Friday 21 December 2012

No Stopping for the Goal-Driven, Tiago Apolonia's Operation London

I had the fantastic opportunity to interview another amazing player from Europe. It is none other than Tiago Apolonia. My main interest was hearing from him how he was able to cope with a fairly serious operation and still continue on and recover to qualify for his dream, the London Olympics. Thanks for your time Tiago! 

Full Name: Tiago Apolonia
Age: 26
Date Of Birth: 28/07/1986
Nation represented: Portugal
Highest World Ranking: 19

Tiago Apolonia
Image Courtesy of ITTF 
Equipment Used?
Blade: Tibhar Tiago Apolonia
FH Rubber: Tibhar Evolution
BH Rubber: Tibhar Evolution

Your Career
How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?
I started when I was 5 years old. The big influence for me was my brother João.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career so far?
Difficult to pinpoint just one person. I would say my brother, my parents, coaches, and some team mates which I had until now. All of them of course in different ways.

What's does your training schedule for a week period involve?
It of course depends on different aspects, therefore it's difficult for me to give an exact answer. My coach and physical trainer and, also after my injury, my physiotherapist are working together and organising my weekly plans. Regardless of what the plan is I always work a minimum of twice a day.

What is your next big goal for table tennis?

Honestly I don't focus so much in just one BIG goal. I prefer to set every day or every week, smaller goals. I believe it's the best way to improve and then reach the bigger ones.

What do you think is the most important thing in table tennis for becoming a successful player on the international stage?
It's obviously necessary to be born with this talent, but I think most important is to work as hard as possible and of course you need support from family and coach and club etc.

You represent TTF Leibherr Ochsenhausen in the league in Germany, do you think Germany is the best place in Europe to train presently?
Yes I think Germany is the best place because there the structure is more professional and they do have the best conditions and the best league. Therefore the best training groups reside in Germany.

Let's talk Olympic Games, now you almost didn't make it. Tell us a little about your operation prior to the Olympics and your injury.
Everything happened very fast. I got injured in Qatar in mid-february playing against Chuang Chih-Yuan. Directly I expected the worst because my knee condition was really bad. When I arrived back in Germany my worst expectations were realised. I needed surgery. I was well operated on 1st March then started the countdown until the Olympic Qualification in Luxembourg which started on 11th April.

The time was too short but my olympic dream was too strong to give up directly. I did my best to recover as fast as possible and it was my decision to play in Luxembourg. Although I won many games (more than I expected to in my condition), I was not strong enough to manage the qualification. I had again one more month to prepare myself and especially my knee for the world olympic qualification in Qatar (exact same playing hall where I was injured :S).

This time I managed the qualification and won the tournament. Fortunately I had already many good and special moments in table tennis, but the feeling after the last point of the final was probably the best moment in my career so far.

How do you rate Ochsenhausen's chances in the Bundesliga with Ryu Seung Min now in the team?We are doing well so far in the Bundesliga. Qualifying for the playoff is our main and first goal for this season and we are on a very good way. Now we need to continue our way, step by step. In the end I believe our team is strong enough to beat any other team.

How is Ryu settling in to the team?

Ryu is a fantastic player and a very good person. Therefore he is very nice and is good to have as a teammate.

Off the Topic Questions

Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?
Difficult to say just one...hmm, Jose Mourinho

Favourite food?
Portugese and Italian

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

Internet, Playstation, Watch Movies

Dream Car?
I am not as expert as most of the boys, but Audi R8 is my favourite

Ideal holiday destination?Places with nice weather, good food and nice beaches...I must say one country. Portugal ;)

Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for other table tennis players looking to succeed?
Try and always learn the best things from every experience you get. Enjoy every moment in the training and playing hall and always give it your best.

Saturday 8 December 2012

Sweden's Top Aims to Get Back on Par

Pär Gerell is a household name in the Swedish National Team and also in the European League competitions, both the French League and the European Champions League. Formerly top 50 in the World, that is where he aims to be yet again in 2013! Thanks for the interview Pär!

Name: Pär Gerell
Date of Birth: 23rd June 1982
Nation Represented: Sweden
Highest World Ranking :34

Sweden's Pär Gerell
Image Courtesy of ITTF 
FH Rubber: Calibra lt
BH Rubber: Boost tc
Blade: Rosewood VII

How long have you been playing table tennis for? Who or What influenced you to start playing?
I started when I was 7 years old, so 23 years.. I tried many sports and one friend took me to the table tennis hall and I liked to play directly.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? Your proudest moment.
I think silver medal in Europeans in team was a highlight.. Also when I became Swedish champion in mens singles and when we won French league with my club ASTT Chartres.

You currently represent Chatres in the French League. How long have you been with that team now and how do you feel it has prepared you for international matches?Its my third year with the club now, and I feel really good in the club.. I travel from Sweden to all league games, so of course sometimes when you go to an international tournament you are little tired from all trips and games, but normally it's no problem.

Which matches do you prefer playing, league matches or international matches and why?
I really like to play with a team, because then you are winning together and you have somebody to share it with.. But of course the most fun is to play the big championships, like Worlds, Europeans and Olympic games.

Chatres won the ETTU Cup in 2011 and you began by defeating Chuang Chih-Yuan. Would you say this is one of your most prominent victories to date?Yeah it was a big victory for me and the club, also in team Europeans 2011 I won some important games on the way to the final, and I rank this victory very high also. Is something special to represent your national team and win important games for them.

How is the table tennis situation in Sweden? Do you believe they have the potential to be the best in Europe once again? What will it take?
I believe so. We have two very good coaches now in Ulf “tickan” Carlsson and Anders Johansson, and they are now trying to rebuild little bit, so we would have a chance in the future to be the top nation in Europe again.

One of my favourite matches from the ECL

Recently you have had a bit of a slump in the ITTF Rankings due to an injury. How tough will it be to recover from that?
Yeah I lost some close games in the spring and summer this year so I fell down on the ranking.. Also I had problems with my hipp in the beginning of autumn so I couldn’t practise as I wanted. But its better now, and I start to be back in shape again, so I think for sure I will make some good results in the beginning of next year.

What do you think Europe need to do to pose more of a threat against the Chinese players in the future?
We need to work together more, like as we did before Olympics.. Then we had training camps together with all the best European teams and players.. Then I think we need to change the league system. We play almost everyweek league games or champions league, while the Chinese play their league in three month, and then after they can make longer training periods with hard practise.. In Europe at the moment, is difficult to find spaces between the games to have really long and hard training camps.

Off Topic Questions

Favourite Food: Spaghetti Bolognese
Favourite Car: Porsche
Favourite Holiday Destination: New York