J.O Waldner is such a standout that no European player can rise from beneath his shadow, only China have risen to the occasion to start contesting his legacy. So what would it take in this generation to create a modern day Jan-Ove Waldner?
|The incredible Jan-Ove Waldner|
A Big Enough Resource to Find A Rare Talent
The numbers problem has been a commonly raised debate topic in table tennis, China have a greater number of players and therefore they can source more top level and talented athletes. The population of China currently stands at 1.4 billion people, that is roughly 20% of the global population.
So what really needs to occur? We need to unify. If we really want to find and nurture the talent from a pool to match the population advantage of China, we need to combine resources and scour the globe for talent and support the best potentials to develop opportunities for careers in table tennis.
Find the talent and offer an incentive and a future.
An international training academy for the best prospects from around the world would greatly benefit the cause.
Include the Role of China in Developing the Player
Waldner visited China on a number of occasions to practice and admits it played an instrumental role in developing his strong service game early on in his career. We see players now like Omar Assar and Dimitrij Ovtcharov making China a central location for periods of training time and the positive effects that it is having on their game. Being immersed in the Chinese culture allows the players to see how their opposition are being raised, how they train from a young age and how they continue to develop.
Bringing players in for the Chinese Super League has also presented a big opportunity for players to continue to develop their skills against the best players in the world's best nation. Elements of this can also backfire as these players are under constant analysis by high ranking coaches and competing players.
Get Waldner Directly Involved in Developing a Student
Waldner has an incredible amount of knowledge and is considered a student of the game, along with other highly respected coaches like Richard Prause and players like Jorgen Persson and Werner Schlager.
J.O needs to be given the incentive to produce a true champion, if he were to be able to choose one single student and focus everything on making them the best in the world, would he be able to succeed? In all likelyhood it would probably cost a fortune to get the man himself to invest his time in that kind of project. Now we see Ovtcharov has Persson on board in the build up to the Olympics and has successfully reached a peak world ranking of number 4 this month.
What can the legends of yesterday offer us today? After their playing careers in China, many of the highest level players become involved in the sport as coaches and administrators and this makes a big difference in layering their system to great success.
World Training Squad
The Hopes Team (under 12) have a training camp each year for the top 4-5 geographically diversified member of the team, these players train to compete at the World Cadet Challenge.
Why should we not form a training opportunity and tour event for a world table tennis team each year? Bring the best 5-10 players in the world (and sponsor them) and have them do a tour including exhibition matches with the Chinese Team, the Korean Team, Japanese team etc. They could train in multiple countries at the world's top training centres and as a result the best players to potentially be the next China Destroyers would improve together.
The Ongoing Vendetta, Why Do We Need Another Waldner?
It's simple. We need to end Chinese dominance in table tennis for the future of the sport. It would be exciting to have a player rise up and consistently dominate a team that has been the best for over a decade, the world would rally behind that player. We have changed the scoring system, changed the ball size and material, changed service rules and speed glue rules. We have slowed the game down for entertainment but also on a side project there were moves to end Chinese dominance, moves which have no succeeded and have potentially increased the gap.
With the new ball physicality is a huge advantage, would a new age Waldner be as effective? Possibly not.
All I know is that it has been over a decade since we saw a non-chinese World Champion and the days of Chinese dominance just string on and on! What do you think of this topic?