Swaythling No.114 (January 2024)

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Issue No.114 / January 2024

SWAYTHLING https://swaythlingclub.com

Living Life Francesca Vargas in her own words

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Open Arms Joe Veselsky celebrates 105th birthday

Adriana Diaz ● Wassim Essid ● Anders Lind ● Nicholas Lum ● Wen Ruibo ● Zeng Jian


SWAYTHLING Issue No.114 / January 2024


My mobility is much less than before and it’s never going to get any better, I’m about as flexible as an 80-year-old!

Editor & Design: Ian Marshall Sub Editor: Richard Scruton Statistics: Günther Angenendt, Per Hällström, Igor Heller, Matt Solt Contributors: Günther Angenendt, Claude Bergeret, Hugo Calderano, Gabriel Copola, Tina Crotta, Adriana Diaz, Gordana Furjan Mandic, Barry Griffiths, Lotfi Guerfel, Pål Gut-

Anders Lind

tormsen, Joe Hickey, Miran Kondric, Anders Lind, Yangzi Liu, Lu Kexin, Nicholas Lum, Paloma Mutti, Jean-Michel Saive, Olalekan Okusan, Leandro Olvech, Ricardo Perdiguero, Pablo Perez, Edimilson Pinheiro, Marie Svensson, Jing Tian Zörner, Francesca Vargas, Joe Veselsky, Diane Webb, Wen Ruibo, Laura Wong, Xia Wa, Zeng Jian Photographs: Malcolm Anderson, Butterfly, European Table Tennis Union, Moezz Fellab, Murray Finch, Rémy Gros, Owen Hammond,

Catherine Hickey, International Table Tennis Federation, Irish TTA, Miran Kondric, Manfred Schillings, Singapore TTA, Swedish TTA, Table Tennis England, Brage Titlestad, World Table Tennis Published by: Swaythling Club International Swaythling Club Executive Claude Bergeret (President), Reto Bazzi (Deputy President), Harvey Webb (Secretary), Richard Scruton (Treasurer), Zdenko Kriz, Lilamani de Soysa, Gloria Wagener

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CREATED IN CRETE A special atmosphere. LIVING LIFE Francesca Vargas in her own words. SECOND CITY FIRSTS Jean-Michel Saive & Marie Svensson reflect. OPEN ARMS Joe Veselsky celebrates 105th birthday. WALKING THE EXTRA MILE Pål Guttormsen from cadet to veteran. TRANSCENDING BORDERS Adriana Diaz & Hugo Calderano. LIFE TURNED UPSIDE DOWN Anders Lind’s amazing recovery. STABLE AND AGILE Zeng Jian now team leader. MEET THE ITTF OCEANIA CUP WINNERS Nicholas Lum & Yangzi Liu. EIGHT MONTHS Wen Ruibo in outstanding form. PROOF OF THE PUDDING Wassim Essid endorsing Tunisian initiatives. BEST FOOT FORWARD IN BUENOS AIRES The Copa Tango. FOREVER FIRST Tina Crotta, professional match official. TOTAL BODY WALKING Burning the calories. NEW PREMISES FOR SINGAPORE New headquarters opened. SIGNED IN 1950 Celebrated autographs. THROUGH THE EYE OF THE CAMERA Major events in pictures. January 2024 SWAYTHLING 3

A Claude Bergeret, President of the Swaythling Club International, considers the success of a splendid initiative that reflected highly respected principles

n opportunity made possible thanks to close co-operation with the ITTF Foundation; staged from Wednesday 1st to Sunday 5th November in Heraklion, Crete, we were delighted to support the 2023 World Health Festival. The inaugural edition, the concept is very much in line with the principles of the Swaythling Club. Since our formation in 1967, one of the major goals has always been to help others; that statement remains as strong today as it did over half a century ago. Determining how best to help needed some thought; such options as supporting individual players or giving prizes, was considered but we wanted to do something for the benefit of all. Therefore, we decided that the best way we could be involved was to financially assist research concerning diseases such as Alzheimer‘s and Parkinson’s. Research is long term and hopefully as time progresses medical care will advance to such a state that suitable treatments will be found. Equally it is important to consider the short term; in that respect we congratulate the organisers in Crete for not only providing a splendid venue but also promoting a scenario that encompassed an aura of ability, positivity and co-operation. I was pleased to hear from Petra Sörling, the ITTF President; she stressed the fact athletes exceeded capacities, an atmosphere being created that witnessed enthusiasm, competition and friendship. Care and understanding prevailed, a lesson for all.

>> Swaythling Club Membership Form 4 SWAYTHLING October 2023


Created in Crete

a special atmosphere

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Life In her own words

Francesca Vargas

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From the age of nine until the present day, table tennis has always been important to me. I have been fortunate to represent my country, playing many times for the national team. One of my greatest achievements was when I became South American women’s singles champion. However, I never thought that table tennis would have a deeper meaning in my life. In July 2021 my life took an unexpected turn, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Admitted to an emergency room, it is a day I will never forget. I still remember it as though it was yesterday; for each day that passes, I feel I experienced a miracle. Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis can vary from person to person. My symptoms were a complete loss of balance and uncontrollable eye movement. Through treatment and time, I was able to slowly regain my balance and my normal eye functions. Looking back on the experience, the uncontrollable eye movement was the most difficult symptom with which to cope. For a whole month I was in bed slowly recovering, I was going through the hardest time of my life. Thank God I was able to completely recover from the first Multiple Sclerosis attack, a disease for which I have great respect. I realised that I needed to encourage myself to do something that would bring me back to life, back to the old Fran; this was when I decided to play in the Peruvian National Table Tennis Championships. Six months after the attack, I won the women’s singles title, once again I was proclaimed champion of my country. In March 2022 I travelled to Denver on vacation and my friend Angello Gandullia, who owns a table tennis club, introduced me to one of his students, a doctor who also was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Dr. Antonino Barbera. He is the founder of a non-profit


My symptoms were a complete loss of balance and uncontrollable eye movement.


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organisation named Table Tennis Connections. The most important project promoted by this organisation is NeuroPong: a tailored table tennis programme for people with multiple sclerosis and neuro degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Dr. Barbera proposed that I should join his organisation as the head coach of NeuroPong. Without any hesitation whatsoever I decided to be part of this project. It is a most noble and inspiring cause, helping people like me who suffer from neuro degenerative conditions to improve the quality of life by playing table tennis. From that moment, I realised that everything happens for a reason. I understood clearly that one of the most important purposes of my life is to share my story of overcoming the diagnosis; in particular, to help more people with the same condition realise we have a mission. The mission is not to let ourselves be defeated by Multiple Sclerosis. We must continue to do what we love the most, in my case it is playing table tennis.

We are motivated, rest assured we will work tirelessly to reach our goals, to improve the quality of life.

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Two months ago, together with NeuroPong, we finished our first scientific study that involves table tennis. We are making progress in our efforts to discover major breakthroughs by using table tennis as an alternative therapy for neuro degenerative conditions.


Francesca Vargas Schebesta Head Coach Table Tennis Connections, Fort Collins, Colorado, United States Member association: Peru Date of birth: 4th October 1996 Hometown: Lima, Peru Family: parents Helber Vargas and Barbara Schebesta, sisters Barbara and Andrea, twin brothers Christopher Vargas and Stephan Vargas Status: single Academic Qualifications: Bachelor of Business Administration Languages: English and Spanish Club: Table Tennis Connections Racket blade: Liu Shiwen Innerforce ZLF, FL Forehand rubber: Dignics 05 Backhand rubber: Tenergy 05 Role model: Timo Boll Peru National Championships: women’s singles winner in 2012 and 2021

Representing Peru World Championships: 2013 Paris, France World Team Championships: 2010 Moscow, Russia 2012 Dortmund, Germany World Junior Championships: 2012 Manama, Bahrain World Cadet Challenge: 2012 San Juan, Puerto Rico Pan American Games: 2012 Guadalajara, Mexico 2019 Lima, Peru Latin American Championships: 2013 San Salvador, El Salvador under 21 women’s singles - winner 2013 Latin American Cup Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic women’s singles: third place 2013 South American Championships: Rosario, Argentina junior girls’ singles: winner 2013 South American Youth Games: Lima, Peru junior girls’ singles: winner 2013 South American Championships: Villavicencio, Colombia women’s singles: runner up 2013 ITTF World Junior Circuit: Buenos Aires, Argentina junior girls’ singles winner 2013 ITTF World Junior Circuit Finals Guatemala City, Guatemala qualified as one of 16 players Best World Ranking cadet girl: aged 14 years, no.29 (2012)

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Second City Firsts 10 SWAYTHLING January 2024


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nown throughout the land as England’s second city, in Birmingham at the 1994 European Championships, staged in the splendid setting of the National Indoor Arena from Friday 25th March to Monday 4th April, for Jean-Michel Saive and Marie Svensson, being next in line was not the goal; more significantly, it was not the outcome. The respective men’s and women’s singles titles were secured in a manner that reflected their strong characters, undoubted ability and exemplary professionalism. At the end of the day, it was the same ending, but when play started, the contrast was stark. On the World rankings issued in February prior to the tournament, for the first time in his career, Saive had risen to the number one position. It was an era of halcyon days for European men. Jan-Ove Waldner was next on the list, Jean-Philippe Gatien at no.7, followed immediately by Peter Karlsson. Andrzej Grubba completed the top 10 names, close behind was Jörgen Persson at no. 11 pursued by Jörg Rosskopf. Somewhat differently, as in the present day, Asian players dominated the women’s order of merit. Svensson was listed at no.41, having at the 1993 World Championships in Gothenburg given a slight hint of what was to follow. She performed most creditably; she reached the last 32 of the women’s singles losing to China’s Wu Na.

Trumpeters added to the occasion 12 SWAYTHLING January 2024

In Birmingham, occupying the no.10 seeded spot, her adversary in the final was Gerdie Keen, named no.78 on the World rankings, the no.31 seed; a player whose fans had supported Svensson in the penultimate round. She faced Jie Schöpp, a defensive player in the classical mode. The Netherlands’ faithful believed Gerdie Keen had only minimal hope against the backspin skills of the German but was more than a match for any attacking player. One round later Svensson dispelled that theory! Totally contrasting finals, one according to status, the other totally surprise names but the results of equal value, both defied the doubters. Jean-Michel Saive, who had beaten Waldner in the men’s team event and earlier in the year at the Europe Top 12, proved he was worthy of being listed at the top of the World rankings. Indelibly, Marie Svensson underlined the fact that she was a player of world class, a match for any adversary and the equal of her male colleagues who were securing major title after major title. Now, as we reflect on their success, the level of achievement is marked by the fact that each is the one and only. To this day Saive is the only Belgian player to arrest the European men’s singles title, Svensson the only native-born Swede to don the counterpart women’s crown.

Play concluded, it was time to celebrate, go


old for Marie Svensson, silver for Jan-Ove Waldner January 2024 SWAYTHLING 13

Jean-Michel Saive recalls… E

arlier in the year in February I had reached number one on the World rankings, I’d won the Europe Top 12 in Arezzo. I tend to think that in those days the tournament was regarded with more importance than it is now. Also, in 1992 I’d lost in the European final to Jörg Rosskopf and then in 1993 in the World Championships final to Jean-Philippe Gatien. In Birmingham I was the top seed, having lost two big finals; no way was it going to happen again! Looking now at the results from 1994 I’m really surprised how well I played; in the team event my only loss was to Rosskopf. For sure before the singles started, I was in really good form. A day’s break after the team event, it was preparation for the singles; my first match was against Jaromir Truksa, a left hander, good services. I felt I should beat him, but he was a dangerous player. I was taking no chances. I practised with Richard Prause, also a left hander; to be honest the practice did not go that well, that sometimes happens, it wakes you up for the match. Next was Andrei Mazunov, I had a good record against him, maybe I’d only lost one of our previous matches. He played with a slow rhythm, I was confident. Through to the last 16, it was the first big challenge, Vladimir Samsonov, a tough opponent. At the 1993 World Championships, he had lost in the last 16 to Gatien; he was the upcoming player, we all knew he would become very strong. I won three-one, but the fourth game was 21-19; had he won that game it would have been twotwo and who knows what may have happened in the fifth! I had to play at my best level. Chen Xinhua in the quarters, before 1992 I had never beaten him, I couldn’t receive his services. I beat in the 1993 Top 12; I was able to receive his services. I felt confident, keep playing down the backhand. Long points, I seem to remember I lost the first six points of the opening game. In the same round Phil was playing Patrick Chila; whoever won was my semi-final opponent. I wanted Phil to win because he is my brother. It would have been fantastic for me to have played him but also a nightmare; I’d have been the player under pressure, expected to win. Phil won the first two games, lost the next two but then led 15-10 in the fifth. A bubble appeared on his racket, on his forehand, he kept playing and lost 21-19. In those days a bubble appearing was not unusual, we were all using speed glue. Facing Chila I was relaxed; it was always hard playing

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EUROPEAN CHAMPION Men’s Team Belgium finished in 7th place Group SWEDEN 4-2 Erik Lindh 18, 19 Jan-Ove Waldner 18, 21 NETHERLANDS 2-4 Danny Heister -19, 12, 11 Paul Haldan 15, 11 GERMANY 4-2 Peter Franz -18, 17, 17 Jörg Rosskopf -16, -10 CZECH REPUBLIC 4-2 Petr Javurek 14, 13 Roland Kramaschek 14, 16 POLAND 4-1 Piotr Szafranek 12, 13 Piotr Skierski 18, 12 Play-Off RUSSIA 2-4 Did Not Play POLAND 4-3 Did Not Play

Men’s Singles Round One bye Round Two Jaromir Truksa (SVK) 14, 10, 12

against him. You had to receive service well and then be aggressive, weak returns and you were in trouble. It was a case of keep going. Later at the 2000 European Championships and at the 2001 World Championships in Osaka I lost to him. Now the final, either Jan-Over Waldner or Zoran Primorac; like Wang Dayong, my coach, I wanted Waldner. I was World number one but in everyone’s eyes he was the favourite, I had nothing to lose; also, it was a title he had never won, never the European champion. Against Primorac it was always a big fight, at the time we both played for Charleroi and in Birmingham, he was my men’s doubles partner. We lost in the final to Kalin Kreanga and Zoran Kalinic. Waldner beat Primorac in a close five games match. There was a big television screen in the hall, it was fine when you were playing with your back to the screen but not when it was facing you. I asked for it to be turned off. In the final, I lost the first game having been

ahead 13-8; it was like a punch in the face. Waldner had problems with a finger, but I didn’t care at all, I was so focused. I won on my first match point at 20-16 in the fourth, I fell to the floor and then ran to my parents who were sitting behind where the podium was later placed. My mother pulled me up from the floor! Soon after team members alongside Wang Dayong, Luc Stevens, the doctor and Alan Petit, the physio came into the arena. Returning home, honestly, I cannot remember what happened! It was a crazy period. Belgian flags flying, we won the European Super League beating Sweden and with Charleroi the Europe Club Cup of Champions, we beat Borussia Düsseldorf in the final.

Round Three Andrei Mazunov (RUS) 19, 12, -13, 17 Round Four Vladimir Samsonov (BLR) 7,-17, 14, 19 Quarter-Final Chen Xinhua (ENG) 11, 12, -15, 19 Semi-Final Patrick Chila (FRA) 12, 15, 8 Final Jan-Ove Waldner (SWE) -23, 10, 17, 16

Also, I was voted Belgian Sportsman the Year for the second time; previously I’d won in 1991. My greatest achievement? I have been asked that question many times; for me it’s number two, winning the Europe Top 12 just one month before tops the lot. January 2024 SWAYTHLING 15

Marie Svensson looks back… efore the 1994 Europeans, overall, I felt in really good shape. I’d played really well and had won the women’s singles title at the Swedish National Championships.


good serves. I started by winning the first two games but then I lost the next two. The fifth was close, I can’t remember but I think I saved one or two match points before I actually won.

Also, I’d had some really good practice sessions in the immediate preceding weeks prior to the tournament; the result was that mentally and physically I was in good shape. I knew that if I played well, then I could achieve very good results.

All the members of the Swedish team were delighted; of course, I was also rather pleased!

Even though on paper losing five matches in the team event may not look great, I still felt good; I’d played reasonably well but not brilliantly; there were many good teams and certainly our results could have been better. After the team event I had some rest and quickly felt the energy returning. I wanted to start the individual events as soon as possible; I looked at the draw and thought it was by no means easy, but I believed if I played well, I could go far. A short break, it was time to get going again, the first opponent was Petra Fichtinger, after losing the first game I started to feel good. Next was Galina Melnik, she was always a difficult opponent because she never gave away any easy points. She was so very safe; everything came back on the table! She never gave up, she fought for every point. I felt not so confident because I’d lost to her earlier in the team event; most important was that I won the first game and that made me feel better, more confident. It was a long close match, in the fifth game I made a really good start; that was vital, crucial to my win. Through to the fourth round, everything was going well, good preparation for every match. It was somewhat different when I faced Tu DaiYong. It became a very special match! As soon as I arrived in the hall, my coaches came running towards me, they were anxious. I can’t quite remember how it happened but somehow, I’d been given the wrong starting time. I arrived just before the match against Switzerland’s Tu Dai-Yong was scheduled to start. The referee and to their great credit, the Swiss team, both agreed that I could have time to prepare. I can’t remember exactly how much time but make no mistake, I had to prepare in a hurry. Tu Dai-Yong was a difficult player, left hand with 16 SWAYTHLING January 2024

Krisztina Toth in the quarters, in the past we’d had some really close matches, I think I’d beaten her as many times as she had beaten me. I followed the tactic of attacking her backhand, it really paid off, I won in three straight games. Jie Schöpp was next on the list, I’d lost to her in the team event, she had no weaknesses, a really good player and tactically very intelligent. In fact, I’d never previously beaten her. Always, I felt comfortable against defensive players; looking back at this match, it was probably my best ever match against a defender. I felt I did everything right, never put a foot wrong. In the final, Gerdie Keen; I could see that she had done really well to reach the final. I believed that I could win, my confidence was high. I think in that match I was in my best shape ever! I was positive from start to finish; I never gave her a chance to take the initiative; I won in three straight games. It was the best feeling ever! Looking back, I must give great praise to all my teammates and coaches, they really helped me throughout the singles; especially my roommate, Asa Svensson. She was my sparring partner and running companion in the morning. I know that sometimes people think we were sisters because we had the same surname. We are no relation at all, in Sweden, Svensson is a popular name. Immediately after winning, there was a great deal of attention from television and radio; everybody wanting to congratulate me. However, when I returned home, I had to focus on the playoff in the Swedish League which was not easy. I must admit it was all very tiring. I was happy when the season had finished so I could have a break. Most definitely winning in Birmingham was a major highlight of my career; it compares with the following year when alongside Erik Lindh we won mixed doubles bronze at the 1995 World Championships in Tianjin.


EUROPEAN CHAMPION Women’s Team Sweden finished in 7th place Group ROMANIA Emilia Ciosu -11, 17, 18 Otilia Badescu -17, 8, -18 GERMANY Jie Schöpp -13, -19 Nicole Struse 21, -20, 22 CROATIA Tamara Boros 6,7 Mirela Sikoronja 12, 14 RUSSIA Galina Melnik 20, -17, -17 Elena Timina 22, -17, -7 BELGIUM Martine Hubert 22, 17 Cécile Ozer -16, 13, 13 Play-Off ITALY Laura Negrisoli 13, 17 Fliura Abbate-Bulatova 14, -4, 19 FRANCE Did Not Play

Women’s Singles Round One bye Round Two Petra Fichtinger (AUT) -13, 11, 12, 19 Round Three Galina Melnik (RUS) 18, -17, 14, -17, 15 Round Four Tu Dai-Yong (SUI) 12, 15, -10, -21, 21 Quarter-Final Krisztina Toth (HUN) 12, 15, 16 Semi-Final Jie Schöpp (GER) -16, 14, 18, 17 Final Gerdie Keen (NED) 12, 14, 18

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Open Arms

warm welcome, there is nobody on planet earth, man, woman or child, who performs the greeting in a more sincere and affectionate manner than Joe Veselsky; it was in that typically heartfelt style he greeted guests on Friday 20th October 2023, the date of his 105th birthday.


Tuberculosis hospital for children in the mountains, because of his position he thought he would be saved; he was transported”, reflected Veselsky. “I watched my mother and father being pushed into a cattle truck, the last words my mother said to me were “change your religion”, my mother was 56 years old, my father 58 years of age.”

Totally natural, nothing false but is there another reason for his open arms? Does he not value life more than most because of the traumas he suffered as a young man?

Later when World War Two was over, Veselsky received news about how his brother had died.

Desperate times for a young man who had caring parents and had enjoyed a happy childhood, his mother was Hungarian, his father had grown up in Slovakia. “I had a loving mother, they had an arranged marriage, my mother loved to sing, she had a good voice, one of her favourites was from the Merry Widow”, continued Veselsky. “We lived in a two room flat with a bathroom in the corridor; there were six more flats like ours in the building; people spoke German, Hungarian and Slovak, by the time I was nine years old, I was fluent in all three languages." u

“My father was the head doctor in a

“A man came to see me after the war; he told me my brother dug his own grave; he was shot and fell in”, reminisced Veselsky. “I was very close to my brother, he was older than me and was studying to become a doctor, I would ask him questions, he would then ask me to find a country on the world map; I would spend two hours looking and finally give up, only to find it did not exist. He set the task so he got two hours of peace!”

Born in Trnava in 1918, a city located in western Slovakia, the very same month the independence of Czechoslovakia was officially proclaimed, Joe was 20 years old when the country was invaded under the orders of Adolf Hitler. Both parents and brother were murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

A man came to see me after the war; he told me my brother dug his own grave; he was shot and fell in.

Traditional Slovak song and dance

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Education a priority, in 1931 Veselsky joined the Jesuit Seminary, thus all his friends were Catholics; the Jesuit Seminary, the world’s largest male Catholic order. “My school was sports mad, our sports master was a past Olympic gymnast”, explained Veselsky. “He had lost a foot in World War One but was able to do the most difficult moves, he was the best sports teacher you could wish for.” Sport was also important to Veselsky during his formative years, an era when table tennis was gaining momentum in Czechoslovakia; the names of Bohumil Vana and Vaclav Tereba were increasingly prominent on the international scene. “I started to play at age eight; my brother already played so I took it up. I practised very hard as I really 20 SWAYTHLING January 2024

wanted to beat him”, smiled Veselsky “Eventually I did!” Illustrious company, Veselsky reached number seven on the national rankings; notably proving a most worthy foil for the player whose name became synonymous with the sport. “At one time I became the doubles partner to Victor Barna, he had won the men’s singles title at the World Championships five times; he told me that there was to be no acrobatics from me, he would win the points”, smiled Veselsky. “I just could not resist when the chance arose to hit the ball hard, I not only won the point but the match. I was delighted!” Playing table tennis was a priority, but Veselsky needed to earn a living. In 1937 banks were seeking employees. Veselsky went for a test and was

duly appointed; an advantage was that as a hobby he had enjoyed stenography (shorthand). Notably of the 300 appointed only 20 were Jews, Veselsky worked in the Foreign Exchange department, principally talking to customers; the fact he spoke three languages being a big advantage. However, anti-Semitism was looming. “In 1939 in came the Anti-Jewish legislation, there were a few exceptions; important people did not have to wear the yellow Star of David and could work, but could only earn 1,500 koruna per month”, explained Veselsky. “I was one for my work in the bank; my salary was 1,100 and so the bank had to pay me 1,500!” Landmarks in his career and there


“She was my typist in the bank”, explained Veselsky. “It was love at first sight and six months later we were engaged to be married.” Happy days embedded in the memory but in Europe dark clouds loomed as genocide took effect. “In 1942 transportation started to Auschwitz, the Jewish people were told they were going to work and brought their work boots”, sighed Veselsky. “Over the Auschwitz camp were the words “Work Makes you Free”; it was only when someone escaped, we heard what was really going on.” Veselsky joined the Resistance and survived the war in the Carpathian Mountains. “When I went into the mountains to fight, all I wanted to do was get back to the bank, I was very happy there”, explained Veselsky. “In the

The smiling faces of Joe Veselsky LEFT Proudly wearing his Swaythling Club tie at the 1990 United States Open in Baltimore. CENTRE In 2016 awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree to become Trinity College Dublin’s oldest student. RIGHT Celebrations to mark 100 years old in October 2018.

mountains, they set difficult missions, they gave you a glass of vodka, but I never drank it, I changed it with the boys for half a loaf of bread, so I was the best fed.” Arduous times, one mission standing out above all others was when a Russian colonel needed a volunteer to go to Bratislava, Veselsky accepted the challenge. “It took two days by train to get the travel papers he needed so he could look for another Russian who had been dropped by parachute into the wrong place”, recalled Veselsky. “I went to a member of the Gestapo; I flirted a bit with her about having similar surnames; I left after two hours with signed papers for six months. We found the missing Russian and brought him back to the mountains.” War over, in March 1945 Veselsky returned to civilian life; just two months later, on Saturday 19th May, he married Katarina; they had two children, Peter and Kate; throughout she was her husband’s greatest supporter. u

was another of an even more significant note, in 1940 he met Katarina, his future wife.

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“We were very happy we would have 50 kisses every day”, laughed Veselsky who it would seem had quite an eye for the ladies, his wife not objecting to innocent flirting.

Prominent Irish names at the 2018 “Ambassador of the Century” celebration.

Furthermore, Veselsky returned to table tennis, he captained the Czechoslovak national team, but life was not easy under the new political régime.

LEFT TO RIGHT Ken Strong, Joe Veselsky, Alex Thackeray, Pat O’Brien, Joe Hickey

“After a brief excursion to Serbia for a table tennis match, the trip had aroused the suspicion of the secret police, they raided our house in an attempt to find evidence of a connection to Tito”, explained Veselsky. “When I came home Kathy was in a terrible state, we had two children by then, so we decided to leave.” 22 SWAYTHLING January 2024

At the time Tito, real name Jozef Broz, was the prime minister of Yugoslavia, later to become president; he was the only leader in Joseph Stalin's lifetime to defy Soviet hegemony in the Eastern Bloc of which Czechoslovakia was member. They travelled to Switzerland via Hungary, where asylum was sought; the original intention being to settle in Australia. “We were to go to Australia but after five months of waiting and no “landing visa”, I met a gentleman who I did one or two favours for; he said: “come to Ireland”, explaining that the Ambassador was a very good friend”, recalled Veselsky. “In two weeks, we got the visa and in August 1949 came to Ireland.”


“Kathy loved the Irish climate and the people, we were brought from Shannon to Dublin by the Ambassador, provided with a house to rent at number four in Rock Road and when number five came up for sale we bought it”, sighed Veselsky. “We lived there for 64 years until Kathy died in 2009.” A limited knowledge of English but true to his character, that did not prove a deterrent, Veselsky built up a successful jewellery business.

Once the family was settled, he returned to table tennis, soon he became the non-playing captain of the Irish team, the players responded immediately to his leadership. Tommy Caffrey, who played for Ireland over 140 times from the 1950s until the 1970s described Veselsky as “one of the rare breed”; his memories of those days vivid. “Whether it was a Worlds or Europeans we always had to meet for afternoon tea, my first introduction to Danish pastries was at the World Championships in Dortmund in 1959”, recalled Caffrey. “Afternoon

tea was part and parcel of every Worlds, almost as essential as the play itself; all the star players from around the world were drawn to Joe like a magnet. They all loved the decency in Joe.” Later in 1967 he became a founder member of the Swaythling Club International, the President from 1973 to 1987. Meanwhile, the Irish Table Tennis Association elected him “Ambassador of the Century” in 2018 to coincide with his 100th birthday, Veselsky having been President from 1982 to 1986 and then Life President. u

It proved a wise decision, life in Ireland being very different to eastern Europe.

Furthermore, in 2021 he was named

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Commander of the Slovak Order of the White Double Cross for outstanding achievement in sport and for his contribution to the development and maintenance of diplomatic relations between Slovakia and Ireland. Not content with these accolades, Veselsky returned to university following his wife’s death. He became Trinity College Dublin’s oldest student. In 2016, he was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree. Additionally in his honour the Irish Table Tennis Association instituted the “Veselsky Award”, the winner in 2016 being Joe Hickey, former Secretary of the Irish Table Tennis Association, Chair of the Board and President from 2011 to 2015; throughout he valued greatly the advice given by Veselsky. “Joe actually turned up to make the presentation himself, the first time for many years”, explained Hickey. “Joe Veselsky is a one of a kind, a great man with an incredible story, a man without whom table tennis would be the poorer.” Notably, Hickey was present for the recent birthday celebrations at the Dublin nursing home where Veselsky resides. Likewise Teresa Devaney, winner of women’s doubles 70 years at the 2023 European Veteran Champions attended, as did Vivienne Barry a former member if the Irish Table Tennis Association’s management committee. Most notably, from further afield, Hans Westling, for many years the organiser of the World Veteran Championships, travelled from Sweden, a gesture that underlines the respect Veselsky has gained over the years. Adding to the occasion, appropriately, a group from Slovakia entertained with song and dance; a highlight of the day, but one highlight shone above all others, the welcome from Veselsky was as warm and sincere as ever, arms wide open.

Celebrating the 105th birthday left to right Hans Westling, Joe Hickey, Teresa Devaney, Joe Veselsky and Vivienne Barry

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he desire to win burns as strongly as ever, just as it did now over half a century ago; the appetite for competition undiminished, even though the age category is now one of the more senior as opposed to one of the youngest. At the World Veteran Championships 2023 in Muscat, Pål Guttormsen won the men’s singles 65-69 years title, in 1970 in Teesside, in the north-east of England, at the European Youth Championships, he was the cadet boys’ singles runner up; in those days the age group being for players under 14 years. A difference in age and a difference in the country he represented, in Muscat it was his native Norway, in Teesside it was England; however, one element is the same, attitude. “If you are successful at a young age, you gained reward for the efforts that you made in training, but you must ask yourself am I enjoying my table tennis training so much that I am willing "to walk the extra mile", to become a better player?” stressed Guttormsen. “Do I wish to become a senior international player?” Vital questions, the answers determine careers. “To become a good table tennis player, you must love to practice”, suggested Guttormsen. “Many people like playing table tennis; those that love playing are those that became good because they are willing to put in the hours of training that are necessary.” Sound arguments and one conclusion without question: Guttormsen has always loved playing table tennis! Parental influence started the journey; having sufficient space in the basement of the house, his father purchased a table tennis table. “My father played table tennis for the shipping firm he worked for in Oslo; he was promoted to the position of Chief Executive Officer for the London office”, explained Guttormsen. “Therefore, the family moved to Chislehurst in Kent.” 28 SWAYTHLING January 2024

However, having arrived in 1968, after three and a half years, in mid1971, the family returned to Norway. “The expectation was that we were going to stay in England until my father’s retirement; therefore, I decided to represent England”, reflected Guttormsen. “In the early 1970s the trade unions were strong

and the Millhall dockers difficult; this resulted in my father working a minimum of 12 hours a day. He decided that he would not be a father that was away all the time; so, he applied to move back to Norway, the boss of the shipping firm accepted.” A relatively short stay in England but Guttormsen made his mark. In June


He was beaten by Simon Heaps, who like Guttormsen, continues to thrive on competition. He now competes in

Para events, having had his right leg below the knee amputated when 63 years old, a result of long-term Type 1 Diabetes. “I remember the enormous joy when Heaps and I won our semi-finals”, reflected Guttormsen. “The final was an anti-climax; we both represented England, there was not the same

commitment from the crowd as it would have been with an Englishman facing a player from another nation. Simon was a better player than me at the time and it was very fair he won.” Notably both won their semi-final contests in straight games; Heaps beat Italy’s Roberto Grindelia (21-12,


1969 he won the English under 13 boys’ singles title at Hartsville School in Nuneaton, before at the 1970 European Youth Championships, concluding matters the silver medallist in an all-English final.

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21-8), Guttormsen accounted for the Soviet Union’s Valeri Baranov (21-19, 21-17). Halcyon days for England. “I remember well the training camp we had at Matlock together with the Swedish team before the Europeans; there was good friendship amongst the England players”, added Guttormsen. “The Swedes had Stella Barneston who was a star already; I remember the professionalism around the team.” Later, in March 1971, soon before leaving, alongside Tony Bossman, Robert Broodmare and Mick Harper, Guttormsen made his one and only appearance in a team match for England; a junior fixture, facing Wales, a 10-0 win was the outcome in a rather one sided contest. Undoubtedly, a career in table tennis was an option; however, the family thought otherwise. “I knew that my possibilities to become a really good player disappeared when my father and mother decided that I should turn down the offer to play professionally in Sweden when I was 16 years old”, sighed Guttormsen. “They wanted me to go to grammar school in Oslo; in Norway I had only the possibility to train two hours three times a week.” He was aware of the level of dedication needed; he realised how much top players practised. “I stopped playing table tennis in 1982, I stopped training, but I played some matches in the national league”, explained Guttormsen. “I started to practice in 2013 and started veteran events in 2014.” A new lease of life as retirement years approached. “When I go to a veteran championship, I know I have a chance to win if I play at my absolute top level, I don’t know the level of all the players when I go to the Europeans or the World Championships; therefore, it is impossible to have ambitions of gold”, stressed Guttormsen. “When I went to Oman, I would have been very happy to get a medal; the semi-final against the 30 SWAYTHLING January 2024

PÅL GUTTORMSEN Stellan Bengtsson in 1970, a player for whom Pål Guttormsen has the utmost respect

Iranian was very close match.” Most certainly a close call and he can be excused for not remembering the exact name of his opponent, the longest in the tournament. He beat Majidae Ehteshamzadehganjbakhsh by the narrowest of margins (11-9, 8-11, 1210, 9-11, 12-10). Now, just as when in the early 1970s he played for Bromley in the top division of the Kent League, the desire, the determination is just the same. “My motivation is that I never learnt good technique, now I have people around me that have the capability to teach me how correct strokes should be performed; this is my main motivation, it is much more important than results”, explained Guttormsen. “Secondly there is a health gain to play table tennis, some studies show that table tennis players on average get dementia five years later compared to most; my general fitness improves by playing table tennis.” A modest reflection on his playing abilities, for those who faced Guttormsen in his early teens, they may suggest his technique was not that questionable; many a more senior player took a battering from a relentless fearsome forehand!

Career Date of birth: 8th November 1955 Residence: Oslo, Norway Family: married with two daughters and five grandchildren Profession: specialist in orthopedic physiotherapy

Highlights representing England 1970 European Youth Championships: cadet boys’ singles silver medal representing Norway Eight national men’s singles titles, 116 international team matches World Championships: Sarajevo 1973, Birmingham 1977, Novi Sad 1981 European Championships: Rotterdam 1972, Prague 1974, Bern 1980 European Veteran Championships: Rimini 2022: 65 years, men’s singles silver, men’s doubles gold (Eduard Zakaryan) Northern European Veteran Championships: Uppsala 2018: 60 years, men’s singles and men’s doubles gold. World Veteran Championships : Muscat 2023: 65 years, men’s singles and mixed doubles gold (Kai Thornbech)

“My goal is to master all the different techniques in table tennis, I seek advice where I can and use the internet to gain understanding; participation in tournaments is to get an indication on how I perform the new things that I have learnt”, continued Guttormsen. “As I am preoccupied in increasing my skills, I hope that I can become a European veteran champion one day; I am not involved in any other sport.” The attitude is to be applauded, reaching higher levels, whatever the discipline, whatever the age, may prove hard work but the sense of satisfaction when the next goal is achieved provides motivation. Furthermore, the readiness to learn, the willingness to listen, the dedication to practise suggests there is more to come from the evergreen Guttormsen; however, one fact overrides all others in his quest for success, the passion for table tennis, it is as strong as ever. January 2024 SWAYTHLING 31

TRANSCENDING BORDERS Month by month, day by day, Brazil’s Hugo Calderano and Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz continue to set new standards, they have transcended the borders of their chosen discipline, far exceeding the achievements of any other players, past or present, from their part of the world. At the 2023 Pan American Games, staged in the Chilean capital city of Santiago from Sunday 29th October to Sunday 5th November, each remained unbeaten in the team events before securing the respective men’s singles and women’s singles titles. They reflect on their achievements.

How did you prepare for the Pan American Games? Was there anything in particular that was different to your usual preparation? Adriana: I prepared as I always do for important competitions. A lot of match simulation, physical and especially mental training since I knew it would be a high-pressure tournament. Hugo: I didn’t have any special preparation, my schedule was very full. I came from two WTT tournaments in Oman and Turkey just before the Games.

How did you feel about your level of play in September and October? Adriana: I think I improved a great deal; it is very difficult to maintain high consistency during several tournaments, but I think I was able to maintain a balance during all the competitions. Hugo: They were two very good months for me, with two continental titles; as well as winning in Santiago, I won at the Pan American Championships in Havana and at the WTT Contender Muscat tournament in Oman.

Where there any results in September and October that gave you confidence or caused you concern before the Pan American Games? Adriana: I competed in the Pan American Championships in Cuba; also, I played in China and in Oman. In Cuba, I finished in third place which was not what I expected but I think it helped me a lot mentally and I learnt. Hugo: I won the men’s singles at the Pan Am Championships in Havana, that win gave me a lot of energy and I was able to carry it through to the following tournaments.

Did you have any time for rest, a holiday, before the Pan American Games? Adriana: Not much but of course there always has to be rest, I really like to be relaxed and enjoy time with my family before competitions; always you must fit in training.


Hugo: No, none at all, no time, too busy.

LEFT Consoling words from a thoughtful Adriana Diaz for Bruna Takahashi after a momentous women’s singles final. RIGHT Having prevailed on the immediate two previous occasions, Hugo Calderano became the first player to win the Pan American Games men’s singles title three times.

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From which city did you travel to Santiago? How long was the journey? Adriana: I travelled from Puerto Rico, after playing in Oman, I had a few days in Puerto Rico where I focused on the physical aspect of the game. I don't remember how long the trip lasted but when the team travels together it's always good, the flight time doesn’t seem to last long. Hugo: I travelled from Rio de Janeiro, so it was a five-hour flight.

How difficult was it coping with a schedule in which you start with individual events and then finish with team events? Adriana: I'm used to long competitions. Since I was little, I have gone to these types of events, I have always prepared myself for long days. I find it fun sometimes because I enjoy playing a lot so it's not that difficult. At the end the body does get a little tired and your level may drop; that’s where physical preparation comes in to be able to finish the competitions well. Hugo: There were a lot of matches, it was a long and tiring event. Especially considering I was coming from another two tournaments.

Does this schedule have any advantages as opposed to team events commencing the schedule. Adriana: We all know that table tennis is an individual sport, most athletes are prepared for the singles. I love to start with individual since you are fresher and it’s the most difficult event. Hugo: Players have more energy for the singles event, overall, I think this schedule is a good thing.

Is it too much – singles, doubles, mixed and team? Adriana: It is enough. Especially when you play at a very high level; 34 SWAYTHLING January 2024

the longer the competition continues, the tougher it gets, your level can deteriorate. However, I like it better playing this way, finishing all four events in one combined competition means the schedule can become more complicated. Hugo: I don’t think so.

How long did you start to prepare before your first match of each day? Adriana: It all depends on what time you play, if it is at night about 30 to 40 minutes. If it's during the day, maybe an hour. Hugo: It depends on the match. On average one hour before the match.

What was your daily routine before the start of play? Adriana: Get up, listen to music, drink coffee, have some breakfast and then to the training hall. Hugo: It depended on the time of the match. But nothing special.

Did you sleep well knowing you had a final the next day? Adriana: Yes, it really makes me very happy when I have a final, I don't get nervous the night before. I would say that nerves start a little when I am preparing for the match, thoughts are constantly flashing across your mind. Hugo: Yeah, I was able to sleep really well.

How were you feeling before the finals in which you played? Adriana: I felt good, I felt prepared, I knew that I had trained a lot for the moment, and I could achieve my goal. Hugo: I was feeling really happy and grateful to play another final in what was such a great atmosphere!

In the singles event which were your most difficult matches? Adriana: The semi-final against Mo Zhang and the final against Bruna Takahashi were very intense matches in which I had to stay calm; that is a most difficult thing to do. Hugo: I think probably in the last 16 against Edward Ly, but overall, I had a pretty smooth run.

How do you rate your win? Do any other events compare? Adriana: I don't think I played very well, but I still achieved what I wanted and in the end that was the important thing.


Hugo: It’s hard to compare titles. Each one has a special taste and I always try to appreciate each win as much as possible, knowing what I’ve been through to get there.

Looking back are there any pluses you can take from the tournament? Adriana: Just satisfaction of knowing that everything I have been doing in training has worked; the win motivates for the next competitions. Hugo: I think my level in general was quite high. It’s always a mixture of factors to achieve a good level. I like to look at it as whole and I’m pretty satisfied with everything.

Looking ahead four years which players do you think will provide the greatest challenge in your defence of the title?

and are seeing that they can go very far in this sport; this is really pleasing, it gives me a great deal of satisfaction.

Adriana: There are many good players out there, four years from now many things can change. Most certainly I hope that then I can defend the title again.

Hugo: The level in the Americas has been growing a great deal in recent years; it’s good to see, actually it’s what I have been hoping for. Always I support the players from our continent, and have a very good relationship with them, so it’s nice to see them making progress and being able to achieve good results in international tournaments.

Hugo: I expect many guys to be competing next time fighting and trying to win this title.

Do you think the level of play in Pan America is improving? Adriana: I would say yes, there are many children who are starting now

ABOVE The winner in Lima four years earlier, in Santiago, Adriana Diaz retained her women’s singles title.

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Life Turned Upside Down Rehabilitation can be long and arduous, in some instances injuries sustained are so severe that a return to active life seems out of the question; yet incredible odds are overcome through strength of character, willpower and sheer determination. The prime example is Denmark’s Anders Lind.

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nly six months after suffering critical injuries, Anders Lind proved his country’s leading player at the 2021 European Team Championships, before in 2023 enjoying the most successful months of his career.


He concluded the ITTF World Championships Finals in Durban in May as Europe’s leading player. Later in early November, he won his first men’s singles open international title when he succeeded at the WTT Feeder Olomouc. Major achievements, successes that seemed impossible following events on Tuesday 23rd March 2021; the day he was involved in a serious car accident. He broke two vertebrae in his back. “I was conscious the whole time before, during and after, I remember everything. I remember clearly seeing a car coming towards us, out of control; we had no option but to hit it”, reflected Anders Lind. “I remember after we had come to a stop, I had a metal taste in my mouth and I felt like as though I had cramp in my back; quickly I did a test to see how my neck was feeling, looking left and then right.” There was a degree of reassurance but of course Lind was not aware of the extent of the injuries. “I felt fine, so I opened my car door and went towards the other car to try and help but then people came and told me to sit down or lay down as I shouldn’t be walking immediately after such a crash”, continued Lind. “An ambulance arrived and drove me to hospital.” One question that arose immediately was as to whether Lind would be able to ever walk again. “I had doubts, but I was confident I would be able to walk, it was a bad accident but not that bad”, explained Lind. “It was at least five months before I was able to practise again and there are long term effects, my mobility is much less than before and it’s never going to get any better, I’m about as flexible as an 80-year-old!”


Incredibly, in September, Lind was on duty at the 2021 European Team Championships in Cluj Napoca, Romania. Even more incredible, he lost just one match, that being at the semi-final 38 SWAYTHLING January 2024

At the 2021 European Team Championships, Anders Lind guided Denmark to bronze; facing England, his quarter-final win against Liam Pitchford crucial.


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stage against Germany when losing to Patrick Franziska.

many more accolades in the foreseeable future.

“I practised for the first time since the crash some 10 days before the Europeans, maybe five or six times, each session no more than 40 minutes”, continued Lind. “I don’t think there was anything special about my play, mentally I was in a good state, I didn’t care whether I won or lost, I was just happy to play.”

“Normally against left handers I win backhand to backhand, not only did he completely destroy me when it came to backhand to backhand, he was better than me in most things I like to do when facing left handers”, explained Lind. “It was very difficult to do anything, the only chance was in the first game at 10-all; if I could have won that game, he might have become nervous but once he went one-nil ahead, he was confident, playing well, it was impossible.”

Crucially, at the quarter-final stage against England, in full distance five games contests he beat both Liam Pitchford and Paul Drinkhall, the latter when the overall match score was level at two games each. “I remember my emotions and thoughts very well from this match, it meant so much to me, I gave two million per cent, fighting for every point”, stressed Lind. “We got a medal, it was unreal, it was an insane outcome thinking back to where I was six months earlier!” Outstanding in Cluj Napoca, it was the same some eight months later at the World Championships Finals. He reached the men’s singles’ quarterfinal, Wang Chuqin, the eventual silver medallist, ending progress. “In Durban I was consistent, I didn’t have the best footwork, nor did I excel from backhand and forehand; I was competent with everything”, explained Lind. “I made weird returns of service, and my services were excellent.” Also, did the mental factor not help? Just as in Cluj Napoca, Lind had no great expectations, he was relaxed. “My goal was to win one match and get 45 points on the World rankings”, smiled Lind. “Eventually I lost to Wang Chuqin, it was not only an honour to play him but also to play someone that good at the quarterfinal stage of the men’s singles at a World Championships; it was an unbelievable experience.” Playing Wang Chuqin, complete in every respect, was a contest against a player who has already gained the top spot on the World Table Tennis Rankings and will no doubt gain 40 SWAYTHLING January 2024

A last eight place in Durban, in Olomouc it was the top step of the podium. “I cannot say that I was playing outstanding well”, said Lind. “I was very stable, mentally strong, especially in the final against Xue Fei, the match that for me stands out the most in Olomouc.” The recovery has been remarkable, the fact acknowledged in January 2022 when Lind received the “Nothing is Impossible” prize to celebrate Danish sport’s outstanding achievements in 2021. Now, does that award define his character? Does he not think differently to most; prove doubters wrong and innovate, the long sidespin backhand stroke reminiscent of a fisherman who has just caught a 10-pound trout, underlines his ability to think differently and innovate. Equally important is the fact Lind has good family support. “I am extremely thankful to my mom, she helps me a lot, my dad always supports me, my wife is always there for me”, emphasised Lind. “Also, I owe a great deal to Linus Mernsten, he’s the best coach in the world, without him I would never have made a top 200 ranking.” Looking back over the past three years, Olympic and World champions have been crowned but whatever titles they may have been captured, do those achievements match the efforts of the young man whose life was turned upside down, the achievements of Anders Lind?


Anders Lind (Denmark) Date of birth: 14th December 1998 Status: married to Daria Trigolos Club: Caen TTC Residence: born in Hørsholm, Denmark, now resident in Berlin Forehand rubber: Donic Bluegrip C2 Backhand rubber: Donic Bluegrip A1 Racket blade: Donic True Carbon Coach: Linus Mernsten

Highlights: 2021-2023 2021 European Team Championships, Cluj Napoca, Romania Tuesday 28th September – Sunday 3rd October Group: v. Turkey (3-0) v Batuhan Ukucak 7,6,6 v. Portugal (3-0) v Marcos Freitas -6,-12,6,7,6 Quarter-Final: v England (3-2) v Liam Pitchford -8,7,9,-7,9 v Paul Drinkhall -7,8,-7,5,7 Semi-Final v. Germany (0-3) v Patrick Franziska -7,-11,-5 2023 ITTF World Championships Finals Durban, South Africa Friday 20th – Sunday 28th May R1: João Monteiro (POR) 8,-10,3,-9,9,7 R2: Brian Afanador (PUR) 9,7,-6,5,6 R3: Noshad Alamiyan (IRI) 10,5,-10,5,9 R4: Jang Woojin (KOR) 7,-7,9,5,9 QF: Wang Chuqin (CHN) -10,-6,-8,10,-8 WTT Feeder Olomouc, Czech Republic Monday 30th October – Sunday 5th November R1: Tomas Polansky (CZE) 11,10,9 R2: Niu Guankai (CHN) 7,6,7 R3: Zhao Zihao (CHN) 8,-5,9,-11,9 QF: João Geraldo (POR) 7,-8,11,7 SF: Martin Allegro (BEL) 2,5,-3,-9,7 F: Xue Fei (CHN) 9,10,-9,13

Innovation Watch the unique backhand of Anders Lind

I owe a great deal to Linus Mernsten, he’s the best coach in the world

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Stable and Agile

Consistent performances, month after month, playing in a most efficient manner, nothing flamboyant, nothing outrageous; making gradual progress and thus being high on the list when selection is the order of the day, such players are invaluable to any national team. In the past two years, one player who fits that bill and describes herself as “stable and agile” is Singapore’s Zeng Jian. Quietly, in an unassuming manner, she has risen from apprentice to team leader.


At the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games in late July, Zeng Jian maintained a perfect record in the women’s team event, prior to concluding play the women’s singles silver medallist. Fast forward to October she remained unbeaten at the ITTF World Team Championships in Chengdu, before in May 2023 winning the women’s singles title at the SouthEast Asian Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. January 2024 SWAYTHLING 43

Minimal time to recover, one week later in Durban it was an opening round departure but defeat against a most worthy name. A tough draw, she lost to Japan’s Miu Hirano, the no.15 seed. An early exit; in October at the WTT Feeder Doha II, the outcome was the exact opposite. She won her first women’s singles title at an open international tournament. The Commonwealth Games sparked a run of impressive performances. At the women’s singles quarter-final stage, Zeng Jian beat India’s Manika Batra, the defending champion. Memorably, four years earlier when the multisport event had been held in Gold Coast, Australia; using her combination racket with long pimpled rubber on the backhand to good effect, Manika Batra had defied the odds. She 44 SWAYTHLING January 2024

ABOVE Zeng Jian, at full stretch, may look in pain but the 2022 Commonwealth Games proved a successful venture.

beat Singaporean colleagues Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu at the semi-final and final stages respectively, to claim the title. “I felt that the match against Manika Batra was crucial, I played very intensely and well; it was the first time I’d faced her, I didn't have much experience in major competitions at that time”, explained Zeng Jian. “I was very determined and committed on the court, I think that allowed me to bring out my full potential.” A straight games success against Manika Batra was followed by a six games win in opposition to Australia’s Yangzi Liu, a contest in which she lost the opening two games. A place in the final, colleague Feng Tianwei awaited, the player with whom she had won the women’s doubles; the contest was very much a reversal


of the semi-final, Zeng Jian won the first three games prior to losing the next four!

“I lost but I accumulated valuable experience”, reflected a thoughtful Zeng Jian.

“Yangzi Liu played outstandingly well in the first two games, I had to change my strategy from the third game by altering the pace of the play”, reflected Zeng Jian. “In the final, I played exceptionally well in the initial stages, Feng struggled to use her strengths; as the match progressed, she managed to gain control, I lacked a bit of a killer instinct to finish the match.”

Safe and secure in Birmingham, it was the same three months later at the 2022 ITTF World Team Championships in Chengdu, a tournament in which her situation was somewhat different. There was no Feng Tianwei in the line-up, Zeng Jian was the senior member, she was the team captain, the player to whom her colleagues looked for leadership.

Disappointment but Zeng Jian could take solace from the contest, in her first major final, she had come agonisingly close to the player who for more than a decade had led Singaporean fortunes.

“I might not be considered a senior player yet, but I do feel a sense of responsibility”, said Zeng Jian. “In every team competition, I hope to contribute as much as possible to achieve good results for the team.”


I might not be considered a senior player yet, but I do feel a sense of responsibility.

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“Numerous team matches, the more I played, the better my form became; I try to use my intellect a lot during matches, my performances were stable”, reflected Zeng Jian. “I think my best performance was against Chinese Taipei, I beat both Cheng IChing and Chen Szu-Yu; they were crucial matches, I really wanted to win, I felt assured, I think I showcased my abilities.” Impressive in Chengdu, it was the same the following year at the South-East Asian Games, she beat Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut to seal the women’s singles title. “The women's singles final was the most intense match of 2023”, said Zeng Jian. “Looking back, it still feels thrilling, luckily I won; I was more than satisfied with my performance.” Success at a multi-sport event with an established tradition; held on a biennial basis, table tennis has been ever present since the first edition in 1959 in Bangkok when known as the South-East Asian Peninsular Games. It was a milestone for Zeng Jian, another followed in Doha. “I never thought I could win a senior open tournament; it felt really great, hope it’s not the last time!” smiled Zeng Jian. Notably in Doha, on only one occasion was she extended the full five games distance, that was in the third round when she had to recover from a two games to one deficit to beat China’s Gao Yuxin; a testing hurdle negotiated, she overcame Anna Hursey of Wales to secure the top prize. “Gao Yuxin’s playing style was very aggressive, she put me under a lot of pressure; when I was behind, I had to focus on each point and remain determined”, explained Zeng Jian. “Before the final, there was tension, but I had confidence in myself.”

I never thought I could win a senior open tournament; it felt really great, hope it’s not the last time!

A modest response to her newfound status, in Chengdu she fulfilled the senior role. She guided Singapore to a quarter-final finish; a 3-2 defeat against Chinese Taipei ending progress, an event in which her unbeaten record went somewhat unnoticed.


A landmark final but Zeng Jian is no stranger to such occasions, success in ITTF World Tour under 21 women’s singles events being a good grounding for the next step. In 2016 she had won in Chengdu, Doha and Tokyo, in 2017 at Budapest. “I think the under 21 events helped a lot, I was quite young at that time and needed many matches to improve”, reflected Zeng Jian. “Looking back perhaps the best win was in Chengdu, there were many spectators, the atmosphere was different to other tournaments; in the final, I beat my best friend, Doo Hoi Kem.” Now, for the young lady who started playing table tennis at a club close to her home in Loudi City, China, having gained Singaporean nationality in November 2019, Zeng Jian is settled in the island country. “Once I came to Singapore for training, I thought playing here was good, so I moved”, explained Zeng Jian. “Life here is simple, everything is very convenient.” Very much at home and month by month a more mature player, nothing meteoric, just step by step moving ever higher. “I think I've stabilised in terms of tactics, gained a better understanding of myself, and accumulated experience in major competitions”, concluded Zeng Jian. “These are the areas where I feel I've made significant progress.” Once the junior player, in recent times looking up to Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu; the role is now very different; Zeng Jian leads Singapore’s next generation. LEFT Unbeaten at the 2022 World Team Championships

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Forehand Bomba

Meet the ITTF Oceania Cup Winners On Sunday 10th December, Australia’s Nicholas Lum and Yangzi Liu won the respective men’s and women’s events at the 2023 ITTF-Oceania Cup in Hamilton, New Zealand. 48 SWAYTHLING January 2024


Nicholas Lum Describe yourself in no more than five words or phrases. Forehand bomba.

Do you have any superstitions? No, none at all.

Growing up who was your favourite table tennis player? Ma Long.

Do you have any fears or phobias? The thought that I may suffer an injury always gives me great concern; other than that nothing really.

What is your first memory of table tennis? Watching my dad play table tennis. What motivated you to play table tennis, what did you like about the sport? I discovered my passion for table tennis when seven years old, dreaming of one day being on television playing at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. The variation of spin, the different shots and techniques interested me from a young age. What has been your most memorable match? Winning 4-3, 11-9 in the final of the 2023 mixed doubles event at the Oceania Olympic qualification tournament; thus, reserving a spot in the team for Paris. Who have been your toughest opponents? Lim Jonghoon, Felix Lebrun. What is your favourite tournament? Always I enjoyed the ITTF World Hopes Week & Challenge. What is the best advice you have ever received? Nothing to lose, everything to gain. Who has been the biggest influence on your career? Most certainly my dad, always supporting me.

Who is your favourite sporting personality? Lebron James and Lewis Hamilton. What is your favourite sport’s team? It’s difficult to choose, the Los Angeles Lakers or the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team. What is your favourite holiday destination? Malaysia. Living or passed away who would you most like to meet? Either Lebron James or Lewis Hamilton. What do you do when not playing table tennis? Sleeping, eating, socialising, studying, gaming. What annoys you the most? Losing a very close match is always annoying. Who do you follow on social media? Chefs and cooking channels. Do you have a favourite film or book? Rush Hour. What advice would you give to a young player who is just starting? Be able to accept failure to get better. January 2024 SWAYTHLING 49

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I really wanted to win a singles medal for Australia


Yangzi Liu Describe yourself in no more than five words or phrases. Never give up, kind, hard working (a little bit), considerate of others, family person.

I felt I played well and had a good chance but in the end I didn’t make it; I can see the difference between myself and the top players.

Growing up who was your favourite table tennis player? Zhang Yining. I liked her calmness and composure when she played.

What is your favourite tournament? I enjoyed my first Commonwealth Games in 2022. I really appreciate Table Tennis Australia giving me all the opportunities to play on the world stage. Also, I also enjoy playing in WTT Champions. It’s a fantastic tournament, only the top 32 players in the world can play. I really treasure the opportunities to play and learn from the very best players.

What is your first memory of table tennis? The first time I played table tennis was when I was about five years old. I went to a table tennis hall with my dad, he was playing with his friends. The coach saw I was alone, so she started teaching me to serve. After that I said to my dad that I wanted to play table tennis more often. I still remember my first racket was a Donic pink racket. What motivated you to play table tennis, what did you like about the sport? I wanted to get better and better, had more good results. I didn't want to disappoint my family and friends who supported me. What has been your most memorable match? The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games women’s singles bronze medal match. I had a tough semi-final loss against Zeng Jian; I really wanted to win a singles medal for Australia. I was really nervous before the match; I couldn’t eat breakfast. I beat India’s Sreeja Akula, fourthree in the bronze medal match, it was tough and unforgettable. Who have been your toughest opponents? I played against Wang Manyu in 2023 at the WTT Champions Macao, at the time she was ranked number two in the world.

What is the best advice you have ever received? When I was young my dad told me: "if you are thinking about going to training or not, going to the gym or not; just do it." Who has been the biggest influence on your career? My dad, he has spent a lot of time with me; always behind me, giving advice, encouragement and all the necessary emotional support. Of course, my mum is always supportive, if I don’t mention her, she will be jealous! Do you have any superstitions? Too many haha! The colour of the shirt is the most common for all athletes, I guess. Yeah, I do have a lots of small things I care about. How to fold the towel, where to put the bottle, how many sips of water I drink during water breaks. Each of my hairpins has their own position as does the phone case. Actually, I am trying to not think about all these things too much, I am getting better, I think! Do you have any fears or phobias? I think I have acrophobia (fear of heights).

Who is your favourite sporting personality? I really like Eileen Gu, a freestyle skier. I appreciate her spirit in facing daring challenges; I am learning a lot from her. What is your favourite sports team? I greatly admire the winning spirit of the Chinese table tennis team. What is your favourite holiday destination? I went to London and Singapore this year I really liked both! There is a lot of food I like in Singapore. I am really looking forward to go to the Singapore Smash again in March 2024. Living or passed away who would you most like to meet? I don’t have anyone in my mind. What do you do when not playing table tennis? I’m thinking but can’t come up with an answer! What annoys you the most? When I don’t get enough sleep and food. Who do you follow on social media? Only friends and some table tennis players; my favourite soft toy accounts are Jelly Cat and Miffy. Do you have a favourite film or book? I just watched a Christmas movie name called Elf; it’s a really cute movie! What advice would you give to a young player who is just starting? If you really like this sport, just do it and enjoy everything it gives you.

>> ITTF Oceania Cup - Results & Articles January 2024 SWAYTHLING 51

Eight Months n illustrious name retires, in China, for more than half a century, there has always been a more than suitable successor; young players by the score are eager to fit celebrated shoes. There is no such phenomenon as a period of transition, the favourite excuse of football managers when their team loses.


Looking back at 2023, a member of the current aspiring group, who proved he has an appetite for competition and whose name we may well see in the Chinese men’s team in the future is Wen Ruibo. Only 16 years old, in 10 WTT tournaments commencing in late March in Berlin and concluding in mid-October in Doha, he reserved the top step of the podium on no less than five occasions. Additionally, he finished the runner up twice, three times departing in the penultimate round. Notably at the WTT Contender Bangkok in September, he secured both the under 19 boys’ singles and under 17 boys’ singles titles. Furthermore, at the Asian Youth Championships staged in July in Doha, he was integral to China’s success in the under 19 boys’ team event, before adding the under 19 boys’ singles to his title haul, a success he believes was his best performance of the year, somewhat of a milestone. “After playing in the Asian Youth Championships, I felt that my understanding of table tennis had improved a lot”, reflected Wen Ruibo. Success in Doha; as the year closed, in the Slovenian town of Nova Gorica, he increased his medal count. At the ITTF World Youth Championships, once again it was boys’ team success, followed by boys’ doubles gold and boys’ singles silver. Defeat in the final was against colleague Lin Shidong, his doubles partner, a player almost two years the senior; in the formative years that is a notable difference. It has been eight months of consistently impressive performances; results that suggest he is a most talented young man with a thirst for competition. Equally, he is very astute and realises there is no room for complacency. “Other than players from China, I think my most difficult opponents in 2023 were Iulian Chirita, Oh Junsung and Sora Matsushima”, reflected Wen Ruibo.


In May at the WTT Youth Contender Platja d’Aro tournament, Wen Ruibo found Romania’s Iulian Chirita in blistering form; a last 16 straight games defeat was the order of proceedings.

At the 2023 ITTF World Youth Championships, Wen Ruibo emerged the under 19 boys’ singles runner up.

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Other than players from China, I think my most difficult opponents in 2023 were Iulian Chirita, Oh Junsung and Sora Matsushima.

Impressively Chirita progressed to the final losing to Huang Youzheng, having the previous day won the under 17 boys’ singles title. Problems against Chirita, it was the same when facing Oh Junsung, a player of pedigree, his father is Oh Sangeun. In April, in finals of WTT under 19 boys’ singles events honours were shared, Wen Ruibo won in Spa, later in the same week Oh Junsung prevailed in Metz. “I knew Oh Junsung was a very good player; the first time we played I didn’t think too much about the match, just play point for point”, reflected Wen Ruibo. “In the second encounter it was clear he had prepared better than me, he was worth his win.” Matters even; later in the year at the Asian Youth Championships, the pendulum swung in favour of Wen Ruibo, he beat Oh Junsung at the quarter-final stage of the under 19 boys’ singles event, a confidence boosting win en route to the title. Oh Junsung is a young man whose name we will hear time and again in the foreseeable future, he is a high quality player, so is Sora Matsushima. The first three occasions when Wen Ruibo faced Sora Matsushima, he experienced defeat. At WTT events he lost when they met at the semi-final stage of the under 17 boys’ singles in Berlin, then in the round of the last 32, a few days later in Wladyslawowo. Just over one month later, the turning point came in Panagyurishite. On Tuesday 16th May Sora Matsushima prevailed in the under 17 boys’ singles final, the next day, Wen Ruibo turned the tables to capture the under 19 boys’ singles top prize. Fast forward to the boys’ team event at the ITTF World Youth Championships in November, in the final against Japan, Wen Ruibo recorded a straight games win. 54 SWAYTHLING January 2024

Stronger from defeat, learning quickly, they are qualities clearly displayed by Wen Ruibo. Looking long term, arguably those assets are even more important when assessing a young player than an array of titles. It is a measure of character, a rematch against Iulian Chirita is awaited but when considering Oh Junsung and Sora Matsushima, as the year ended the decisions went in favour of Wen Ruibo. Impressive performances but perhaps not too surprising; born in Henan province, Wen Ruibo enjoys family support, a vital ingredient. “My father was a professional table tennis player when he was younger, so I have been going to table tennis as long as I can remember,” explained Wen Ruibo. “After he retired from the Henan provincial team, he became a coach.” A sound upbringing, in 2022 Wen Ruibo won the Chinese National Junior Championships and joined the national youth team. “Now I practise six days a week, seven hours a day on average; every day multi-ball practices for about an hour and a half, the rest of the time practise with a partner and physical training”, added Wen Ruibo. “I spend about an hour and a half each day following a business studies programme.” Undoubtedly it is an intense programme but when the opportunity arises, he likes football, the music of Jay Chou and lists Ma Long and Zhang Jike as the players he idolises. However, there is one thing in particular he hates, spiders! “Recently I have been really wanting to visit Japan”, concluded Wen Ruibo; no doubt such an opportunity will arise sooner rather than later. Wen Ruibo has time on his side, in 2027 he will still be eligible for youth age tournaments.


Highlights March – December 2023 WTT Youth Contender Berlin Monday 27th – Wednesday 29th March Under 19 boys’ singles: round of 16 Under 17 boys’ singles: semi-final WTT Youth Contender Wladyslawowo Friday 31st March – Sunday 2nd April Under 19 boys’ singles: round of 16 Under 17 boys’ singles: round of 32 WTT Youth Contender Spa Monday 17th – Wednesday 19th April Under 19 boys’ singles: winner Under 17 boys’ singles: semi-final WTT Youth Contender Metz Friday 21st - Sunday 23rd April Under 19 boys’ singles: runner Up Under 17 boys’ singles: winner WTT Youth Contender Platja d’Aro Wednesday 10th – Saturday 13th May Under 19 boys’ singles: round of 16 Under 17 boys’ singles: quarter-final WTT Youth Contender Panagyurishte Monday 15th – Wednesday 17th May Under 19 boys’ singles: winner Under 17 boys’ singles: runner up Asian Youth Championships, Doha Monday 17th – Saturday 22nd July Under 19 boys’ team: winner (Chen Judson, Chen Yaunde, Huang Youzheng) Under 19 boys’ singles: winner WTT Youth Contender Bangkok Friday 15th – Sunday 17th September Under 19 boys’ singles: winner Under 17 boys’ singles: winner WTT Feeder Bangkok Monday 4th – Saturday 9th September Men’s singles: semi-final WTT Youth Star Contender Doha Tuesday 10th – Wednesday 11th October Under 19 boys’ singles: winner WTT Feeder Doha II Tuesday 17th – Thursday 19th October Men’s singles: round of 32 ITTF World Youth Championships Sunday 26th November – Sunday 3rd December Under 19 boys’ team: Winner (Chen Yuanyu, Huang Youzheng, Lin Shidong) Under 19 boys’ doubles: winner (Lin Shidong) Under 19 boys’ singles: runner up

In Bangkok, Wen Ruibo won both the under 19 and under 17 boys’ singles titles

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hey say: “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”, without doubt Lotfi Guerfel, the President of the Tunisian Table Tennis Federation, is a very fine chef, cordon bleu. Commencing in 2021, the dessert has comprised nine WTT tournaments, for Africa both the Senior and Youth Championships as well as the World Youth Championships. Mouthwatering ingredients, Lotfi Guerfel explained his secret recipe: “these tournaments are a great opportunity for our international players, we can register a high number of participants in each tournament at a low cost. Hosting these tournaments in Tunisia exempts us from high travel charges and accommodation fees when playing abroad.” Now, young players in Tunisia are eating avariciously; one in particular has become a connoisseur of good food, Wassim Essid. In a period of less than three years, he has secured some 17 titles at international level; the progress has been quite staggering, underlined in the Under 15 Boys’ Table Tennis World Rankings. Accepted as the years progress, players leave the age group but he advanced from no.286 in the second week of April 2021 to a a high of no.8 in the third week of August 2023. “During the past three years, I think the part of my play that has improved the most is my backhand”, said Essid. “I think being able to block the ball is now a major strength of my play, I need to improve my movement and also my services.” Hailing from a sporting family, when at home, he practises two hours per day, five days a week.


“I started to play table tennis in 2014 with my mum who encouraged me”, explained Essid. “My mum, Jihen Belkahia, my aunt Nesrine Belkahia and Lotfi Guerfel, the far seeing President of the Tunisian Table Tennis Federation

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my uncle Ghazi Belkahia were all international table tennis players.” Nowadays, Jihen is a Physical Health Education teacher at Raoubi Bizerte School in Tunis and is very much the source of inspiration; not only is Wassim progressing quickly, so are younger brothers Amir and Fares, both have national titles to their name. “My children naturally embraced table tennis after watching me train others; they fell in love with the sport and it comes naturally to them to train with me”, explained Belkahia. “I am proud of what they have all achieved as players, but I know they are yet to fulfil their full potential in the sport. Wassim will definitely become African champion because he has proved that at junior level, he has never relented in his efforts and continues to work hard.” Apart from his sterling performances in sport, Wassim has proved to be academically sound. “I am proud of Wassim with what he has achieved both in table tennis and school” added Belkahia. “He was adjudged the second-best in his primary school before moving to high school; he balanced table tennis with his studies, which for me has been encouraging. I see him becoming the best player in Africa in a few years to come.” Moreover, Belkahia is well aware of the role the parent plays. “Parents need to support their children in sport, it takes a lot of sacrifice, commitment, and discipline on their part” she stressed.” Although, it is never going to be easy, it will surely help the child to fulfil their potential in whatever they do. It is a pathway, and it is interesting and exciting for parents who are willing to follow the route in helping to nurture their children's talents in sport.” Strong parental support, the same from the Federation, time will tell but just keep eating heartily from the menu presented and who knows what delights may accrue. Motherly words at the 2023 ITTF Africa Youth Championships

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WASSIM ESSID Profile Member association: Tunisia Date of birth: 17th February 2008 Hometown: Bizerta Club: Raquette d’or Bizertine Family: parents Hichem Essid and Jihen Belkahia, brothers Amir and Fares, sister Ranim Racket blade: Butterfly Patrick Fransizka ZLC Forehand rubber: Butterfly Tenergy 05 Backhand rubber: Butterfly Dignics 64 Coaches: Lotfi Joudi, Béchir ben Abdallah, Jihen Belkahia, Mohammed Amine Dridi, Ghazi Belkahia Ambition: to represent Tunisia in the Olympic Games. Other sports: tennis Favourite sporting personality: Novak Djokovic Most admired table tennis player: Tomokazu Harimoto Favourite team: Manchester City Football Club

Highlights: 2021-2023 2021 Arab Championships, Amman U15BD: winner (Amine Khaloufi) U13BD: winner (Youssef Aidli) 2021 WTT Youth Contender Tunis U13BS: runner up 2022 WTT Youth Contender Doha U15BD: winner (Tamito Watanabe) 2022 Youth Table Tennis Festival, Györ U15BT: winner (Youssef Aidli, Mohamed Kharoufi) U15BS: winner U15BD: semi-final (Youssef Aidli) 2022 ITTF Africa Youth Championships, Tunis U15BT: third place (Youssef Aidli, Adlene Jerbi, Mohamed Kharoufi) U15BS: winner U15BD: winner (Mohamed Kharoufi) U15XD: semi-final (Mariem Hamrouni) 2022 ITTF Africa Senior Championships, Algiers MT: third place (Habib Ameur, Omar Ammous) 2022 WTT Star Contender Vila Nova de Gaia U15BD: winner (Tiago Abiodun) 2023 WTT Youth Star Contender Tunis U15BS: runner up U15BD: semi-final (Youssef Aidli) U15XD: semi-final (Julia Leal) 2023 WTT Youth Contender Helsingborg U15XD: semi-final (Hoor Fawad) 2023 ITTF Africa Youth Championships, Agadir U15BT: winner (Youssef Aidli, Amir Essid) U15BS: winner U15BD: winner (Youssef Aidli) U15XD: winner (Balkis Suissi) 2023 Arab Championships, Sulaymaniyah U15BS: winner U15BT: winner (Youssef Aidli, Emir Essid) U15BD: winner (Youssef Aidli) 2023 WTT Youth Contender Tunis U17BS: winner U15BS: runner up U15XD: winner (Balkis Suissi) 2023 ITTF African Championships, Rades MT: fourth place (Habib Ameur, Aboubaker Bourass, Myshaal Sabhi, Khalil Sta) MD: semi-final (Myshaal Sabhi) 2023 WTT Youth Contender Cairo U17BS: semi-final U17XD: semi-final (Hsieh Hsin-Jung) 2023 WTT Youth Contender Lignano U15BS: semi-final 2023 WTT Youth Contender Senec U17BS: semi-final U15BS: runner Up

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Best foot forward

in Buenos Aires


A total of 112 men and 30 women, representing 19 ITTF member associations, competed in the gathering which first saw the light of day in August 2001, an entry this year far different to the inaugural edition. In 2001 Argentina and Brazil provided the lion’s share of competitors; in fact, they supplied the women’s entry in entirety, for the men, two players from Chile completed the list. Furthermore, for the Chileans it proved a worthwhile venture. Competing in class 6, Washington Galaz won the men’s singles title before partnering colleague, Paul Rojas, to the men’s team top prize.

Also, there was success for Ricardo Perdiguero, he secured gold in men’s team class 4-5 alongside Luis Ferreyra, the player against whom earlier he had experienced defeat in the men’s singles class 5 final. Nowadays, Perdiguero is the President of the Argentina Para Table Tennis Federation. Furthermore, Brazil’s Edimilson Pinheiro was a noteworthy name in 2001. He won men’s singles class 9 as well as the men’s singles open standing category. Currently, he is Chair of the ITTF Para Table Tennis Committee and in 2023 was the Copa Tango ITTF Competition Manager. Present in different roles in 2023 for Perdiguero and Pinheiro; for Iranildo Espindola and Ercildo Oliveira, also from Brazil, as well as for the host nation’s Gabriel Copola and Giselle Muńoz, once again they were on duty as players. In 2001 Espindola won men’s singles class 1-2, Oliveira

ABOVE The splendid trophies to commemorate the 20th edition of the Copa Tango. RIGHT

Ricardo Perdiguero, President of the Argentina Para Table Tennis Federation.

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taged from Friday 6th to Sunday 8th October, once again it was best foot forward in Buenos Aires; the Copa Tango 2023 was the 20th edition of what is now the Para table tennis tournament with the longest history.


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“Over the years, the tournament has acted as a breeding ground for many emerging talents and has furthered their careers, making it an even more important component of the regional sporting landscape”, explained Copola. “Personally, I get a real kick out of playing in the Tango Cup, especially as it is in front of my home crowd, all my buddies and family cheering me on.” Notably in 2023 for Copola and Muńoz, there were more medals for the collection. Copola won men’s singles class 3, before partnering compatriot Elias Romero to men’s doubles class 8 silver; similarly, alongside Chile’s Florencia Perez, it was women’s doubles class 20 bronze for Muńoz. “I was fortunate to be the champion at the most recent edition, I had the pleasure of my daughters being able to watch me compete; for sure, it was an unforgettable moment”, stressed Copola. “Also, playing matches in Argentina, a place where football isn't just a game but a way of life, makes every Tango Cup special and one-of-a-kind." Medallists but the most deserved recipients of honours are those who, over the years, have made the tournament possible, a tournament established on the international calendar in the face of difficulties many organisers may not experience. Geographical location is a major factor; for most, expensive flights are needed to reach the Argentine capital city, very different to continental Europe, where access from many cities by road or rail to five or six countries is possible within hours. Furthermore, recent times have experienced economic difficulties, rapid inflation, matters far beyond

BELOW Edimilson Pinheiro, the Competition Manager at this year’s Copa Tango, struck gold at the 2007 Para Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Also, playing matches in Argentina, a place where football isn't just a game but a way of life, makes every Tango Cup special and one-of-a-kind. the remit of any organising committee; the fact such hurdles have been overcome pays great tribute to the resilience and determination of all concerned. Expense a problem, a problem from the start, the Copa Tango being integral to finding a solution. At the end of the 1990s there was a growing movement for Para table tennis in South America, mainly in Brazil and Argentina but there were also some players emerging from Venezuela, Chile, and Uruguay. Most of the countries could not afford to attend more than one international event per year. Qualifying for the World Championships or Paralympic Games was out of the question. Argentina seized the initiative. They wanted to host the 2001 Para Pan American Championships. In those days the governing body was the International Paralympic Table Tennis Committee (IPTTC), they operated under the umbrella of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). The IPTTC allocated the Para Pan American Championships to Argentina but requested a test event be staged. Conditions to host a factor 20 event were too complicated so it was decided to host two consecutive factor 10 competitions, the South American Championships, open only to players from that part of the world, followed by the Copa Tango. Organisation was the responsibility of the largest Para Table Tennis (PTT) club in Argentina, the Centro de Discapacitados de La Matanza (CEDIMA), La Matanza being one of the largest suburbs of Buenos Aires, a total of 1.8 million inhabitants and economically challenged. u

Meanwhile, Copola emerged the men’s singles class 3 runner up, Muńoz won both women’s singles class 10 and women’s open standing. Proud moments at a tournament in which Argentines have great pride, dear to the heart, not to be missed.

LEFT Gabriel Copola won men’s singles class 3 at the Copa Tango 2023 to add to his impressive haul of international titles.

was the runner up in men’s singles class 4.


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COPA TANGO FACING In 2015 Buenos Aires hosted the main celebration at the first ever World Table Tennis Day, a feature was a couple dancing the Tango on the top of a table tennis table. LEFT Nowadays the Director of the ITTF Foundation, Leandro Olvech was the Tournament Director at the first ever Copa Tango.

Both test events were hosted in the neighbourhood with a minimal budget. They paved the way for the Para Pan American Championships which were organised in November in the Centro Nacional de Alto Rendimiento Deportivo (CENARD), the High-Performance National Training Centre located in downtown Buenos Aires. Memorably, a large Brazilian contingent entered. A member of the well prepared delegation was a young man in charge of communications, making his first steps in the Paralympic movement, a certain Andrew Parsons. Now two decades later he is President of the International Paralympic Committee. A distinguished position, that is also the situation for the man who was in charge of proceedings at the Copa Tango test event. Leandro Olvech, nowadays the Director of the ITTF Foundation, was appointed Tournament Director by the local organising committee. “The Copa Tango was born out of needs and made with immense effort, love and passion; these three factors played a pivotal role in the development of Para table tennis in Argentina, as well as the region, I feel proud of being part of that history as the former Tournament Director”, said Olvech. “Congratulations to those who have tirelessly worked to organise the Copa Tango year after year, making it bigger and better; also, to the Argentina Table Tennis Federation, the CEDIMA club, where I started as a volunteer coach when I was 14 years old and opened my eyes to a new world.” Named after the dance with which Buenos Aires is synonymous, the “Tango Capital of the World”, the initial event was a milestone in Olvech’s career, a career in which humanity has always been the major consideration. “I will always remember those who worked to

make the Copa Tango possible, I literally have their logo tattooed on my heart”, added Olvech. “Sometimes, I think that probably I wouldn’t be working for the ITTF Group without that beginning in my early years.” Later in 2015 Buenos Aires was also a first and once again with Olvech at the helm. The city was the destination for another watershed event, the main celebration at the first ever World Table Tennis Day.

RIGHT At the inaugural Copa Tango Andrew Parsons was a member of the Brazilian delegation. He is now the President of the International Paralympic Committee.

“The event was connected to the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games”, reminisced Olvech. “We closed the main street and set up 20 tables; there was a couple dancing the Tango on the top of one of them!” Soon after the conclusion of the initial Copa Tango edition, Leandro Olvech moved to Germany to study sport for the disabled; additionally, his close friend, Leonard Marińo, who had been a member of the local organising committee, emigrated to Japan. Thus, future editions were organised by the Argentina Table Tennis Federation for the Disabled. Most were administered under the direction of the President, Vitaliano Brandoli, who sadly passed away in 2018; a man who impressed Pablo Perez, the ITTF Para Table Tennis Events and Classification Manager. “I was there in 2016 for the first time and I met Vitaliano Brandoli”, recalled Perez. “I was able to witness the passion and care that he put in every edition considering the limited resources that they usually had; Argentina can be proud today that his legacy still lives on.” Most certainly the legacy lives on; the ITTF Fa20 Copa Tango 2024 is scheduled to be staged in Buenos Aires from Friday 11th to Sunday 13th October, the coming of age, the 21st edition. January 2024 SWAYTHLING 67

For Evermore First At the 2022 ITTF Summit staged in early December in the Jordanian capital city of Amman, Werner Thury, Chair of the ITTF Umpires and Referees Committee was delighted to announce the name of Tina Crotta as the first professional match official. “I feel incredibly honoured and excited about the opportunity that has enabled me to become the first WTT Professional Referee”, said Crotta. “It's a significant milestone in my career, I am looking forward to all the challenges and responsibilities that come with the post.” Resident in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, highly qualified being a Bachelor of Economics and Statistics; in addition to her native Greek and English she speaks fluent Italian. Previously an accounts manager, most importantly she is dedicated to table tennis, the sport in which she takes a more than avid interest, for her it is “for all, for life”. Similar to the vast majority who progress to hold office, it was laying racket on ball that attracted her to the sport; first 68 SWAYTHLING January 2024

I feel incredibly honoured and excited about the opportunity that has enabled me to become the first WTT Professional Referee. playing the game somewhat late by modern day standards, 14 years old. She never reached illustrious international heights but was of a level that could more than hold her own in the National Junior Championships. Quite simply Crotta played table tennis for the best of all reasons; she enjoyed playing and if time permitted, she would still be playing. “While I'd love to play, my schedule is jam-packed due to my roles as the Manager of Para events, Match Officials, and as a Professional Referee”, sighed Crotta. A most demanding schedule but one that most certainly suits Crotta; her quiet humble reserved manner, unassuming nature, attention to detail and gentle welcoming smile makes her the ideal person for the various roles. “I began my journey in the world of table tennis as a player; however, when I decided to step away from playing, my passion for the sport still burned brightly”, stressed Crotta. “It was during this time that my former coach shared an exciting opportunity with me, there was going to be a course for match officials; this marked the beginning of my career as a match official. I eagerly enrolled on the course, successfully passed the exams, and soon found myself offici-


BELOW At the European Games staged in 2019 in Minsk, Belarus.


he first ever Olympic champion, the first ever World champion; whatever follows, whatever records are set, being the first ever is an accolade that can never be replaced; such is the situation for Tina Crotta.

FACING Conducting the draw at the WTT Champions Frankfurt in October and November 2023.


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I've learned to be patient, adaptable, and resilient, adjusting my approach as needed, based on the circumstances and the diverse individuals I engage with.

ating at table tennis events. It's amazing how one opportunity can lead to another, and I'm grateful for this new chapter in my involvement with the sport.” High level umpiring and refereeing qualifications gained; it is the latter option she prefers, no great visions of grandeur, she is delighted to officiate at any level of competition. “My preference is for refereeing over umpiring, it allows me to have a broader influence on the overall management and integrity of the game, this aligns with my organisational strengths”, added Crotta. “Top class player, junior level or Para; for me they are all the same; I am committed to support the sport in all its forms and for all participants.” Now, one year has passed and, whilst time and again Crotta has been the source of knowledge, at the opposite end of the spectrum she has gained increased understanding through experience.


“In 2023, my interactions with people from around the world have taught me valuable lessons, I've learned to be patient, adaptable, and resilient, adjusting my approach as needed, based on the circumstances and the diverse individuals I engage with”, she stressed. “Moreover, I've come to recognise the significance of teamwork; I have fostered positive relationships with all my colleagues and, as part of a team, I'm always ready to lend a

Tina Crotta partnering Maria Tsipou at the 1984-1985 Greek National Senior Championships; likewise Maria Tsipou progressed to become an International Referee.

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helping hand when needed. These insights have enriched my ability to provide support and assistance to a wide range of individuals and situations.” Consistently, in her role she must interact with a host of very different characters; homo sapiens can be a strange and unpredictable species. “There was a unique request from a female umpire during a competition; she asked me to nominate her husband to the same event where she was nominated because she couldn't bear to be separated from him for even a day”, smiled Crotta. “Unfortunately, the nominations had already been finalised, I couldn't make any changes. In the end, her husband ended up participating in the event without her, proving that, in this case, he could manage just fine without her by his side!” Such is life and that is the key factor for Crotta, if you give 100 per cent commitment then you enjoy your work; give less and it becomes a chore. “I believe that working with passion then it isn't a job but a joy; while my role can be challenging at times, and I may experience moments of frustration, anger, and fatigue, being immersed in the sport I love is truly amazing”, concluded Crotta. “I'm committed to persevering and moving forward, never giving up on my passion, just keep pushing ahead; thank you WTT for this amazing opportunity!” Thank you, Tina Crotta, a role model for future professional match officials.

TOP Match officials at the 2023 ITTF World Championships Finals held in Durban. CENTRE Tina Crotta left wearing the tradition style in 2018 and right the modern fashion in 2023 at the WTT Champions Frankfurt. BELOW Tina Crotta with Mohamed El-Dawlatly left and right Tomas Varga at the ITTF European Para Championships held in September 2023 in Sheffield.

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Objective To successfully plan, organise, and execute Para table tennis events, ensuring they run smoothly and meet the highest standards of inclusivity and competition.

Objective To facilitate and manage the participation of umpires and match officials in table tennis events, ensuring their effective co-ordination and adherence to regulations.

Key Responsibilities Develop an annual calendar by creating a comprehensive schedule of events for the year.

Key Responsibilities Prepare and issue official invitation letters and send to umpires for all table tennis events.

Event Preparation Conduct site inspections to assess venues for accessibility; prepare and publish a prospectus and entry forms as well as invitation letters for match officials. Also, nominate and appoint Umpires and Referee teams, as well as a Competition Manager; release to member associations all necessary event documents.

Co-operation with ITTF Umpires and Referees Committee Collaborate closely with the ITTF Umpires and Referees Committee (URC) to nominate the referee team and foreign match officials for all events.

Bids for Major Events Prepare documents, organise virtual inspections and reports. Maintain open and effective communication with the Para Table Tennis Committee to align event planning with their objectives; receive and analyse reports from the Committee, taking necessary action based on their recommendations. Organise, Collaboration and Future Improvement Collaborate with event organisers to gather feedback and insights; use feedback to identify areas for improvement at future events. Also, implement necessary changes to enhance the quality of events. Team Co-ordination Work closely with a dedicated team to ensure all aspects of event management are executed effectively usually with the event Competition Manager. Documentation and Reporting Maintain comprehensive records of event planning and execution. Generate reports on event outcomes, gain feedback. Continuous Self-Improvement Stay updated. Attend workshops or training to enhance skills and knowledge for my role.

Publication of Invitations and Nominations Ensure that the invitations and nominations for umpires and match officials are promptly published and shared with all relevant stakeholders. Umpire Allocation Work in tandem with event organisers to guarantee that each event has an adequate number of qualified umpires. Financial Management Ensure umpires receive their daily allowances and any other expenses as per established guidelines. Communication and Updates Keep umpires informed about any changes or updates, especially regarding the World Table Tennis handbook and any event-specific regulations. Participation in Projects and Discussions Actively engage in projects and discussions related to rules, regulations, event improvements, and sustainability in the field of table tennis officiating. Referee Duties Fulfill the role of Referee in all major WTT events. Documentation and Reporting Maintain comprehensive records of umpire participation and event-specific reports.


Training and Development Support the ongoing training and development of umpires and match officials to improve their skills and knowledge.

1990: National Umpire 2000: International Umpire, National Referee 2003: International Referee 2018: International Referee Advanced 2022: Professional Referee

Continual Improvement: Seek opportunities for continual improvement in the management and co-ordination of umpires and match officials in table tennis events. January 2024 SWAYTHLING 73

TOTAL BODY WALKING by Miran Kondrič, Chair ITTF Sports Science & Medical Committee and Gordana Furjan Mandić, University of Zagreb, Faculty of Kinesiology

Have you ever tried to lose a few pounds by walking but found you have not lost a gram? Despite your enthusiasm you are extremely disappointed when you realise you have not achieved the set goal. If your response is yes, you are not alone. Even experts involved in the physical preparation of athletes came across similar scenarios before finding the right path. I was disappointed when I felt even fatter one day after low-calorie foods, a prescribed diet and a 30-minute walk. What was actually happening?

any senior people worldwide place walking as their primary "sport". Planned walking strengthens the cardiovascular system, burns large numbers of calories and, after all, is safer than any other sport. Walking has the potential to improve both mental and physical health.


I love walking and with all due respect to other "aerobic" sports, I believe that an individual should do what they believe may contribute to weight loss and health improvement. Therefore, I decided to check how to lower my body weight and strengthen my cardiovascular system by walking, a plan in line with my aerobic abilities. First, many hours were devoted to reading specialised literature and finding the right way to start. The first step is to visit a doctor or an appropriate institution in order to understand the composition of the body. For every extra kilo of weight, muscles need more oxygen; thus, the heart beats faster.

LEFT Professor Miran Kondric and Bojan Tokic. RIGHT The 2005 Slovenian University Demo Team at the start of a table tennis promotion. Back row Uroš Slatinšek, Helena Halas, Bojan Tokić, Bojan Ropoša. Front row Tonček Ropoša, Jure Koščak, Martina Safran.

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Walking is safer than running, depending on the mileage accumulated, you can burn more calories than when running; walking, we

must always stay on the ground with one foot. Thus, with each step, we hit the ground with a force corresponding to the weight of our body, a "soft landing", there is no damage to muscle tissue or joints. However, when running, the situation is entirely different. There is a split second when both legs are in the air, when landing, the force is equal to three times the body's weight. The "hard landing" means muscles and joints are subjected to more stress than when walking; there is microdamage to muscle tissue. The runner burns, on average, be-

tween 70 and 120 calories whether running slowly or quickly. Depending on your weight, speed and terrain, this number will vary; if you weigh more, you will burn extra calories because it takes more energy to move your body. The picture is different when walking. The faster we walk, the higher the calorie consumption. At 4.8 kilometres per hour, we consume 35 calories per kilometre; if the velocity increases to eight kilometres per hour, consumption rises to 80 calories. Why do these differences occur? Regardless of running speed, the body's posture does not change, the hips are tilted forward, the arms u

The effect generated by movement of our heart rate can be summarised in the formula: work is equal to power times distance. At about one kilogram of extra weight, slow walking increases heart rate by one beat per minute, the lungs absorb half a litre of air. So, at 10 kilograms of excess weight, the heartbeat increases by 10 strokes, simultaneously, the lungs require an additional five litres of air. Therefore, such an overload (10 kilograms), means walking 1,500 metres is one to two minutes slower.

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move only slightly. Conversely, when walking at pace, the hips turn, the hands increase movement amplitude; with this increase in movement calorie consumption rises. The use of poles when walking In addition to classic walking, using poles is very popular worldwide. Many confuse the concepts: walking with poles and Nordic walking. Pole walking is performed in classic hiking (including telescopic poles) or ski poles. Differently, for Nordic walking, special poles are needed to facilitate a correct walking technique. Hiking or trekking poles do not allow the user to push away from the pole, an essential feature of Nordic walking. Hiking poles only serve for balance and security, especially on uneven terrain. The most significant difference when comparing the two walking techniques is felt in the activation of the upper body and arms. Research by Finnish scientists shows that Nordic walking increases the load on the body by as much as 40 per cent. Many muscles or muscle groups are activated, unlike classic walking with poles. In Nordic walking, we direct the force of push to the pole and thus push from one leg to another. We push away not from the pole but from the strap. The strap is the most essential part of the Nordic walking pole, it must be reliable. The force directed towards the pole enables the contraction of the shoulder girdle, abdomen, back and arm muscles, thus creating a complete workout. Thus, the extra work the upper body, including the hands, completes means 30 to 70 per cent more calories will be burnt than with classic walking without poles. The more muscles we incorporate, the more active the body, in this way, the exercise will also be more effective, regardless of whether we have set the goal of reducing body weight or improving functional abilities. 76 SWAYTHLING January 2024

Importantly, the use of poles in Nordic walking increases heart rate, making it easier to reach the level at which fat melts; undoubtedly, this is easier when walking with the use of poles. So, what's the best thing about Nordic walking? Although our body works harder, it is easier! Also, results will be noticeable much earlier than with classic walking or walking with poles. Better results come mainly due to strength training when using poles; with the load on the muscles, metabolism increases. Researchers at the University of New Mexico estimate that muscle tissue contributes approximately 20 per cent of total daily calories burned versus five per cent for fat tissue (for individuals with about 20 per cent body fat). It is essential to raise the load level and involve as many muscles as possible to reduce the proportion of subcutaneous fat in our body. Fat won't help melt fat in your body, muscles will! Nordic walking Why did I choose Nordic walking? I'm not an endurance athlete by nature, so I've always had trouble regulating my heart rate in the fat-burning zone (aerobic level). In addition, after each long run, there was this unpleasant pain in the joints and back, this reduced my motivation to run. Since I am also a keen table tennis player and coach, I realised the value of Nordic walking in the physical preparation of a table tennis player. To improve aerobic abilities, it is necessary to raise the load on exercise so that the heart rate remains at the same level; when walking, we should speed up our steps. The diligent accumulation of kilometres with poles in hand, and much pleasure derived from being able to breathe the fresh air of nature, soon bore fruit. Not only has there been an improvement of aerobic abilities but also the musculature of the upper body became more pronounced. An even bigger surprise was my stomach, it suddenly became flatter. I could never have imagined that abdominal musculature could also be developed when walking with poles; yet it was!

NORDIC WALKING FACING Gordana Furjan Mandić employing the Nordic walking technique. LEFT Bojan Tokic and Zoran Primorac are both advocates of Nordic walking.

The advantage of Nordic walking over other forms of exercise is you work out in fresh air and use relatively inexpensive equipment. Therefore, I highly recommend this form of recreational activity to anyone who wishes to improve their aerobic abilities and, at the same time, enjoy the outdoors. However, it should be noted that exercise should be undertaken gradually. Understandably, an individual may desire to achieve the best possible results in the shortest possible time. It must be remembered that injuries from a wrong and inappropriate exercise procedure may have serious consequences. It is essential that warm-up and stretching are mandatory components of any training unit. After walking with poles, it is recommended to perform stretching for all major muscle groups. Residents of Scandinavian countries stress the value of movement in nature and the fresh air. They choose diverse terrain for practice in addition to flat terrain; this form of exercise requires slightly better physical fitness from the individual. At the same time, in addition to the correct technique, the trainee must have other motor skills (co-ordination and balance). However, by adapting a programme relevant to the terrain, the concept is suitable for all age groups. Even those slightly older will quickly adapt the workout to their abilities. Adjusting the intensity and volume of the load, trainees may gauge the effects by using heart rate monitors; this is most important for patients with heart concerns who need to monitor their heart function closely and do not want to give up sports exercise. Although the burden of Nordic walking with poles is dictated by the pace of walking and terrain, it is advisable to undergo a systematic medical examination by a doctor involved in sports medicine. Therefore, walking will be safe on any terrain, functional abilities will be im-

proved, essential muscle groups will be strengthened. Added benefit of Nordic walking Nordic walking is an ideal form of exercise in rehabilitating joints (ankle, knee and hips), as the rods assume part of lower body pressure. Also, it is an excellent opportunity to help individuals who experience joint pain. If avoiding walking because everything was painful; try Nordic walking. You will be surprised how much less pressure your lower torso endures. Also, posture becomes straighter after exercise; older people, in particular, find poles provide better stability and enable balance to be maintained, especially on uneven terrain. Nordic walking with poles is suitable for recreation and fitness of athletes of all sports genres; this form of exercise is highly recommended for both rehabilitating athletes and recreational athletes. Depending on the goal of rehabilitation, loads can be gradually dosed, the rods giving valuable body support. Research results by Finnish scientists show that with this exercise, one can raise the heart rate by five to 17 strokes. Employing steady walking, heart rate ranges at about 130 beats per minute, with Nordic walking it is 147 strokes; this represents as much as a 13 per cent load increase. Furthermore, compared to classic walking, calorie consumption increases from 20 per cent to 45 per cent. It strengthens the musculature of the forearm and shoulder girdle, as well as abdominal, thoracic and back musculature. Also, the ankle and knee joints are protected, the load on the knee joints is reduced for those overweight. Furthermore, by using poles, the chance of sliding is reduced; thus, safety on uneven terrain is increased. Reasons for engaging in Nordic walking are more than enough; enjoy! January 2024 SWAYTHLING 77

New Premises for Singapore


lavish ceremony on Friday 17th November signalled a new era for the Singapore Table Tennis Association; a new headquarters alongside a stateof-the art training hall was declared open, the address: 5 Stadium Drive, OCBC Arena, B2 (Hall 6) Singapore 397631. Notably present for the occasion was Poh Li San, the President of the Singapore Table Tennis Association and Member of Parliament, alongside Eric Chua, Senior Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Culture. Earlier, on Saturday 28th October, there had been time to reflect. Members of the media attended a “Walk to Remember” at the premises in Toa Payoh. The original hall was constructed in 1985, its expansion successfully completed during the last week of 1999, just in time for the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships held in the first week of 2000.

TOP LEFT Applause from Poh Li San, the President of the Singapore Table Tennis Association and Eric Chua, Senior Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Culture. TOP RIGHT The dragons dance to bring good luck. LOWER All smiles at the opening ceremony.

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Signed in


1950 ollected by the late Berni Vossebein, now in the extensive collection of Günther Angenendt, the signatures were all gained in 1950.


The autographs include:


Austria Alfred Leibster, Trude Pritzi, Linde Wertl England Victor Barna, Richard Bergmann, Ron Crayden, Eileen Grimstone, Johnny Leach, Diane Rowe, Rosalind Rowe, Sheila Smith France Guy Amouretti, Alojzy Ehrlich, Michel Haguenauer, Michel Lanskoy, René Roothooft Germany Heinz Raack, Karl Eckard, Edith Schmidt Scotland Helen Elliot Sweden Carl-Göran Brandel, Inga Brehmer, Åke Eldh, Tor Jonsson, Liss Larsson, Bo Malmquist, Lars “Lasse” Pettersson, Karl Albert Rabén, Signhild Tegner United States Marty Reisman Yugoslavia Žarko Dolinar, Vilim Harangozo, Josip Vogrinc

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Major Events in Pictures

World Table Tennis for Health Festiva Wednesday 1st - Sunday 5th November Crete, Greece

ITTF World Youth Championships Sunday 26th November - Sunday 3rd December Nova Gorica, Slovenia

ITTF Mixed Teams World Cup Monday 4th - Sunday 10th December Chengdu, China

WTT Finals Women Friday 15th - Sunday 17th December Nagoya, Japan 82 SWAYTHLING January 2024



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World Table Tennis for Health Festival Personalities TOP LEFT Xenia Stathi, Secretary General of the Hellenic Table Tennis Federation welcomes all to the Congress. TOP RIGHT Petra Sörling, ITTF President, addresses those present at the Congress. BELOW LEFT Jens Greve left and right Maik Gühmann with Petra Sörling. Jens Greve created Yuvedo, a foundation seeking a cure for Parkinson’s. Also, he was chair of the local organising committee for the 2021 Parkinson’s World Championships staged in Berlin. Maik Gühmann, requiring a wheelchair, visited the United States for treatment; an electric device was implanted in his brain which enabled him to walk. Furthermore, he became a World champion. However, from time to time he falls on his knees, recovers and continues to play. He was featured on national television.

>> German television BELOW RIGHT Naseema Parak left and right Rajesh Nanjee alongside Petra Sörling and Leandro Olvech (Director - ITTF Foundation). During the ITTF World Championships Finals in Durban 2023, following the policy of creating a legacy, Naseema Parak and Rajesh Nanjee received support to attend proceedings in Crete.

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World Table Tennis for Health Festival Medallists- Men’s & Women’s Singles

TOP Parkinson’s Men’s Singles Class 1 Men’s Singles Class 2 CENTRE Parkinson’s Men’s Singles Class 3 Men’s Singles Open Women’s Singles Class 1 Alzheimer's Men’s Singles Women’s Singles LOWER Parkinson’s Women’s Singles Class 2 Alzheimer's Men’s Singles Women

>> Articles & Results

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World Table Tennis for Health Festival Medallists - Men’s, Women’s & Mixed Doubles TOP Parkinson’s Men’s Doubles Class 2-3 Men’s Doubles Class 4 CENTRE Parkinson’s Men’s Doubles 5-6 Women’s Doubles LOWER Parkinson’s Mixed Doubles Class 2-3 Mixed Doubles Class 4-5

>> Articles & Results

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ITTF World Youth Championships Under 19 Star Names TOP ROW Lin Shidong gold: boys’ singles gold: boys’ team gold: boys’ doubles (Wen Ruibo) gold: mixed doubles (Kuai Man) Wen Ruibo gold: boys’ team gold: boys’ doubles (Lin Shidong) silver: boys’ singles Kao Cheng-Jui bronze: boys’ singles Eduard Ionescu bronze: boys’ singles bronze: boys’ team BOTTOM ROW Kuai Man gold: girls’ singles gold: girls’ team gold: girls’ doubles (Xu Yi) gold: mixed doubles (Lin Shidong) Elena Zaharia silver: girls’ singles bronze: girls’ team Xu Yi gold: girls’ team gold: girls’ doubles (Kuai Man) bronze: girls’ singles Annett Kaufmann silver: girls’ doubles (Anna Hursey) silver: mixed doubles (Izaac Quek) bronze: women’s singles

>> Articles & Results

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ITTF World Youth Championships Under 15 Star Names TOP ROW Sun Yang gold: boys’ singles gold: boys team silver: mixed doubles (Yan Yutong) above Tomito Watanabe gold: mixed doubles (Yuna Ojio) silver: boys’ singles bronze: boys’ team below Tiago Abiodun bronze: boys’ singles Wang Jixuan gold: boys’ team bronze: boys’ singles Hsu Hsien-Chia and Kuo Guan-Hong gold: boys’ doubles silver: boys’ team Kuo Guan-Hong won mixed doubles bronze (Wu Jia-En) Yuna Ojio gold: girls’ singles gold: girls’ team gold: girls’ doubles (Mao Takamori) gold: mixed doubles (Tamito Watanabe) Yoo Yerin silver: girls’ singles bronze: girls’ team Yan Yutong silver: girls’ team, silver: mixed doubles (Sun Yang) bronze: girls’ singles Wu Jia-En bronze: girls’ singles bronze: mixed doubles (Kuo Guan-Hong)

>> Articles & Results

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ITTF Mixed Team World Cup - Top Eight TOP ROW China Winners above An Jaehyun 2nd: Korea Republic below Miwa Harimoto & Shunsuke Togami 3rd: Japan Anton Källberg 4th: Sweden

BOTTOM ROW Alexis Lebrun 5th: France Sabine Winter & Shan Xiaona 6th: Germany above Yeh Chih-Wei 7th: Chinese Taipei below Barbora Balazova 8th Slovakia

>> Articles & Results

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WTT Finals - WOMEN

WTT Finals Women Medallists LEFT Sun Yingsha gold: singles gold: doubles (Wang Manyu) TOP ROW Wang Yidi silver: singles bronze: doubles (Chen Meng) Chen Meng bronze: singles bronze: doubles (Wang Yidi) Wang Manyu last 8: singles gold: doubles (Sun Yingsha) BOTTOM ROW Chen Xingtong bronze: singles above Miyu Nagasaki & Miyuu Kihara silver: doubles below Li Yu-Jhun & Cheng I-Ching bronze: doubles

>> Articles & Results

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