The World Team Championships are going on right now in Halmstad, Sweden and Sweden has reached the Worlds Men’s Team semifinals by defeating England today 3-0 and will face mighty China tomorrow in the men’s team semifinals. This guarantees their first World team medal since Sweden’s golden generation led by Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson retired. Sweden won 4 World Team titles in 1989, 1991, 1993, and 2000 which broke the Chinese dominance in the sport.
I was in Sweden training in 2000 for the 2000 North American Olympic Trials when Sweden upset China to become World Champion for the final time which was shown live in Sweden and was one of the biggest news stories at the time in Sweden. I watched that match shown live on Swedish TV with members of the Swedish national team. Waldner and Persson knew this would likely be the last time they would have a chance at defeating China as they were nearing the end of their careers and amazingly did so. Along with Mikael Appelgren, Peter Karlsson, and Erik Lindh, they also won the World Team titles in 1989, 1991, and 1993 but they were more in the prime of their careers then.
I have trained in Sweden 6 different times and spent about a year of my life there at Angby in Stockholm (Waldner and Appelgren’s home club through most of their careers) and Falkenberg (home club of World Champions Jorgen Persson, Peter Karlsson, and Erik Lindh as well as World Champion coach Stellan Bengtsson). I have trained with Appelgren, Karlsson, and Lindh and was fortunate to receive extensive coaching from Stellan. I have been in the same training groups as Waldner and Persson but never got the chance to train with them. Waldner is as famous in Sweden and China as Lebron James or Steph Curry here. He was voted one of the top 2-3 Swedish sportsmen of the 20th century and is the only foreigner with his own stamp in China. In the 1990s, more people knew who he was in China than Bill Clinton.
PICTURES WITH THE SWEDISH LEGENDS:
|I have practiced with Waldner’s main Angby (his home club in Stockholm, Sweden) practice partners and teammates but never got the chance to play with him. Once when I was in his training group, we were playing winner’s table and if I won a match, I would have gotten the chance to play with him and I was trying too hard to win and lost a winnable match so lost my chance to play my idol!|
|I got to train with Mikael Appelgren in 1999-2000 and played him many times in winner’s table situations when we were in the same training group. I was able to win some games to 11 and 21 in winner’s table but of course, he won most. He was retired from the Swedish national team at this time so was slower than in his prime but still had great touch and fast reflexes. He is one of Waldner’s closest friends.|
|Jorgen Persson’s primary coach throughout his career was 1971 World Champion Stellan Bengtsson (still youngest ever World Men’s Singles Champion) who also coached Persson in his Worlds matches when he became 1991 World Men’s Singles Champion. I have been fortunate to work a lot with Stellan in Falkenberg who has helped me a lot in my career.|