Male Top Players in the wonderful world of international table tennis. To you I say; Be Aware – Be Prepared – the next one is coming. His name is Fan ZHENDONG , Born in China in the year of the Ox 1997. And you know what, the first look in Hyderabad at the Volkswagen World Junior Championships, indicated that this young man certainly can carry the heavy load – drag the wagon so to speak. Feng won three gold medals in total and is by now in two international junior appearances against the toughest possible junior opponents undefeated in sixteen straight matches.
Watching him play in India was nothing short of a true delight. Fan is a physical specimen like no other table tennis player I have seen. His moving in the court is superior and so far it is hard to find one single weak spot in his game.. Attack him to the pocket and he is there.. Challenge his backhand side and you get punished – go deep forehand and there he is picking up the rally with perfect balance. He can play close to the table and far away as well. This is the total package – and not far away from top twenty world class action already now.
Ops… – almost forgot another super important thing.. He is calm, collected and seemed from an outside look to be a very coachable player. But then again who wouldn’t pay attention when one of true heroes of Chinese table tennis; Liu GUOZHENG speaks to you. To me, these two seemed to be on a mission together representing the lethal combination of a young player working in perfect sync with his freshly promoted coach. I smell success – quick success and a serious challenge for the top of the world sooner ( Paris already ?) rather than later.. There is a storm of great proportion around the corner for our elite male players – no doubt about that.
By the way.. Here is a clip with Liu GUOZHENG performing his heroics in Osaka 2001 when he saved seven match points against Kim Teak SOO in the men’s team semifinal. Clearly the best and most dramatic match I have ever seen live;
And now ladies and gents – in the wee hours of the year of the Dragon (2012) , to paraphrase the Monty Pythons ; ..On to something completely different ; The ITTF Education and Training Department 2012 top ten happenings in the wonderful world of table tennis . All contributions have in one way or another educational twist of course.
1. Standing Tall for YOUR Team
Remember Dortmund and the stand up style of coaching employed by all the top Asian teams – men and women. Brilliant idea really, young players coaching old players creating an active and focused bench. Learning to participate on the go calling for team unity. Players paying the ultimate respect to their coach – all good things and what an important contribution to the team event itself – an art of competition that seems to draw less and less interest in these days of ultra individualism.
2. Finally Talking
It’s nice to see how effective international programs like the ITTF Hopes and the brilliantly crafted ITTF Hotspot Network can be – and if it moves the grounds you are walking – then allow yourself a smaller celebration. So let’s raise a glass of your chosen liquid to celebrate that things finally are moving for Table Tennis in North America. ITTF Hopes have revealed some tremendous young talents with the American Kanak JHA, 12 being the most appealing of them all – Kunal CHODRI i is another one.. Crystal Wang coming next and north of the border the eleven year old lefthander Jeremy HAZIN is starting to turn some heads. The lineup of well coached talents in North America is long and well supported by parents who now is starting to demand change and improved opportunities. Let’s support – Let’s work hard – Let’s make a move. Our sport needs a breakthrough in North America.
3. The new Queen takes the throne
It was interesting to see how it all played out in the end. There was some drama, as it always is around December time with the USA Junior Girls team. When Ariel HSING – the highest ranked opted to do other things than to play for her national team in Hyderabad – and Erica WU also declined participation it was up to sixteen year old Lily ZHANG to lead a very young US team into battle.. And what an uplifting result her appearance in the end spurred. Supported by a promising performance from Prachi JHA, the USA came ever so close to a medal in the team event. Lily then went on to play an outstanding series of matches in the singles event before falling in the quarterfinal. Saving the best to last –returning home directly to the US National championships she took the US Women’s singles title for the first time.
4. Adham SHARARA puts a scare in the Rock-star from Utuad0
Adriana DIAZ the twelve year old from Puerto Rico is one of these future rock stars of our sport that at an early age knows how to please a crowd. Back on October she took the city of Markham by storm during the Scotiabank Canadian Junior Open event. Adriana went on a tear from the first day of competition and finally found herself playing center court – TV produced Table Tennis on the Sunday. Just before the start of the final match the ITTF President was escorted through the venue and took his seat close to the court. For whatever reason young Diaz got scared and didn’t put many balls on the table in the first game before finally pulling off a nail biter and winning the cadet singles event four years too early.. Why the lousy start? – “Well I saw ITTF President coming into the hall and I got nervous – I couldn’t lose the match in front of him “Adriana admitted.
5. The Boys that can fill the stadium – The Healers in action
Here is the list of the “Healers” competing in Hyderabad. https://elevenpoints.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/dream-it-book-it-live-it/
We need players that can fill the stadium/s – draw a crowd to our venues and to our event. I did see Yuto MURAMATSU competing tired and off his game in the team event – but the tall lanky defender came to play in singles event and was the only player strong enough to put any kind of pressure on Fan ZHENDONG.
6. On Guard – The Coach is speaking
It was interesting to follow the work of newly appointed Chinese Junior National? Team coach Liu GUOZHENG in Hyderabad. He was focused and engaged and gave a good lesson in sweeping gesturing style of coaching between games and during time-outs.. Players they stood on guard – The coach is speaking! Not the same respect is shown for the coaching trade by athletes in Europe – and for sure this is one of the reasons that actually are holding back solid development. It’s good to have ideas – it is even better to share them with your coach and find solid ground – together!!
7. The One Stop Shop for ITTF Development
The ITTF Education Department is no longer the independent source of free flowing ideas and action. In the new structure we are tied up with the ITTF Development Program in what is now a one stop development shop for national associations to shop loose in. This is a good move by the ITTF – it is easier and our offerings will be streamlined with continental initiatives … But watch-out. No more free gifts and steady discounts for direct players’ development. The director is new; she is a female and much smarter than the previous old geezer running the show. And with The Deputy CEO of the ITTF Mr Glenn Tepper guarding the cash register national associations and other clients are now going to be asked to show the cash before leaving the store.
8. The Son of a “Butcher – Man” showing his trade.
What an uplifting and inspiring coaching clinic he put on ; Richard Prause , former German National Team coach and now head coach at the WSA center in Schwechat , when working the floor at the 2012 World Cadet Challenge in Guam . Good thing that the long line of butchers in the Prause family finally let him pursue his passion – Table Tennis.
9. The Next Step
The next step for the so far sparsely funded ITTF Hot Spot Training Center network is for the centers to become more actively involved in the ITTF Global Junior Circuit by offering up team play opportunities for their clients ; national associations and NOC;s. The first experiment along those lines didn’t fail much with the WSA Team travelling to the Serbian Junior Open with great success back in October. More of the same; Please! We need to have more skillful players on the field for the benefit of young talents seeking recognition.
10. The Wall of Pride
In the last few years the ITTF World Cadet Challenge has sailed up as one of the finest event on the ITTF calendar. It was nothing short of amazing to see the two events held this year .. The 2011 version awarded to San Juan Puerto Rico and the 2012 event in Guam. Both islands US territories and similar governance made it interesting to compare .. But with our very own competition wizard ; Senor Raul Calin involved – what can go wrong these days. ? Put Raul together with committed organizers – and you will nail the perfect event in Table Tennis.
11. Keeping the spelling bee alive
In a few minutes – yeah we are keeping it tight this time, the New Year will begin ticking and the old general Mr Andersson will have to learn to spell another title added to his name in the ITTF circles. Out with Executive Director of Education and Training and in with… S-E-N-I-O-R ( On my way to retirement ?) Consultant for Education and Development. One comment on my new title and line of duty so far. It was the president of the Latin American Union Mr Oswaldo “Papillon “ Borges sending me a few words of wisdom. “Papillion” has been involved in table tennis for a long time – but if it is one thing he would know from many years in Hugo CHAVES land; Venezuela – it is something starting with P and finishing with an S.
To Presidents – Generals – Colleagues – Officials – Foot soldiers – Friends and Enemies alike;
I wish you a Very Happy New Year and good fortunes in Table Tennis