Tuesday 27 September 2011

Another Excessive Celebration of Table Tennis with Adam Bobrow

Before engaging on quite possibly the most thoughtful and detailed response to any interview so far, you must first watch a video. It's a video of a table tennis player, an actor, an entertainer and an all round fun and humorous guy which is renowned not just in the table tennis community but throughout Youtube. Take the time to watch the video and then read the great interview which has prepared for your reading pleasure by none other than Adam Bobrow! Thanks Adam!

Adam Bobrow's famous Video

Full Name: Adam Bobrow
Age: legal
Date Of Birth: 2-14-198legal
Nation represented: USA is where I live so I in some senses, I represent it.
Highest US Ranking: Oh geez. It’s so low that I couldn’t possibly keep track.

Equipment Used?
Blade: Butterfly Viscaria Flair
FH Rubber: Stiga Mendo Energy (max thickness)
BH Rubber: Stiga Mendo Energy (max thickness) this could all change soon depending on sponsorship
Bobrow showing class at SPiN
Your Career

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

I have been playing tournaments for 15 years and total 23 years. I used to play with my family on the driveway a lot. My dad was the best player I had ever known or seen since I wasn’t involved with any legit table tennis scene. In the hours upon hours that we would joke around on the driveway my brother and I got creative and decided to use a tennis ball to play with. My dad warned me not to use a tennis ball. He said “You’ll break the paddle.” “No I won’t, dad. Watch this.” I swung and CRACK! So I felt bad and bought a new one. Even though the paddle I broke was probably only $3, I saved up a few weeks of allowance and got the most expensive paddle Big 5 had to offer. $13 later and with a genuine apology I showed my dad the paddle I had brought for the family.

He told me that I didn’t have to get such a nice paddle. So while that paddle will be added to the family collection, it would be mine to use. I got excited but wasn’t sure why. I wanted to know what made this paddle more expensive than others? Why was it better? That was when my dad showed me how to spin the ball. From that moment on, I was exposed to a whole new dimension of table tennis. The sport still continues to get more and more exciting to me.

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

Ahhh, Matt. Tricky, tricky question. Ok, I’ll give you two answers… one will be my best match and the other will be a cool experience. Arguably, my best match was against women’s Olympic Team Member, Jackie Lee at the 2007 US Nationals. She is and was a MUCH better player than me. On paper our ratings would suggest that she could pretty much ignore me and beat me. She has amazing sportsmanship and work ethic so I really respect her. Going into our warm up I tried to act as professional as possible and give a completely proper warm up (which is unusual for me). Since she is a great blocker and spinner from both sides… I knew it would be unlikely for me to do any damage near the table unless I really had a good opportunity to rip one (a forehand… not a fart). Instead, since I am very comfortable playing lobs and defense, whenever she got the opening, I just backed up and let her hit 4 or 5 spinny attacks that I would return very high and deep on the table with lots of topspin and some form of sidespin occasionally to keep her guessing and moving. If I noticed she was going for a drop shot, I would come in and attack when it was too high… and if I hit a really good lob, I would come back and counter smash. This sort of game is something I play a lot more than she does (because anyone in their right mind would not spend a lot of time practicing lobbing… and probably the same for practicing much against it). When people walking by saw this match, they stopped to watch and when they heard that I was leading, they had to stop and see how this was possible. The crowd got bigger and bigger… and soon there were over a hundred people standing around watching as I managed to win 3-1. That was my first time playing in a my sexy santa shorts (which are actually boxers I found at Ross… but about the same length as TT shorts) and I have been wearing them ever since (not because I am superstitious, mainly because I like the way they look and feel… fun and comfortable).

Also, the point known as “Ping Pong Child Abuse” on youtube, had a LOT riding on it and that was one of the most satisfying experiences I have ever had playing table tennis. Justice on Earth! ;)

On the non-competition side of things, when I started working with SPiN Hollywood, many cool opportunities came up. Myself and Soo Yeon Lee got flown out to Las Vegas, got drivers and the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in to play for a Verizon convention. Verizon took care of our food… so as you can imagine in a nice hotel in Vegas… we ate quite well. We also got VIP access to see N.E.R.D live and meet Pharell. All we had to do was play table tennis with Verizon employees for a few hours and have fun. It was definitely a job to remember and a highlight of my career.

What is your next big goal for table tennis?

Wow. I have lots of goals for table tennis… and the next big one I think would be bridging the gap between recreational players (the mass mass mass majority of ping pong lovers) and tournament players. I believe that there is great power in numbers and companies, corporations and other organizations will get involved with a sport that has millions of people actively participating, playing in leagues, purchasing paddles/raquets/bats that have rubber that you can change… and doing just that, buying rubber whenever their rubber is dead. In the US, and in my experience, most of the world, the majority of people who love to play are not familiar with this professional equipment or that there are clubs where a player can show up and find others who play at a high level who are not already friends, family, co-workers or other people on a cruise.

How many players do you meet that hear the words “ping pong” and immediately say, “I am really good at ping pong. I have never lost to any one of my friends.” I can tell you, I’ve heard it a ton of times. These are people who really need to be introduced to a real table tennis scene … and just become aware that there is a very long scale of talent in this sport… and that there is always room to improve. Sometimes, these people will respond best to getting beaten to a pulp on a table by some 70 year old woman with braces on every part of her body who understands spin a little bit… and for others it will be discouraging and not inspire them to improve. I believe that it is necessary to appeal to what people really want.

I am a big fan of teams leagues and am currently running one in LA with a friend (www.lattf.org). People like social experiences, being a part of a group, a good challenge, close competition and feeling important. When you play for a team, your results are important to everyone on your team and when you are repping a club, the results will also be important to your club so people will take more pride in their game and have more motivation to show up and perform well.

I think school pride should have a similar effect. I would love to help get table tennis into schools for all ages and eventually, I would love to see there be a professional league where players in the US and other countries that don’t already have this, can make a living as players without having to coach as well. Of course, I would like to see that televised and would love to see people walking around in table tennis jerseys with the last names of their favorite player on the back.

That’s the short answer. ;)

You are well known for your victory dance during a table tennis match where you won a point at 10-0 down. Can you tell us a bit more about the scenario there and where the crazy dance came from?

I am a comedian and an actor and I love to dance. I had seen American Football players do some funny dancing and over the top celebrations, so I thought it would be funny to really one up them… go way over the top and do it in an even more innappropriate/unusual place. Since I am not built to be in the NFL, I figured my favorite sport would be perfect. ;)

You have some other great videos too and love your dancing and acting, how do you feel acting, dancing and table tennis combine together in your life?

Well, they are all things that I really enjoy. They all offer me great creative outlets, fun, friends and a chance to entertain other people. I feel like my passion for table tennis stands me out a bit in LA… and because you can’t get a meal served without meeting an actor in LA. Actually, you can’t get your car fixed or get a physical check up without meeting someone who is auditioning for a part in something.

My dancing… well, I really like to dance… and even though I am not professional, or what real dancers call “good”… and look sort of funny when I do it, that seems to make people smile. So I think combining my love for table tennis, dancing and acting (or any two of those three) can really enhance the value of the entertainment I put out there. Whether it continues to feed me and help me travel or not, I hope to be doing all three for a long, long time.

My favourite video from Adam
Ping Pong Child Abuse (don't let the title put you off)

What do you think is lacking in table tennis' publicity? What can be done to promote table tennis better?

Well, I have been part of the USATT for a long time and have watched the ITTF for a long time as well and hope to be more involved with them in the future. This is a very tricky question that many people are constantly discussing and actively trying to figure out. I think the “cool” factor is one thing that could be more prevalent in promoting the sport. I think SPiN is helping that with celebrities and parties and adding some flair to table tennis … giving it some edge.

This could involve a cool soundtrack, some adrenaline pumping promos, lighting or other things… but in the end, people will still have to watch the playing (which will not have music) and have a reason to be excited and to care about the result. For people to really be invested and to care, they have to feel like they know the people involved or have some sort of personal interest. If a player on TV is representing their country, people have a reason to cheer for that player and hope that he or she wins. But if people watching, have seen interviews, the personality of the player, know what that player stands for and like that player on a more personal and intimate level (you know what I mean)…. they will be far more interested. I get the sense that this is how poker has managed to do so well on TV (not to mention, people have an easy time understanding it and feel somewhat smart when they watch). I think reality TV has a very similar approach. It really lets you MEET and get to KNOW the people you’re watching… so you care about what happens. I need that when watching movies… I need to care what happens… that’s what would keep me from changing the channel. So, I think table tennis needs some more personality.

We now have two separate issues, the future of the televised sport and the future of the sport on a level that non-professionals would get involved. Promoting the sport off of television, I think table tennis brands need to work with major sporting goods store to not only have equipment sold there, but to have visible promotional material in stores letting recreational players know that there are leagues, clubs, tournaments and places for them to find stronger competition… or proper training, equipment, etc. Maybe even have very public exhibitions where at the end, they collect emails and keep the interested people involved… and get them involved more. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think bringing in recreational players and bridging that gap is super important.

Who is your favourite table tennis player and why?

Man, well… Waldner. I just think he’s magical to watch (especially when he was in top form). His creativity is endless and anything can happen when he is playing.

Currently, Xu Xin. I think we are brothers from another mother (his is the Chinese one). I think he has SO much personality and creativity and wears his emotions on his sleeve far more than any other Chinese player. He’s very expressive, talented, fun to watch and I really dig his seemingly care free way of walking to the beat of his own drummer.

Honorable mentions, Timo Boll and Jorgen Persson. Both extremely talented players and extremely kind people who are great role models for sportsmanship.

Then there’s Chen Weixing… you don’t want to see him when he’s ANGRY… or do you? Waiting to see if he’ll explode or how high he can pull up his shorts adds a whole new level of suspense to the sport.

Grubba was great… and Jean Michel Saive is a lot of fun… I could go on and on…

You are a regular guest at Spin NY, how successful do you think Spin clubs are in promoting table tennis?

Well, I have worked with SPiN a lot and I think SPiN is doing a great thing for the sport. I think they are creating a place where the majority of people who love table tennis are getting a unique opportunity to be exposed to the top players in their area and really see the table tennis that we see while at the same time, making it fun and offering a social experience. SPiN is working to do public events and grow all the time and hopefully they will create some even more public, high profile events in the near future. I know they are working on it. So I think they are doing a GREAT job and are successful in their goals. ;).

Attire like no other in the sport lol

Off the Topic Questions

Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?

Wow… well, Michael Jordan… I couldn’t watch him play without going outside to play some basketball right afterwards and lower the hoop to a height where I could pretend to be him and mimic his moves. Also, Mickey Mantle…. I grew up idolizing him and got to meet him before he died. Man, I really love watching great athletes.

Who's your favourite actor/actoress of all time?

I don’t think I have a just one of either, but Daniel Day Lewis blows my mind every time I see him perform. Sasha Baron Cohen and Ricky Gervais I also think are amazing. Charlize Theron in Monster was one of the best performances I have ever seen and Meryl Streep is amazing in everything.

Favourite food?

I love fresh fruit, vegetables too… mangoes are outstanding.

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

Sleep. NOT!!!! ( “not” jokes are coming back). Tons of stuff. Meet people, travel, read, write, think, talk to friends, make new friends, try to learn, try to inspire, dance, play other sports, make videos, act, do voices, beatbox, sing, rap, help people parallel park.. or whatever else they need help with… break up fights… smile at people… make foreigners feel welcome here, encourage people to explore and think critically. I guess, surf the web, chat with people… learn about health… I pretty much try to do whatever I want as often as possible (which involves being there for other people… being a good friend, brother, son, grandson, etc.).

Dream Car?

The Batmobile. But honestly, the Batmobile. (the one from the ’89 version… not the new one that looks like a tranformer). I think a convertible would be fun… I think my dream car would be electric. I am enjoying my Prius right now. 8>)

Ideal holiday destination?

North Korea. Oh, HOLIDAY??? I see… hmmm… New Zealand? HEYO!!!!! ;D I really would like to go to NZ, I hear it’s super prestine and beautiful and the people are smart and attractive and smell great. Other than that… I like warm water, warm weather… maybe Brazil… or Fukuoka, Japan… Palawan, Philippines (planning to go in January). I like to travel a lot.

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

Grow eyes on the back of my head. Literally! What? I would probably invest $999,000 of it safely so that money should hopefully never be a cause of stress and then maybe create some samples of clothing and fragrance that I would like to put out on the market. And take some real time to set up some extensive travels and really hilarious or influential productions (movies, etc.) 8>)

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

Sure. Dream big. Go for what you want. Just do it! But seriously… succeed in table tennis????… I guess you would have to define that for yourself. Think about your goals and take action to make it happen. If you just want to improve or play your best, focus on one the thing you want to improve, be specific and put in the time and effort. Ask for help if you need it, but make sure you play a lot and have your fun. Happiness should be priority. After all,” all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” –The Shining ;)

*Also, I hope you took some time to get up and walk around, stretch out your legs, hydrate yourself during this reading experience. ;D If for any reason you haven’t had enough of me yet, check out www.AdamBobrow.com

Sunday 25 September 2011

Ma Long swipes 12th Pro Tour win in Austria

The finals match in the mens singles at Austrian Open was spectacular to say the least. Going to the 7th and final set after an amazing exchange of rallies and points, Ma Long found himself 10-6 up in the last set. Zhang Jike was not ready to give up on winning the title and saved an incredible 6 match points in a bold effort to win it. It was not enough and after 7 match points Ma Long was able to assert himself over his teammate and World Champion. This is the 6th occasion of 7 matches in which Ma Long has beaten Zhang Jike.

Ma Long winner of the Austrian Open
Image Courtesy of ITTF
See more info on this at the ITTF link above.

The Womens Final was just as enthralling with the reigning World Champion adding another jewel to her crown in a tense final. Prior to this event Ding Ning had never beaten Liu Shiwen in a final. On this occasion she was able to defeat her young opponent 4-1. It may not be long before we see Ding Ning rising to the World Number 1 position with Li Xiaoxia failing to perform at international events recently.

Here is some footage from Ma Long's semi final match against Xu Xin which was a nailbiting 7 set match also.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Table Tennis' Great Fighter: Jean Michel Saive

I had the amazing opportunity to interview one of the most iconic legends in the sport. Jean Michel Saive is a true hero of the sport, he has an undying passion for table tennis and is renowned for his die hard persistance with the sport as an internationally successful player. Thank you so much Jean Mi for a great interview, it was an honour for you to do this for me.

Full Name: Jean Michel Saive
Age: 41
Date Of Birth: 17/11/1969
Nation represented: Belgium
Highest World Ranking: 1

Jean Michel Saive in action

Equipment Used?
Blade: Stiga Clipper
FH Rubber: calibra lt 2,0
BH Rubber: calibra lt 2,0


How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?
33 years, I started my first tournament 18/I0/78. I started together with my brother, our parents were both players , my father no.10 in Belgium and my mother was Belgian champion in dubbel B category when she was pregnant with me so my Ist title is a womens one haha

Who has been the biggest influence on your career so far?
My parents then my first coach M.Durello,then Milan Stencel, then M.Wang Dayong

What has been the highlight ofyour table tennis career so far?
Being ranked Number 1 in the World for 15 months in a row

What's does your training schedule for a week period involve?
This is too long to answer, this is for a book. Just say that today I must practise maybe less on time then before but now I never stop even on holliday I have to be clever and listen my body.

You love table tennis and never give up on aspiring to be the best, what is your next big goal for table tennis?
My next goal is to be in London and perform well there. Sometimes I can not believe that I will participate for the 7th time at Olympic Games.

Lobbing has a special place in your game and you are profoundly good at it. What makes you lob so much in matches, do you prefer this to attacking sometimes?
This is strange because I should stay at the table and not go back but sometimes I am behind and fighting for the points .... maybe I played too many exhibitions in my career (haha) .... but Ilove fighting for these big points as well.

What do you think is the most important thing in table tennis for becoming a successful player on the international stage?
Hard,hard,hard,hard practise .... and think table tennis all time, but most important is to enjoy all this.

How did you grow playing table tennis in Belgium? Was the table tennis strong there or did you train and play in other places too?
When I was 13years old I was already no.4 in Belgium and played in national team, then I went to play in Germany for 3 years then France 3 years then back to Belgium ..... yes I practised in many other places(Germany,France,Sweden,China,Korea ... etc)

How do you feel table tennis has changed around the world since your era at the peak of your game? Do you think it has improved or declined?
Yes it has changed,more and more competions in Asia especially in China .... TT is not growing up in Europe .... and unfortunately not enough TT in USA.

What do you think makes the Chinese so good at table tennis?
Simple, this is national sport in the biggest country in the World (number population)

What does Europe and the rest of the World need to do to raise its standard in order to compete with the Chinese players of this generation?
Back to the future for Waldner,Persson,Gatien,Rosskopf,Primorac,Saive .... haha. Seriously hard practise or find a better way of practise.

Is there an event you haven't won yet which you have been trying to win for your whole career?
Olympic Games

What motivates you to carry on competing at a high international standard?
I love to play,fight and practise

If you could go back and change anything in your table tennis career, is there anything you would choose to change?
Of course I am sad I do not have Olympic Medal but this is,was my way my career ... so no regret .... I am so how lucky and can be proud of my career

Off the Topic Questions

Who's your favourite sportsperson of all time?
So many!!! Mercks,Borg,Woods,Noah,Lemond,Lewis,Becker ....

Favourite food?
Mwambe(my motherwas born in Congo)

What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis?
I try to play golf when I have free time ... but I also help the TT Federation, I am in executive board in Belgium Olympic Committee, Member of European Athlete Olympic Commission, same for the Belgium Athletes and ITTF Athletes Commission. So I am very busy.

Dream Car?

Ideal holiday destination?
Somewhere with Sun, Sea and Golf

First thing you would do ifyou won $lmillion?
To secure my kids

Great rally between Saive and Samsonov in 2005

Your Team Mates:
Phillipe Saive, Bratanov, Cabrera, Podpinka, Sonnet in national team(not all but the best) in club:Samsonov, Primorac, Smirnov, Chila, Appelgren, Chen Z Hibin, Wosik, Fejer, Huang, Korbel, Gacina, Li ching, Oh sang eun, Wang jianjun, Kou lei, Phillipe Saive, Cabrera, Podpinka, Haldan, Pistej, Mitamura and many others

Who's the funniest player in the training hall?
Mitamura for the best copy

Who trains the hardest in the training hall?
Rosskopf, Primorac, Legout

And Lastly

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

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

What does Table Tennis Need to Become a More Professional Sport?

This is my philosophy on what International and Domestic Table Tennis requires to become a more professional sport around the world. In New Zealand particularly we are finding numbers declining in the sport and this was also something that Swedish National Coach Peter Karlsson mentioned in my interview with him. The world is changing and kids have a world of different things they can do in their leisure time, table tennis isn't as attractive as it used to be.

Image Courtesy of Sheffield International Venues

How many aspiring table tennis players have a real long term goal to be in the sport and make it to the very top? How many are willing to sacrifice everything to become a professional table tennis player? Nowhere near as many as in the past. Why? Because the sport lacks financial incentive. What income can you gain for being an internationally successful player? The World Cup of table tennis offers a $50,000 US prize. Think about that compares with tennis. There are athletes and professional sportsmen in table tennis, putting in the same hours of gruelling training and shedding the same sweat on the playing court. Yet a tennis player can cash $50,000 USD for losing in the Round of 16 of a major grandslam and this is equal with our winners cheque for the World Cup?

Essentially you are forced to think of the differences between Tennis and Table Tennis. Tennis has grand slam events, they are high profile, draw people with status and bigger spectator crowds, they get television coverage around the world and of course have higher prize money stakes from big sponsors. That's what table tennis needs. It needs to start small and profile events, try and get the biggest events on television around the world, try and fill seats. It needs to draw people to the sport and show the world how exciting table tennis can be. It was highly followed at the Athens Olympics and is the 2nd most browsed sport online behind football. With a status like that would it be really that difficult to find some bigger sponsors for the major events like the World Championships and the World Cup?

Image Courtesy of Free Paper World News

I firmly believe that Tennis has a successful framework for their competitions and prize structures, if table tennis can follow in the footsteps and work towards achieving that end, then there is an incentive for table tennis players to be professional sportspeople and to give up long term employment objectives from a young age and pursue dreams in the sport. Currently there is little money in table tennis, this has to change for the sport to really take off. Many people around the world are oblivious to the amount of skill which is actually involved in playing our sport, they need to have their eyes opened! It is the role of the ITTF and national table tennis associations to make this happen and it needs to be done for the continuation of our sport in the long term.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Former Euro Youth Champ Aims for Higher Pinnacle

On July 25th 2010 in Istanbul, Turkey, young German table tennis star became the European Youth Table Tennis Champion by beating a field of top European juniors. Representing the Hanau TTC in the DTTL German League in the top division, Franziska is carving his way to the highest ranks of German players. Thanks for the interview Patrick! Also check out Patrick's blog here.
Full Name: Patrick Franziska
Age: 19
Date Of Birth: 11.06.1992
Nation represented: Germany
Highest World Ranking (Junior): 6
Highest World Ranking (Mens): 132

Patrick Franziska
Image Courtesy of Table Tennis Germany
Equipment Used?
Blade: Timo Boll ALC
FH Rubber: Tenergy 05
BH Rubber: Tenergy 05 FX

Your Career

How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?
I started to play when I was 6 years old.

What has been the highlight of your table tennis career so far? 
The semifinal at Junior World Championships in Team Event against Korea, we won 3:2 and I played my best table-tennis.

What is your next big goal for table tennis?
To come closer to the Top 5 in Germany

What was it like winning the 2010 European Youth Championships?
This feeling was awesome. The whole tournament I was not playing my best table tennis, but I was fighting.

You have met a few of the New Zealand Junior players, what was your impression of them?They are very funny and laugh a lot.

How much more of a step up from your level were the Chinese Juniors when you were playing under 18s?
I think we had good chances against them .In JWTTC 2009 in the team final, I had 5 matchballs , and the other match from Floritz was also very close. In 2010 JWTTC I lost 4:3 very close against Song, the World Champion.

What do you think makes the Chinese so dominant in table tennis?
They are very athletic, unbelievable power in their strokes and mentally, they are very strong.

What do you think Europe needs to do to improve to compete with China and Asia?
I think a little bit more power in their strokes, and just more practice. The chinese make no easy mistakes.

Patrick and Jorg Rosskopf playing doubles in the DTTL
Image Courtesy of TTC Indeland Julich 

Off the Topic Questions

Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time? Roger Federer
Favourite food? Pizza
What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis? I meet my friends
Dream Car? Audi R8
Ideal holiday destination? Mauritius

Your Team Mates

Who’s the funniest player in the training hall? Thomas Keinath

Who trains the hardest in the training hall? Steffen Mengel

If you were stranded on an island which team mate would you have with you and why?
Steffen Mengel, we are good friends and are living in the same house.

And Lastly

Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for other table tennis players looking to succeed?
Keep on going playing table tennis, also in hard times :-)

Monday 12 September 2011

Team Hopes for NZ Senior Team Events 2011

With the entries now closed for the 2011 New Zealand Senior Championships to be held in Palmerston North 12th-16th October, it was time to see which Associations were gunning for the Teams titles. With some tough competition throughout the year, the NZ Open Championships is the pinnacle of domestic competition, this is where all the hard training and discipline is put to practice. With the team event to be held first there are high hopes from all associations participating, though without a doubt Auckland appears to be the dominant force in the field.

An epic battle at this year's North Island Indivdual Champs
between the two top guns in Auckland's 2011
Men's Team for the Nationals
'I expect the auckland team to win with relative ease as we have the best player in the country as our number 1 and #1 ranked player in the country in 2010 as our number 2' Zhiyang Cheng (Auckland). Of course Zhiyang speaks of top gun Teng Teng Liu who made the semi-finals at this years Australian Senior Championships and Phillip Xiao a close rival, the two of whom battled it out in an epic finale at this year's North Island Individual Championships, both are players of high skill and with the backup of other notable Auckland players they are looking confident to take the top Mens shield which we can be sure Josh Alexandre is looking forward to hoisting up in the team photo once again.

Josh Alexandre holds the A Grade Mens Team Shield for
Auckland, the 2010 Winners of the National Event.
Close competitors in the Mens Team Events are likely to include the main centres; Canterbury, North Harbour, Waikato and Wellington and of course the hosts Manawatu. 'We are an old team that train only a fraction of the Auckland teams, so without even considering the other teams it's already going to be very tough' Yi-Sien Lin (Canterbury) on his teams chances. Yi-Sien will combine with Simon Wallace and experienced New Zealand Veteran Malcolm Darroch who has a long history of success in table tennis here in New Zealand. Confidence from Mitchell Barker for North Harbour also 'I think we have a good chance to be there at the end providing our players are on form we are just as good as any other team' Mitchell Barker (North Harbour). No doubt we will see Mitchell combining with 2005 National Champion Brad Chen and of course Craig Dye who recently reached the semi-finals of the Auckland Open Championships just 2 weeks ago.

Hosts of the competition Manawatu are aiming high 'Hopefully top 3, if they play well' Nathan Watson (Manawatu). It will be interesting to see whether playing on home ground can help them manoevre their way to the top. Close neighbours Wellington have entered a number of teams, Coach and Selector Stephen Hirst had this to say on his expectations for the Wellington teams: 'If our top Mens and Women's team play to their potential I'm expecting they will go further than people would expect them to. Quietly confident but it will all come down to doing the right things in the pressure situations on the day. We are not going there to make up the numbers.' This statement was echoed by Wellington representative Hayden Tapp 'Wellington are after a top 4 finish. We are getting back on track and have high hopes'.

Feng Jie holds the A Grade Women's Shield for Auckland,
Winners of the National Women's A Grade Teams.
In the Women's Team Event the Otago team will be travelling up for the competition, great to see. Team player Gemma Buzzard stated her hope was simply 'to win some games and have a good time' a great outlook for the social and competitive balance for the event.

Wellington have put a strong team forward to contest the women's and will be aiming for the top spot having won the North Island Team Championships. 'I believe that Wellington has selected a strong women's team for this year, and the chances of doing well are very high. As always, it all depends on who Auckland and Christchurch sends' Lisa Yue (Wellington). In the end it promises to be a great competition and it's great to see the players aiming high. Waikato will certainly be looking to earn its way into the higher finishing places after a good effort last year to try and make the top spot.

With a number of skillful players competing in the team events there will be plenty of exciting table tennis matches to watch across all grades. A match we can really look forward to will most certainly be the clash of North Harbour's Brad Chen and Auckland's Tony (Teng Teng) Liu.

Saturday 10 September 2011

A Response from a Legend of the Sport Vladimir Samsonov

Well folks, I won the Interview Showdown and achieved an incredible feat for this small blog and am buzzing! Vladimir Samsonov is an inspirational European player often overshadowed by Timo as one of the greatest European players of all time. Having maintained a top 10 position in the ITTF World Rankings for a number of years now, Samsonov shows how experience, hard training and superior knowledge of the game can continue to bring the wins for those who are committed to the sport. Thank you Vladi for the interview! Enjoy people :)

Full Name: Vladimir Samsonov
Age: 35
Date Of Birth: 17.04.1976
Nation represented: Belarus
Highest World Ranking: 1

Equipment Used

Blade: Tibhar Samsonov Force Pro
FH Rubber: Tibhar Genius
BH Rubber: Tibhar Grips Europe

The Prince of European Table Tennis 

Your Career

How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?
Almost 30 years , started when I was 6 , first time played with my father

Who has been the biggest influence on your career so far?
I worked with 4 amazing coaches for a long period of time , and also of course my family

What has been the highlight of your table tennis career so far?
I have been world number 1, won 3 times the World Cup, 3 times European Championships in singles, silver medal at the World Championships in singles

What's does your training schedule for a week period involve?
Mostly I practise twice a day , total of 4-6 hours a day

What is your next big goal for table tennis?

Olympic medal is still a big dream for me

Who has been your biggest rival out on the table since you started playing?
Used to be few generations of Chinese players , JO Waldner , Timo Boll , now many others also, upcoming players

What do you think is the most important thing in table tennis for becoming a successful player on the international stage?
I do not think you can single out one individual thing, there are too many factors like talent ,good training conditions , will to train hard, etc. all of these are important in making a successful player

What was it like winning 3 World Cups? Is this a feat you hope to achieve again in the near future?
It was great , especially the last one (beating Ma Long and Chen Qi). Of course I hope I can win again, only it is not that easy. (Vladimir has won the World Cup 3 times, the record held by Ma Lin (China) is 4 victories of the World Cup. Best of luck to Vladi in contesting the 2011 World Cup and his chance to make more history.)

Vladimir the Victor at the 2009 Table Tennis Mens World Cup
Image Courtesy of www.allabouttabletennis.com

You have consistenly remained in the World's Top 10 Mens players for some time now, how do you keep on top of the new upcoming players, do you feel experience is a large factor?
I still practise a lot and there are not many new players . Of course experience is very important , still it will not help you if your opponent is much better than you

Why do you think China currently dominate the sport and what does Europe need to do to bring players to that level?
Chinese work harder , are more professional , more organized, also they have many more players . Most of top Europeans live far away from each other , we should practise more together like the Chinese do, this seems to work for them and is something we lack

Is there a tournament title that has evaded you so far that you have been working very hard to win?
Olympic Games

What has been your proudest moment out on the table?
Each victory is special

What one thing do you consider to be most important in becoming a great table tennis player?
I do not think you can single out one thing , too many factors like talent ,good training conditions , will to train hard, etc. are important . (same answer like to the - What do you think is the most important thing in table tennis for becoming a successful player on the international stage?- question )

Off the Topic Questions

Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?
Michael Jordan

Favourite food?

What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis?
Enjoying time with my family

Dream Car?
Not interested

Ideal holiday destination?
Formentera, Spain

First thing you would do if you won $1million?
Celebrate with my family and friends

Your Team Mates
Dimitri Ovtcharov , Alexei Smirnov , Fedor Kuzmin

Who’s the funniest player in the training hall?
Petr Korbel

Who trains the hardest in the training hall?
Robert Gardos

World Cup Final 2009, Samsonov vs Chen Qi 

And Lastly

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

I know it sounds silly – train hard and believe in yourself .

Thank you Vladimir, from all of us, please continue to believe you can be the very best and inspire us to do the same!

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

Monday 5 September 2011

Interview Showdown Matt Hetherington vs. TableTennisDaily

Me (Matt Hetherington) and Dan Ives (TTDaily) are going head to head in a challenge!


In our most recent conversation I challenged Dan to pick one player he would love to interview within reachable potential (ie not Chinese basically), he chose Timo Boll. In response to his selection I decided to be fair I would also nominate a top 10 player and chose Vladimir Samsonov.

SO who do you think will get the interview first!

Vote on the Sidebar Poll!

Thursday 1 September 2011

Prause Fueling the European Dream

Having previously had good feedback on my interview with Swedish National Coach Peter Karlsson, I decided to seek another interview with a world class Table Tennis Coach. Richard Prause was incredibly successful in the position of German National Coach and now continues to inspire and coach players in Europe at the Werner Schlager Academy where he is Head Coach, thanks for the interview Richard, hope everyone enjoys!
Full Name: Richard Prause
Age: 43 years
Date Of Birth: 09.03.1968
Nationality: German
Highest World Ranking: 58 (1995)
Highest Coaching Status:
German National Mens Team Coach
Werner Schlager Academy Head Coach

Richard Prause
Former German National Mens Team Coach and Current Head Coach at the WSA
Image Courtesy of ITTF
Equipment Used?
Blade: Michael Maze
FH Rubber: Tenergy 05
BH Rubber: Tenergy 05

Your Career

How long have you involved in table tennis as a player and coach, when did you start each of those roles?
I had been working from 1999 till 2010 for the DTTB in different trainer and coaching jobs. From 2004 I was responsible for the German National Mens Team. Since 2010 I am head coach of the WSA (Werner Schlager Table Tennis Academy,founded by Werner Schlager and situated in Schwechat close to Vienna, Austria.
What has been the highlight of your table tennis career so far perhaps 2 seperate ones, as a player and as a coach?
Career Highlight as a player: 3rd place team 1993 in Gothenburg World Championships
As a coach: silver in mens team event 2008 in Bejing Olympics

What do you think of the state of table tennis worldwide as a sport? What is it lacking which it requires to become better?
Table tennis is in some nations a sleeping beauty, eg in germany there are more than 700000 players but in tv our sport is not often shown. Maybe now through modern media like internet the popularity will grow and of course also because of the performances of Timo who leads a german team that might be able to compete with the Chinese.
In many Asian nations table tennis is quite popular and shown very often on TV. Unfortunately in Europe many nations concentrate more on sports like football or just do not have the right structure for a sport like table tennis. The ITTF is trying to help a lot with increasing the ittf hot spot centers and hopefully this will help to create more successful players that will lead the way for more popularity in their nations. To my point of view we changed already quite some rules and table tennis as it is played right now is an attractive sport. We just have to make high effort to create a system where the players are able to work hard every day in order to compete with the best nations like China or in Europe; Germany and France.

As the German National coach what were your proudest moments?
2007 Germany won the first time ever the European Team Championships
2008 Silver in Bejing Olympic Team Event
2010 getting closer to the chinese in the WTTC team in Moscow where we had a close final against China

Richard Prause with his German National Coach successor Rosskopf

What were your goals for the German team and how did you work towards them?
As a German national team coach I tried to work a lot individually and find ways to communicate a lot with all my players. We tried to give all the players the feeling that they have a most important role inside our team and that they have to compete with each other, but at the same time be ready to work for and help the team. We had a very good team spirit although everybody tried to improve more than the other. We tried to always keep the belief to be able to improve every day and were always ready to compete with the Chinese in order to learn from them and to be ready to beat them.
What does Europe need to do in order to work towards beating Chinese players?
The Europeans have to work better together, maybe also to have camps more regularly together in order to raise the intensity of practice. The best 25 Chinese players are always practicing together. In Europe there are, with exception of Germany, mostly one or two good players in one nation. So we have to start putting these players together more often as it is done for preparation for the Olympics. Also the Europeans should have a look at the competition schedule that disable many players to practice regularly.

How has coaching at the Werner Schlager Academy been and what is your involvement there? What kinds of players come there to train? I know William Henzell will be training there, are there others like him looking to build up for Olympics also?
Right now I am working as head coach in the WSA. We are trying to give players from all nations and different levels the possibility to practice in a good structure and surrounding with professional coaches eg Dirk Wagner, Mario Amizic and myself.
Some players are living and practicing in the WSA like Joao Monteiro, Daniela Dodean, Robert Gardos, the Austrian National team, Bobocica, Burgis, Henzell and apart from them we have always guest like the Croation National team, players from Egypt, Iran, Kuwait, Brazil and many more.

What are your goals for the next few years?

Our goal is to help all the players to improve their table tennis skills and make them perform their best table tennis. Would be nice if after 5 or 10 years we see some players that are practicing in the WSA winning medals in the WTTC or in the Olympics.

Off the Topic Questions

Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?
Timo Boll

Timo Boll, Richard's favourite Sportsperson
Image Courtesy of Denis' Table Tennis World
Favourite food?
Chinese Food
Dream Car?
Ideal holiday destination?
First thing you would do if you won $1million?
2 Weeks holiday then go on practicing

Your Team Mates

Who trains the hardest in the training hall?
everybody has to be ready to practice very hard and above the rim

And Lastly

Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for other table tennis players and coaches looking to succeed?
Keep on dreaming and it is always worth trying to improve

Thank you Richard! 

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