Happy Birthday Waldner
Table tennis legend is 40
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Monday 3rd October 2005 was his fortieth birthday, he stands 1.78m tall, he was born in Hägersten, a suburb of Stockholm.
He started to play table tennis at the age six with his elder brother at the Sparvagen Club and very soon the elder brother realised that he had a very special sibling.
He is a legend in his own lifetime.
In the eyes of many, he is the greatest table tennis player of all time; the innovator, the man for the big occasion and a player whose successes have become legendary beyond the boundaries of the table tennis world.
The elder brother is Kjell-Äke; the younger brother is Jan-Ove; you can deduce the surname!
Everywhere he plays, win or lose, the crowds adore him. Nowhere was this more so than at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 when he reached the semi-final stage of the Men's Singles event. Many had written him off, he had been plagued by injury and one year earlier at the Liebherr World Championships in Paris he had lost in the opening round of the Men's Singles event.
In Athens he stole the show, he didn't win a medal but I suspect if I ask those who were present at the Olympic Games in August 2004 to recall their most outstanding memory of the events in the Galatsi Stadium, then top of the list would be the incredible efforts of Jan-Ove WALDNER.
WALDNER is in many ways like the tennis star for whom he has the utmost respect, Bjorn BORG; an ice cool front but an burning inner desire to succeed; he revels in the big occasion, he is one of those very special sporting personalities who is at his best when the tension mounts.
Spectators worldwide have gasped in amazement at his incredible skills and his fellow players hold him in the very highest esteem. Ask an international male player for their greatest ever win and often the answer will be Jan-Ove WALDNER; he's human, he's lost some matches but no-one has won the incredible array of titles he has secured. Also, ask the question to any player, male or female: which player do you most admire and one player's name is uttered more than any other, Jan-Ove WALDNER.
He is the one man who has perhaps designed more ways to win a point in a table tennis match than any other; `Expect the Unexpected', perhaps sums up his skills on the table tennis table, he is intuitive but also he prepares well, he appreciates the situation. He may not be the most verbose character the sporting world has ever seen; in fact, he is quite reserved but when he speaks take note.
At the Volkswagen Open Korea in May 2004, some three months before the Olympic Games in Athens, he had to withdraw after the second game of his second round match against WANG Hao. He was well aware that aggravating an injury could well affect his preparations for Athens and believed that discretion was the better part of valour. I asked him how he felt about the forthcoming Olympics, the thoughtful reply was that the Olympics was the one tournament in which he believed he could do well as he would only be required to play one match per day.
Time proved him right.
The list of successes is endless; he has graced the table tennis arenas of the world during four decades from being the Swedish Under 11 Boys Singles champion in 1976 to the man who stole the show in Athens in the twenty-first century.
He is a very special player and if you know nothing about table tennis he's the man who will catch your eye. Olga GOULI was the Greek Announcer in the Galatsi Olympic Stadium in August 2004. She had applied to work there as the Rhythmic Gymnastics, in which she was particularly interested, followed the table tennis competition.
She had never been to an international table tennis tournament in her life; on the evening of Wednesday 18th August she turned to me and said: `That man in the yellow shirt is very good isn't he?' Correct, the man in the yellow shirt is very good indeed and was on his way to beating MA Lin, it was a match to remember.
Quite simply Jan-Ove WALDNER oozes class, he has that very special talent, crowds worldwide have enjoyed watching him execute his amazing skills for many years; he is a very special sporting personality and today it's his day.
Happy Birthday, Jan-Ove WALDNER!
Image: WALDNER & Mikael APPELGREN
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