I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing an icon of table tennis in the United States of America. The youngest male ever to win the US National Championships mens singles title at just 15 years of age and now aspiring for a place at the Olympics. Having succeeded at the US National Olympic Trials but narrowly missing out in the North American Olympic Qualification Tournament, he pins his hopes on the World Final Olympic Qualification in Doha. Best of luck Michael and thanks for a great interview.
Full Name: Michael Jonathan Landers
Date Of Birth: 8/16/94
Nation represented: USA
Highest World Ranking: 587
Blade: Timo Boll ALC
FH Rubber: Tenergy 05
BH Rubber: Tenergy 64
How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?
I’ve been playing for almost eight years. I started out when I just turned ten. My start story is pretty funny actually. I was playing a game of hide-and-go-seek with a few of my friends and thought it would be a great idea to hop inside of a trash can outside! So, I jumped in, but I didn’t see the there were wheels on the bottom of it. The can slipped out from under me and coincidentally I put my left arm out to support myself from falling (I’m right handed). I ended up breaking and dislocating my elbow, which pretty much limited me from any physical activity for the rest of the summer. My father and I heard about a table tennis club that was only 20 minutes away from our house, so we decided to go check it out! (We played every night together since I was two, but knew nothing about the real sport) I went there, took a lesson, and immediately loved playing. However, it wasn’t until I was 12 when I solely started concentrated on training.
What has been your most memorable achievement to date?
My most memorable achievement to date was either winning the Men’s Singles event at our national championships at the age of 15, or recently placing first in the Men’s National Team Trials.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career so far?
My parents have by far been the biggest influence on my career so far. They support me with everything that I do, both on and off the table, and are always there when I need them most.
What's does your training schedule for a week period involve?
My training schedule usually consists of practicing on the table for 5-6 days a week for 3-4 hours and training off the table in the gym for 5-6 days a week for 1-2 hours. I feel that training physically for table tennis is just as important as the actual practice on the table.
|Landers wins US Nationals|
You recently had a big campaign to try and qualify for the Olympic Games, how do you felt you performed overall?
I felt that I definitely could have preformed better, but for the amount of pressure and the inexperience that I have compared to everyone else in the trials, I feel that I actually did alright. I keep forgetting that I’m only 17 years old and have a long career ahead of me! :)
Many American players have been inspired by your ambition, after failing to make London you almost immediately thanked your fans and set your sights on 2016 Rio. Where does that drive come from?
I truly believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and that failure is all part of a learning process, so whenever I don’t succeed in something on or even off the table, I am always eager to get back on my feet and keep trying to achieve my goals.
Do you have aspirations to play professionally outside of the United States in the future?
I do want to play professionally outside the United States in the near future, but I first have to talk it over with my parents. If not in the near future, I definitely will someday!
What does it mean to you to be the youngest ever player to have won the US National Championships Mens Singles title?
It meant a lot to me to become the youngest ever player to win the US National Championships Men’s Singles title. It showed me that all of my hard work eventually would pay off and gave me a large confidence boost. However, I didn’t let it ever get to my head. Being a good person on and off the court is more important to me than winning the National Championships.
You appear to be a bit of a breakfast guru, how much of your success to you attribute to breakfast and starting the day fresh?
I’m not sure if I could be called a “breakfast guru,” but I do take breakfast quite seriously, as should everyone. Starting each day out on the right foot creates a path for success. Breakfast definitely prepares your body for the long day ahead and keeps you going until lunch. Think about it like this; most people tend to get hungry after a meal around four to five hours after eating. After dinner, there is usually more than ten hours until breakfast time. If you skip breakfast, you deprive your body of food for another couple of hours until lunchtime. That’s almost 18 hours straight without eating a single bite of food!
What do you think the future holds for table tennis in the United States?
I think the future is bright for table tennis in the United States. We have many talented young players that are rapidly improving and will someday turn out to be high-caliber players. However, there are few opportunities in the United States for professional players, so that problem will definitely have to solved within the next couple of years.
Off the Topic Questions
Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?
To be honest I don’t have a single favorite sportsperson or role model. However, I have always idolized Michael Jordan’s passion for his sport and to win.
My favorite food would probably have to be…CORNFLAKES! :) haha, just kidding. I love any type of meat, especially steak or lamb.
What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis?
When I’m not playing table tennis I’m just your average 17 year-old, New York kid. I love to hang out with my friends, listen to music, and am usually down to play just about any sport imagineable! (I know, such cliché activities, but they are what they are. :)
I’m not sure! I have to get my license first! I only have a permit right now because I was never in the country long enough to take driver’s education, which means I have to wait until my 18th birthday to get my license! :)
Ideal holiday destination?
I’d like to definitely visit Australia sometime and see the Great Barrier Reef. Though I’ve been all over the world for tournaments, I’ve never actually been to any country in Oceania.
First thing you would do if you won $1million?
I would probably donate the entire thing to help grow table tennis in the United States. It’s a pity that such a great sport is looked at as just a recreational game over here in the states.
Your Team Mates
Who’s the funniest player in the training hall?
Who trains the hardest in the training hall?
Who’s the funniest team player?
And again no other than..Barney Reed.
Who has the best nickname?
Grant Li probably has the best nickname. We all just call him the “Boss” because of his swag! ;)
Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for other table tennis players looking to succeed?
Never give up and follow your dreams! If you work hard enough, success will eventually come your way!