There were some attractive and dramatic matches during European Championships in Schwechat, but those bright moments could not hide the fact that Europe at the moment is not able to challenge Asia. Timo Boll, the only European player able to play on the same level as the best Chinese players was not present in Schwechat due to an injury. The new champion Ovcharov is still not at that level, but is working hard and improving his game, Vladi Samosonov is now due to his age able to challenge the very best only from time to time. Behind those three players there is a big gap. In women table tennis the situation for Europe is even worse!
Many elder Stars were playing in men competition in Schwechat, and they have still not been ousted in their national teams by the youngsters – so for example Kreanga, Greece, 43, Primorac, Croatia, 43, Tschetinin, Belarus, 44, Korbel, Czech Republik, 42, He Zhiwen, Spain, 52 !! In one semi-final men team match players of both teams were when counted together older than 100 years (!!) – Greece 43-30-29=102, Belarus 44-37-30=111. Instead to witness the invasion of young players to whom the future belongs we almost did not notice them. Franziska, Germany and Shibaev, Russia came closer to the top European players, from Q. Robinot, France, Sirucek, Czech Republik, Pitchford, England, Gauzy, France and some others we still expect it. Problems existing in Europe are very well illustrated by two silver medals that have been recently awarded, one in China and the other in Europe – at European Championships Vladimir Samsonov, 37 years of age, won silver medal in men singles, at China Sport Games, which is the most prestigious and important national sport event, played like Olympic Games every four years, silver medal won Fan Zhedong, 17 years of age (!). In quarter-finals and semi-finals Fan won against World Champion Zhang and World Ranking Nr. 2 Xu !!!
In women competition Europe is even more in trouble – after Europe opened the door to “table tennis naturalization” against regulations of World Federation ITTF in that matter, Europe has been overflowed by women players from China. In women singles at European Championships 2013 in quarter-finals played 7 former China players and only one woman player born in Europe, 34 years old Pavlovich from Belarus! All 4 medallists in women singles were players coming from China and they are not eligible to play for their teams in next World Championships in Tokyo 2014! Obviously either ETTU or ITTF is right, for our sport the present situation is for sure not good. As there were so numerous good players coming from China we did not see much from young European players – Bernadette Szocs from Romania, Petrissa Solja and Sabine Winter both from Germany are European hopes!
There are not only problems concerning the players, there are as well problems concerning European Table Tennis Union which has been divided since elections at ETTU General Annual Meeting during Europe Championships 2012 in Herning, Denmark, at the end politics became more important than sport itself! Weeks before the ETTU Annual Meeting in Schwechat at European Championships 2013 long serving ETTU President Stefano Bosi from Italy resigned. At new extraordinary elections Ronald Kramer, Netherlands was unanimously elected as new ETTU President, as well as the new Executive Board proposed by him. They are elected for coming 3 years up to new regular elections in 2016. The new leadership intends first to return to normal relations with ITTF, to reorganize ETTU office, to set budget in order, to intensify development activities. In Annual Meeting 2013 delegates decided that in 2014 instead of European Individual Championships European Team Championships will be played and staged in Portugal.
There are lot of spectators at big European international table tennis events only in Germany and partly in France. We have just to recall the empty stands at European Championships 2012 in Denmark or World Team Championships in Moscow 2010 to become aware of the whole problem. At the beginning of the tournament in Schwechat the hall was during the match between men teams of Germany and the host Austria almost full, but after the host team lost the match the spectators disappeared! During the finals in women and men teams there were not more than 400-500 spectators in the hall, at the end of the match between men teams there were not more than some 100 spectators in the hall!! Following the team events qualification rounds for singles and doubles lasting 3 days were of no interest for spectators, additional problem was that the price for qualifications was 15 Euro per ticket. Only on last two days of the Championships the hall was almost full, there were lot of attractive and exciting matches, but we can say it was not enough for European Championships which lasted full 9 days! A problem is that table tennis today is not offering enough attractive rallies which are attractive and understandable not only for people coming from table tennis – direct return mistakes or extreme short rallies are regular while longer, attractive rallies are rare! Popular Vladi Samsonov delighted the spectators once more with his elegant game and fair behaviour, his matches against Kreanga, Tan Ruiwu, Gionis belonged to the most attractive ones during the Championships.
The hall, tournament organization, playing conditions were correct with the exception of qualification rounds which lasted much too long!
In men team event German team defended the title in match against Greece, a team which nobody expected in the final. Even without Timo Boll Germany won all matches 3-0, only Gionis, Greece won in the final one single match against Germany, it was the only single match German players lost during the whole team event! A big gain for the winner team of Germany became 21 years old Franziska, who won all his matches playing as number 3 in the team. Portugal team was seeded Nr.1, again they were one of favourites and once more they disappointed their fans losing in first round against Greece. Tiago Apolonia was in team championships completely out of form but in individual events after rather lucky win against Keinath, Slovak Republic, he suddenly started to play some of his best table tennis and reached quarterfinals in singles, won bronze in men doubles. French men team still do not belong to the best in spite of numerous young players which dominated Europe as juniors. Russia wanted to challenge Germany without Boll, but at the end they were half satisfied with bronze medal. For Europe it is not a good sign that in Men Champions Division there were almost no young players.
Germany managed to win in women team competition, just like they did in men team competition. They became champions mainly due to new naturalized Chinese players Han and Shan, which are next year not eligible to play for Germany in World Team Championships in Tokyo. In the final Match Romania with the team composed of three players born in Romania had a chance to win but they were not able to capitalize their chance. After a long period Russian women team won a medal, it was bronze, the same success was achieved by Czech girls. Netherlands team, recently dominating in Europe has lost in Schwechat already in first round. This time they played only with Li Jiao, only one of their two top Chinese players – it proved not to be enough, they have lost already in first round against the host team of Austria, which was unlucky and had to play next round against Germany! Just like in men team Champions division in women Champions division there were almost no young players.
Singles and doubles
In men singles Dmitrij Ovcharov won his first European champion title, Samsonov played his sixths finals in singles and won his third silver medal. Bronze medals won Steger, Germany and surprisingly Greek defender Gionis, who played the tournament of his life. European junior champion in singles 2009 Quentin Robinot from France produced as well a positive surprise, he got through to the quarter-finals, he convinced with his fighting spirit but he still needs to improve his game to be able to join the best. National Austrian hero became Stefan Fegerl, who too got through to quarter-finals and lost then against Vladi Samsonov. During the match for the placement into quarterfinals between Austrian Fegerl and Russian Livencov spectators loudly supported their countryman. After Fegerl won his match someone said that Fegerl saved the tournament as next day many spectators will come to watch his quarter-final match.
In women singles all the medals were won by Chinese players playing for different European table tennis federations. After almost forgotten Marie Svesson from Sweden, who became European champion in 1994, Sweden won again gold in women singles – Li Fen became the champion, a very good player but far below the class of best Chinese players. The same applies to silver medallist Shan Xiona from Germany and bronze medallists Fu Yung from Portugal and Han Ying from Germany. It was again noticeable that almost all of the best women borne in Europe have great problems when playing against defence, while defence players mostly have great problems when playing against attacker coming from Chinese table tennis school.
In men doubles for the first time two Chinese players playing together for European national teams became European champions, Tan plays for Croatia, Wang for Poland. In quarter-finals among best 8 doubles there were 7 doubles combinations of one right handed and one left handed player, only title defenders Habesohn – Gardos were a double composed of two right handers, they won silver medal this time.
Youngsters Sabine Winter and Petrissa Solja from Germany sensationally won women doubles. Winter was only registered for women doubles, she was supernumerary for the German team, and for singles competition as well. Such a thing was up to now seen only in China team, quite often some supernumerary players play only doubles and then become world champions!!
(Gold 4 points, silver 2 points, bronze 1 point)
Country, Count of Gold Silver Bronze Points
1. Germany 4 2 2 22
2. Sweden 1 1 1/2 5,5
3. Spain 1 1 1/2 3,5
4-6. Portugal . 1 1 3
4-6 Belarus 1 1 3
4-6 Greece 1 1 3
7-11 Poland 1/2 2
7-11 Croatia 1/2 2
7-11 Austria 1 2
7-11 Romania 1 2
7-11 Russia 2 2
As it can be seen in the medal overview Germany plays the same leading role in Europe as it is the case with China in the world! Germany is far ahead from all other Europeans, in point evaluation they earned 22 points, almost the same as all other European countries together (28 points!). Medals were won by 11 national federations, by far the greatest number belonging to Germany.
Stories from Schwechat
– French Table Tennis Association has a new leadership. In table tennis circles people are wondering how it is possible that France produces on assembly line European junior boys champions but men team does not have any profit from it?! After the great generation with Gatien, Chila, Eloi, Legout the best player nowadays is Mattenet, who did not achieve best results as junior, men team is still far behind the German team. French Federation short time ago said good bye to head coach Blondel, but he went to court. Former national team player Birocheau was in charge of table tennis in Olympic sport centre in Paris but he is transferred to another sport in the Olympic centre. Former sport director Michel Gadal before World Championships in Paris 2013 announced that after the tournament where he was tournament director he will leave the French Federation, he did it and founded a private table tennis agency.
– Tamara Boros from Croatia was the last European woman winning a medal at World Championships in singles (Paris 2003). She finally ended her international career, plays only some matches for her club Mladost Zagreb. In summer she started to work as assistant coach in Werner Schlager Academy in Schwechat. As player she was well known for her hard work in training, now as reported she is as coach just as she was as player – ambitious and hardworking! She considers Lea Rakovac (Croatia), silver medallist at European Youth Championships 2013 as her successor. Tamara says that Lea is very talented but without hard training and ambitions she cannot progress – if she is not ready to start now with full commitment she will stay for ever only a very talented player without adequate results.
– Slowenian TTA opened a national table tennis training centre in Otocec na Krki. Young talented players from whole Slovenia are living, going to school and practising there. At the moment 12 players are practising there under guidance of national coach Joze Urh, former multiple Slovenian champion and many years Italian national men team coach.
– Ferenc Karsai, many years head coach of Austrian men team went into retirement. He was coaching Werner Schlager when he in 2003 became world champion, now Karszai intends to offer his experience and knowledge in seminars and camps to young players and ambitious coaches.
– Alexander Petkevich, former Belarus head coach who was in national team coaching Vladimir Samsonov became Russian men team head coach. He was not quite happy with results of his players in Schwechat, but he thinks that there is obvious progress. According to him practice of national team members is now much better organized, a totally new generation will in some years take the lead in Russia and will internationally be able to play on highest level.
– Azerbaijan will in 2015 organize the first ever European Sport Games. As one of sports table tennis will be part of the Games as well. 15 best European teams will qualify for the Games, plus the host team. The TT Federation is looking for an experienced and internationally well known coach. As it is reported several coaches have already applied for the job in the rich petrol state. According to rumours sport chiefs of the country expect from the new coach to prepare the Azerbaijan team to fight for medals?! As Azerbaijan men team in Schwechat finished on the last place in the team event the only way to realize such expectations would be to buy a whole team in China!
– Michael Maze, former European champion in men singles and bronze winner in men singles at World Championships, suffered one injury after the other in several last years. Now he is recovering again from a surgery, his coach expects him to be ready to play on his level in two or three months. Maze came to Schwechat for one day, he played a match just to keep his points on the world ranking list alive and immediately went back to proceed with his recovery program.
– In Schwechat in men singles qualification rounds two world known players played – Michel Saive, Belgium, and Peter Korbel, Czech Republic, both players well over 40 years of age. They are not placed high enough anymore in the World ranking list to get a direct place in the main round, so they had to join the qualification rounds and play against much younger competitors. Saive survived the qualifications, Korbel did not!
– Mario Amizic has been for many years successful coach of Borussia Duesseldorf, after that he became Japanese national men team coach, then for a short while Russian men team coach and finally sport director of Werner Schlager Academy. He left the Academy, at the moment he is enjoying a pause and is seeking for a challenging job with possibility to work on a long term development program for young, promising players.
– In our sport there are rather seldom appeals to the jury in international tournaments. In European championships 2013 there was an appeal which may have rarity value. After the match between Denmark and Slovak men teams Denmark, as loser, appealed to the jury explaining that on the Slovak reserve bench player Bardon was sitting who was not officially member of Slovak team! Danish coach composed his team assuming that Bardon will play, but only afterwards it came out that he was not eligible to play?! Slovak Federation officially changed the list of players on time but Bardon replaced another Slovak player only in the list of individual players, by mistake not at the same time in the list of team players. After long discussion jury dismissed the case.
Prof. Radivoj Hudetz