I played in the Worlds Veterans Championships in Las Vegas yesterday which is the biggest table-tennis event in the world. It features 4,000 players from all corners of the world playing in age categories 40 and up separated by gender and by age groups every 5 years in both singles and doubles. Since I just turned 40 this year, I was eligible to play the 40-44 singles. I was initially planning to play doubles too but decided not to as I am in the middle of summer camps and don’t want to miss too many days of coaching. I have been injured recently and haven’t practiced at all but wanted to play anyway.
I flew Monday night to Las Vegas to play my group on Tuesday, then flew back Tuesday night to attend my summer camps today. In my singles group were players from Hungary, Germany, and Japan. The Hungarian player was formerly #2 in cadet boys in Hungary before injuries halted his serious training for 2-3 years. He plays currently in the top Hungarian league and is about 50-50 in wins and losses. I lost a close 3-2 match. The German player was from the city I lived in for 3 months in 1995 so it was a nice surprise. The Japanese player lived in Seattle for some time before living in Japan now. I defeated the German and Japanese players both 3-0 to finish 2nd in my group and advance to the knockout stage on Thursday.
Pictured here with former World #1, 5-time World Champion, and 7-time Olympian Jorgen Persson 25 years back in Sweden and this week.
I met and chatted some with 5-time World Champion Jorgen Persson from Sweden. I have been to Sweden 6 times (each time 1-3 months) including Falkenberg multiple times which is where Persson often played. Persson’s primary coach throughout his career was 3-time World Champion Stellan Bengtsson who also coached and helped me a good amount during my visits there. I have been in the same training group as Persson and have played with his World Champion and Falkenberg teammates but never got the chance to play with him.
Another famous player to attend the Worlds Veterans is World and European Champion and 2-time Olympic medalist Jorg Rosskopf of Germany. He is the current German national team coach of recent World #1s Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Germany is arguably China’s biggest threat. I got to snap the picture below during the Atlanta Olympics moments after he received his singles bronze medal while he was signing autographs. I was volunteering during the Atlanta Olympics doing stats and scorekeeping and was lucky to work courtside his quarterfinal match with Korea’s Kim Taek Soo. It ended 26-24 in the 5th and was the first time Rosskopf had beaten Kim. I couldn’t stop shaking halfway through the 5th game and is still the most exciting match I’ve ever seen. The Atlanta crowd gave a standing ovation at the end of the match.