I for one thought that he should have left his yellow and blue playing shirt in the court that day in Beijing 2008. Would have been a worthy exit for one of the greatest players this game ever seen.
But, Jorgen Persson 43, never found the exit out. Maybe he never will. For a while he tried coaching in the Gulf area, a test of patience that surely came to early in his life. Unfinished business at the table brought him to come back, I think, very much fueled by the weak development of quality players in Europe at the time (read 2007). And in all fairness to Jorgen, not much have changed on the European scene in the last three years, or in the world perhaps?. Jorgen is still parked comfortably at spot 28 on the latest ITTF World Ranking list, a position that today would make him directly qualified for the London 2012 games.
So why would he be scared to , dare I say, be embarrassed two years from now on the big stage, in his potentially seventh Olympic Games,?
I met Jorgen two weeks ago in Halmstad, Sweden for a quick breakfast. We talked about things to do, the near future and his engagement in the 2010 Hello Future Conference in Barcelona. Sure I can come to Barcelona he said and also revealed his plans to go for London.
Was I surprised? Not really. Can I understand that it is hard to make a clean exit from the game? Sure I can. To keep playing, if your body says OK is maybe the smoothest life solution for a player that always, or at least often, been there to please others more than himself. The word NO doesn’t come that easy for Jorgen Persson. But again, who am I to blame any YES- sayer? We need more of those in our sport for sure.
Few players in the world do carry the same solid fundamentals as Jorgen Persson. His success in Beijing came from the simple basics; return well, put the ball on the table and take it from there. But what I admired the most with the run to Beijing 2008, was his ability to prepare well. It didn’t take long for reports to come out that Jorgen outplayed and outperformed most of his European competitors at the joint training camps that summer. Been there, done that, I know what it is all about.
Must admit that I had a couple of tears in my eyes when I watched the semifinal vs. Wang Hao and the bronze medal match vs. Wang Liquin in Beijing. Could of course been that my first, long overdue Olympic experience, touched my heart in the very deepest way. But, I also saw what was evident that day. Here he was – a clear, well prepared mind ready to do the job, but with a body that from a timing point of view, couldn’t respond to the final test, work that hundred of a second respond time needed against the best players in the world.
I for one thought that day. YES – a Jorgen Persson in his prime form, ten years younger could have done it. He would have played his percentages, like he did, and taken down the Chinese in their own backyard.
The lesson to learn from the Jorgen Persson we saw in Beijing is clear to me.
Here we are, these days focused on changing the world order in our sport more by regulation, rather than by producing excellence. Can it be that hard we instead have to spend energy on producing athletes ready to learn the game, practice hard, fine tune skills and muster a mental edge strong enough to threaten even the most powerful Chinese super stars.
Unless sacrifices are made, efforts increased, coaching developed, strategies found, the results will remain the same.
Who are we to blame the best for being the best ?!
Good luck my friend. Not sure you will make it. But I for one will follow you journey with great interest!