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2005 Table Tennis Review

Table Tennis Highlights

Who would deserve the `Team of the Year’ award and which player gave the `Performance of the Year’ for 2005?

Certainly there is no denying the achievements of China and the splendid efforts of their superb players; at the Volkswagen 48th World Championships in Shanghai, they won every title on offer and quite simply you can’t do any better!

However, the player to attract the attention in Shanghai was Michael MAZE. He recovered from the precipice of defeat to gain a bronze medal in the Men’s Singles event, whilst one month earlier at the Liebherr European Championships MAZE had once again been involved in match where defeat seemed the more likely option but victory was the end result; the final of the Men’s Team event.

Photo: Michael MAZE stole the show in Shanghai. He has been voted Denmark's `Athlete of the Year 2005'.

`Team of the Year’ and `Performance of the Year’, may I recommend Denmark?

Recoveries
In the final of the Men’s Team event at the Liebherr European Championships in Aarhus, Denmark trailed Austria by two matches to nil and Finn TUGWELL was down, two games to one against Robert GARDOS. TUGWELL recovered and won, MAZE then beat the man who at the time was the reigning World champion, Werner SCHLAGER; he won in five games and then Allan BENTSEN overcame CHEN Weixing, for only the second time in his career, to secure victory.

Meanwhile, in Shanghai, the following month, MAZE beat China’s WANG Hao in the last sixteen of the Men’s Singles and then saved match points, one on his knees, in the fourth game of his quarter-final duel against HAO Shuai, before securing victory.

Enthused the Sponsor
It was an incredible performance; moreover it was what the sponsor, Volkswagen, wanted to see.

MAZE was back against the court surrounds; lobbing the ball with varying degrees of spin from the nether regions of the court; then on occasions exploding with a fierce forehand topspin. It was athletic sport, it was entertainment and the crowd responded to his efforts. The way MAZE played is printed indelibly in the memory of Philipp KAN, the Manager of Sponsoring Activities for Volkswagen China; when I meet Philipp he often refers to the way MAZE played in Shanghai, he was entertained; it was pure theatre.

Pride
The Danes can be proud of their achievements and one man who takes great pleasure in looking back over the last two years is Arne MADSEN, the chair of the ITTF Media Committee. “In 1987 the late Ichiro OGIMURA, who was the ITTF President at the time, visited the Danish Table Tennis Union”, he said. “He asked if Denmark could ever produce players who could win medals in Olympic, World or Continental Championships.” It was a question that easy to answer as Arne MADSEN explained. “It was a resounding no!”

A quite understandable response and I suspect prior to the twenty-first century the nearest Denmark had ever come to boasting a major champion was in the efforts of Claus PEDERSEN. At the 8th World Veterans’ Championships in Lillehammer in 1996 he lost 20-22 in the decisive final game of the Over 40 Men’s Singles to Germany’s LI Yuxiang but did gain gold when he partnered the latter to victory in the Over 40 Men’s Doubles.

Different
However, in the twenty-first century life is very different. “Times have changed”, explained Arne MADSEN. “In 2004 Michael MAZE and Finn TUGWELL won bronze in the Men’s Doubles event at the Athens Olympic Games, in 2005 the Danish team won gold on home ground at the Liebherr European Championships and also Michael MAZE won the bronze medal in Men’s Singles event in Shanghai!”

Had the words “Could Denmark ever produce players who could win medals in Olympic, World or Continental Championships” been asked two decades later the answer was a resounding `Yes’!”

Also, let’s not forget the efforts of Martin MONRAD, he reached the semi-finals of the Men’s Singles event at the Liebherr U.S. Open in 2005 and alongside Michael MAZE, Allan BENTSEN and Finn TUGWELL has helped promote table tennis enormously in Denmark in the past eighteen months.

Athlete of the Year
“Memberships at Danish clubs have increased by eighteen per cent”, continued Arne MADSEN. “Also, at `Big Sport 2005’ show on national television, Michael MAZE was voted the `Best Athlete of the Year’ for his achievements at the Liebherr European Championships and the Volkswagen World Championships.”

The award was first made in 1930 and it is the most prestigious of all in Denmark; the leading forty athletes in Denmark make the nominations and MAZE finished ahead of Michael RASMUSSEN, Tour de France cyclist and Tom KRISTENSEN, winner of the Le Mans 24 hour car race.

“Over one million people watched the show”, explained Arne MADSEN. “That’s twenty per cent of the population watched a show where table tennis played a major role!”

Further Award
Also, there were further honours for table tennis in Denmark. The Danish Ministry for Culture and Sport has created a new award in 2005 for `Special Effort in the Danish or International Sports’ World’. The award is a painting and 200,000 Danish krone (US $ 30,000).

“The inaugural award has been made to the Danish Table Tennis Association for their international success that started fifteen years and also for having increased the numbers playing table tennis”, explained Arne MADSEN. “The Minister of Sport presented the prize to the Vice President of the Danish Table Tennis Union, LIS HÆVDHOLM.

Reality
A great achievement for Denmark, coach Peter SARTZ he can reflect on a job well done.

Twenty years ago the concept of Denmark having medal winners at Olympic, World and Continental Championships was a dream, the dream has now come true, it is reality, stark reality.

Denmark Table Tennis Team
The Danish team celebrates after winning the Men’s Team event at the Liebherr European Championships in late March 2005.

Source: ITTF


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