckland was great fun in the 80’s and travelling to the Nationals and the North Island champs was something we all looked forward to immensely. There was nowhere else we wanted to be and there was a great sense of fun involved, playing competitive TT.

Who has been your biggest rival out on the table since your career began?

Leanne Morrow in the early 70’s - but calling Li Chun Li a ‘rival’ in the late 80’s and early 90’s would be stretching the truth. I have beaten her only ever in doubles and mixed doubles and only on a very few occasions.

What do you feel is lacking in the sport as a female player? Basically, not enough girls/women playing TT.

For example, I played in an all-women’s TT interclub competition in Adelaide in the early 70’s – the depth of players was fantastic with a huge range of styles, including some excellent defenders.

Also the fact that many players only enter their own age group at competitive level and are often playing the same few opponents, but at different venues.

Who is your favourite international player and why?

Past tense: Liang Ko Liang – 1975 Calcutta Worlds - a Chinese superstar who could both defend and attack astoundingly well.

Present tense: William Henzell – such controlled TT economy, for maximum effect.

Off the Topic Questions
Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?
Andre Agassi – I’m a huge tennis fan.
Lance Armstrong – He da man!
Monica Seles – Before the knife in the back. Ouch.

Favourite food?
Sushi, falafel wraps, any kind of pasta.

What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis?
Primary school teacher, wife to Ray and mum to Jenny (14), film enthusiast, reading, tennis, music, hanging out with my family, Sudoku, Dutch Blitz, charades.

Dream Car
Jaguar XJS

Ideal holiday destination?
Exploring a new city – love to go to Barcelona, Rome, Dublin or San Francisco.

First thing you would do if you won $1million?
Pay off some debts, then book a holiday.

Your Team Mates

Who’s the funniest player in the training hall?
In the 80’s in Auckland, Don Tate was renowned for his one-liners while playing TT. For example, if someone playing against him luckily got both a net and an edge, his quick comment was: ‘Double feature!’

A very funny player.

Who trains the hardest in the training hall?
Past tense: Steve Knapp (3 times Aussie champ) trained smart and trained very, very hard. Barry Griffiths trained smart as well.

But training’s not the same as a veteran player.

Who’s the funniest team player?
Jan Morris (5 times NZ champ) was a fun and a funny team partner and doubles player. I loved having her as my team mate at the 1983 Commonwealth Champs and the Tokyo Worlds. Our team did great and we combined extremely well in the doubles matches and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. She’s definitely one of my favourite team mates.

Left to Right: Colleen Aitchison, Jan Morris, Yvonne Fogarty, Christine Little at 75th Jubilee,2009.
Image Courtesy of TTNZ.

Who has the best nickname?
Malcolm Darroch was called the ‘Mosquito’ due to his persistent buzzing around the table, always coming after you, jumping around so energetically – like those pesky, annoying little mosquitoes on a summer’s night.

Malcolm played again at this year’s NZ Vets in Invercargill and won both the 040 and 050 singles so I guess he’s still got it.

And Lastly
Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for other table tennis players looking to succeed?

Be mentally flexible during matches - learn about other players by watching their games - be aware of your own TT strengths and limitations and develop your game accordingly - ALWAYS treat the game and everybody involved in it, with nothing but the utmost care and respect.

Enjoy your TT.

Thanks Chris, we hope to see your recovery and speedy return back out onto the tables soon!

Wednesday 3 August 2011

The Man in the Driver Seat for Oceania Table Tennis

I was fortunate enough to snap up an opportunity to interview Oceania Development Officer Scott Houston after his recent success in organising the Oceania Cup event in Adelaide, Australia. I was interested to go behind the scenes with the development of Table Tennis in Oceania. Thanks again Scott, hope you readers enjoy!

Full Name: Scott Houston
Date of Birth: 10th May 1984
Nation Represented: Australia
Highest World Ranking: Not high enough!!

Scott Houston in his element at a high school in Wallis and Futuna

Equipment Used?

Blade: Donic Waldner Senso V1
FH Rubber: Donic Coppa Speed 2.1mm
BH Rubber: Donic JO Gold 2.0mm

Your Career

How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?
I started to play when I was 14 years old through my local club. As time progressed I began to take table tennis more seriously and I got to a stage where I was training every day and looking to achieve goals. I stopped playing professionally at the end of 2008 when I was 24 years old as I started working as the Oceania Development Officer for ITTF-Oceania.

What was the highlight of your table tennis career as a player?
Winning the Oceania Championship in Men’s Doubles with Chamara Fernando in 2008 at the Oceania Championships in Tahiti.

What made you get involved in your current role as Oceania Development Officer?
The opportunity arose at the end of 2008 when the position became available. After being interviewed for the job I was told that I could have the job if I wanted it. At the time I was living in Austria where I was playing for a professional team, TI Sparkasse Innsbruck. I then had to make a decision as to what to do with my table tennis life – if I took the job I would effectively end my professional playing career and close the door on my aspirations of qualifying for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and 2012 Olympic Games. If I didn’t take the job I would effectively lose the chance to make a long term career out of table tennis. It was a very hard choice at the time, but I have never regretted taking up the role of Oceania Development Officer, I think it gives me a much greater chance to make an impact in the sport than what I would have otherwise had as an athlete.

We have seen the huge efforts you have put into organising our continental events, how rewarding has it been to see the hard work pay off?
When I started the role as Oceania Development Officer I didn’t really know what to expect. Fortunately though I have been lucky enough to be guided and mentored by Glenn Tepper, ITTF Executive Director of Development, for all the purely developmental work and by Steve Dainton, ITTF Marketing Director, for all the TV and marketing work. Both Glenn and Steve have showed me the ropes but also allowed me enough space to work on some ideas of my own. I think this combination has been the key to the expansion and growth that has been achieved over the past 2.5 years.

What do you think is vital for Oceania's development in the next year or two?
The LIEBHERR 2011 ITTF-Oceania Cup was just played in Adelaide, Australia at the end of July. This event set a new bench mark for the presentation and marketability of Oceania events. It is my belief that we must continue to strive to improve our events and provide the Oceania countries with opportunities to participate on the international stage. The next event will be the 2012 Oceania Olympic Qualification event and following this the 2012 ITTF-Oceania Championships and the 2012 ITTF-Oceania Cup.

On top of this the developing Oceania countries must look to continue to develop in all areas and the more established Oceania countries must look for ways to become more sustainable.

If all of the above can continue I believe that Oceania can begin to close the gaps with the other continents.

In your role you get to travel quite a bit, which has been your most enjoyable trip so far and do you have a favourite destination in Oceania?
I have been fortunate enough to travel to 21 out of 24 Oceania countries/territories to date. From the more developed Oceania countries/territories Guam would have to be my favourite and from the less developed countries/territories Kiribati is at the very top. One place that I haven’t had the chance to visit but is said to be amazing in Tuvalu, hopefully an opportunity will arise in the future either for work or holidays for me to go there.

Off the Topic Questions

Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?
Steve Waugh – he always performed at his best when the team needed it the most.

Favourite food?
Red hot pot from Sichuan province in China

What do you do when you aren't playing/working?

Relax with friends, watch movies, play other sports such as golf, cricket, 8-ball or 10 pin bowling.

Dream Car?
Honda S2000 or BNW M5

Ideal holiday destination?
Greek Islands or Bora Bora in French Polynesia

First thing you would do if you won $1million?
Upgrade my house and car

Your Team Mates (from your time playing)?

I was lucky enough to play professionally in Germany and Austria, and I also represented a team in China as well. Additionally I played 7 years in the South Australian Men’s Team, a few times in the Australian Men’s Team and a few times in the Australian Junior Teams as well. Out of all of the teams I have played for probably the most famous/well known player is William Henzell – we played in the South Australian Men’s Team every year at the Australian Championships.

Who’s the funniest player in the training hall?
When I was playing professionally in Austria we had a very good team spirit. We would always be laughing and having a good time before and after training, but we knew when to switch on when it was time for training as well.

Who trains the hardest in the training hall?William Henzell – he makes every ball count at all times. Another hard trainer is Krisztian Gardos (older brother of Austrian National Team Member Robert Gardos), he was in my club in Austria and always led by example.

Who’s the funniest team player?
Chamara Fernando always made us laugh with his intensity. There was never a dull moment when he was on the table.

And Lastly
Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for the Oceania Table Tennis Community?
We need each and every person to strive to improve all aspects of table tennis on a daily basis. The improvement of table tennis in Oceania can’t come from the ITTF or ITTF-Oceania alone – it has to come from each National Association, State/Province/District Association, Club, Coach, player, parent, and everyone else. If everyone is working towards a common goal one day I believe that an Oceania player can win a medal at the Olympic Games and World Championships.

Thanks for taking the time Scott, congratulations on your achievements so far in gaining a reputation as arguably the most enthusiastic and successful Oceania Development Officer there has ever been. Wish you all the best in carrying Oceania forwards!

Monday 1 August 2011

Entertaining feedback from NZ's World Uni Games Team

I sent questions to each member of our 8 strong World University Games team. I asked them one serious and relevant question about their preparation and expectations for the games, and one fun question just to keep it casual. The team travel to Shenzhen, China for the games, the second largest event to the Olympics. They leave NZ on the 10th of August, we wish them the best of luck in their competition!

The Mens Team: Phillip Xiao, Ryan (Bin Bin) Zhu, Myles Collins, Aaron Gong
The Womens Team: Jenny Hung, Natalie Paterson, Armindeep Singh, Jessica Macaskill
Coaches/Team Managers: Li Chunli, Murray Finch


This is your second World University Games representing New Zealand at Table Tennis, what experience have you had and how will it help you succeed in Shenzhen?

Well I know what to expect in terms of Table tennis standard, last time i spent a large amount of time on the side line watching as i was clearly the number four player. From watching I learnt a lot especially mental toughness, so I hope that will help me in china, also last time I was quite overwelmed by the whole event and probably didnt worry so much about my tt performances, it felt more like a learning expereince, but now I am more expereinced and feel like i need to preform really well :)

If you were lost in the jungle what one piece of table tennis gear would you want with you to help you survive and how would you use it?
A table which I could slowly burn as fire wood for warmth


This is, like all but one of the rest of your team, your first World University Games. As the event gets closer how are you feeling about the trip all round?
I am amazingly excited for the trip coming up! This is the 2nd biggest multisport event after the Olympics, so if I don't happen to make it to the Olympics, then this is it! I'm really looking forward to the NZ team atmosphere and all sports supporting one another. I guess I am a tad nervous as it is coming up so quickly, but I'm sure the others will be feeling the same :) I'm just looking forward to getting there and turning those nerves into fighting NZ spirit and determination!

Have you been trying to learn any Mandarin prior to your trip?

Lol good question! My intention was to learn key phrases prior to going away. That didn't quite happen! Karen Li taught us lots of different phrases while on our last trip and I can only remember a few! I figure that we are going away with others that speak Mandarin, so I think we will be all good! Also, we have to do something on the 12 hour flight over there!


You're the top ranked male player in New Zealand, essentially you are leading the team, how do you feel your level of skill will stack up at World Uni Games?

I'm really looking forward to playing in my first World University Games. From what I've heard the standard is pretty high and many of my friends from when I was a junior that I have played against from around the world will also be participating and they were top juniors in my age group. I'm confident that I will be able to compete and hopefully get some good wins. It is always difficult when you're chucked into the deep end because although many of the players are labelled are university students, most if not all of the better players are professionals that you would see playing on the Pro Tour or at the World Championships.

If you could choose one place in the world to change your identity and start a brand new life, where would it be?

I would love to be a movie star in China where all the girls love me! haha

NZ Number 1 Phillip Xiao 

You have been a top player in NZ from a very young age and have worked very hard throughout, how does it feel to achieve selection to the World Uni Games?

I feel great to be selected for the 2011 World University Games in Shenzhen. It is a very prestigious competition and the second largest sporting event in the world to the Olympics. I've been competing internationally since I was 13 but I've never competed in a competition of this scale. China has a reputation for showing great extravagance when hosting big international events and I’m sure this event is no exception. I am very much looking forward to the experience.

Which is better, table tennis or texas holdem?

Hahah, I am indeed a big fan of texas holdem and poker games in general. luckily for me table tennis and poker are not mutually exclusive and I've found time to do both. However if I had to choose one over the other, it would be table tennis. In table tennis you can get more of a sweat going and, more importantly, there are more girls in table tennis than poker.

Auckland's Ryan Zhu taking on Mitchell Barker (NH) at Interclub
Photo Courtesy of Sarah Her-Lee


Tell us what your training schedule has been like this year as a new member of the National Mens Training Squad? How will this help you achieve results in Shenzhen?
My training this year has been harder and more intense as there has been more expectation for greater quality training as I'm in the National squad. I have done several training sessions at 5.30am as well as some late night sessions so that my body is use to performing at tornaments whether it is morning, midday or night it is very important to have enough sleep to perform in training and at tournaments. To be able to produce quality in the training hall constantly is vital so that when I compete in Shenzhen I will be able to reproduce this quality and more in match play.

Will you be doing a haka at the World University Games?

hmmmm...well the first time I did a haka with the Cadet NZ Team was actually in China when I was 15, we were infront of a few hundred people, it didn't go too well alot of people laughed at us and it was quite possibly the most embarrasing moment in my life, but I was still proud! I haven't thought about doing one but I'm open to the possibility.


This has been a major goal of your's since moving to University in Waikato, what's it like to finally achieve that goal and how have you been preparing for the competition?
It feels pretty amazing to set a long-term goal and get to achieve it makes all the time and effort seem very worthwhile . I really look forward to the experience of the trip and can’t wait, it should be amazing! My preparation for the trip has involved the usual squad trainings(3-4 times week), as well as additional training sessions organised with members of the squad, as well as one on one sessions with one of Waikato's coaches Tom Liu.

On a scale of 1-5 how much will you miss driving round in your Suzuki Swift while you are away?

Oh it’s definitely a 5!! It’s heartbreaking to think for 2 whole weeks “speed-racer” won’t be getting to drag any kitted out Skylines on Auckland motorway, or even get out and about for a run around town, poor “speedy”.

Jenny Hung:

Being the more experienced member of your team, do you feel there is much more expectation on you to lead the team in Shenzhen? What are your goals for the tournament?

We don't have much pressure because all the teams there are really good. Being the underdogs, if we play well I think we will be able to cause some upsets, especially in the begining of the comp (wen every1s still jetlagged lol). My goal for the some matches!!! I dont need any placings....jst good wins

Considering you've probably now watched all the new releases at the cinema what will you be doing in your spare time while in Shenzhen?

Gonna take the girls SHOPPING ofcourse...its their first time in china so we HAVE to go shopping.

Might go to theme parks if we have time too.

Aaron Gong:

You've been playing the sport for a while now and recently have really achieved some great results and selections and a different attitude to playing, tell us, where did the sudden motivation come from?

I always had the same attitude, its just i have been really lucky this year. I always try very hard to do my best because i know im not the most talented player.

If you were in a table tennis stadium and got attacked which would you choose as your weapon? 

A table tennis ball, a table tennis net (no posts) or a sheet of table tennis rubber.

lol........i would use my fist, why would I use the other stuff? they would obviously have no effect. :P