USA Table Tennis
1985: Tom Wintrich (SPIN, May-June 1985, Cover+) Gives Us His World Championships Overview. 1985: Canada’s Toni Kiesenhofer On Selected Men’s Matches (OTTA Update, Summer, 1985, 17-19).
Imagine the International Table Tennis Federation surpassing the extravagant hoopla of America’s Academy Awards….
Here’s ITTF President Roy Evans live from Gothenburg, Sweden before an international television audience of 500 million, half of whom are Chinese. He calmly approaches the microphone, and says, “The envelope, please.”
‘The best table tennis performance, male and female, by a country in both team and individual competition—and the winner is…The People’s Republic of China!”
For five minutes there is non-stop applause accompanied by 92 covering cameras in the participating countries of this 38th World Championships; when the applause subsides there are concluding panoramic views of one million people watching on 25 giant screens in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
“And now the best table tennis performance by a country in men’s doubles—the envelope, please—and the winner is… Sweden!”
This time non-stop applause accompanies live scenes of joyous Swedes throughout the host country celebrating Mikael Appelgren and Ulf Carlsson’s win.
Dream on Ping-Pong cognoscenti and consider another special award the fictional Table Tennis Academy might present.
“In recognition of the best team of any sport in the world by virtue of their unequaled superiority, we honor the women’s table tennis team of China.”
End of Awards fantasy—by default to reality.
Since Calcutta, India, 1975, to Gothenburg, Sweden, 1985, the Chinese women have won the Marcel Corbillon Cup—table tennis’s most prestigious award for women’s team competition—six times, which is to say every time. In that ten-year consecutive team-reign at the biennial world’s, China’s women have collected 12 additional world titles—four each in Singles, Doubles, and Mixed Doubles with their home-country partners. All 12 of those titles have been successive victories starting from 1979 in Pyongyang, North Korea. In the past four world’s then, the Chinese women could not have done better.
A “tie” in women’s team table tennis is the best of five matches with three match victories needed to win. In team ties at the last four World’s, the Chinese women have 37 consecutive victories in which they’ve tallied 111 match wins out of the 112 they’ve played. They have a current string of 81 consecutive match wins, which is a perfect record since the 1981 World’s at Novi Sad, Yugoslavia.
The Chinese men, in posting an astonishing record of successes as well, have established themselves as the undisputed masters of men’s table tennis. With one exception—men’s doubles. At the last 12 world’s, they have won the men’s doubles only four times. European teams won the other eight. Thus, except for China, Asian teams have been unsuccessful in doubles since 1963. At least the Chinese men, unlike the women, have room for improvement. [Of course word has it that the Chinese, dominant as they’ve been, could have won other men’s doubles had they wanted to.]
[As for the Men’s Team matches, in Stage One the 16 teams in the Championship Division were divided into two round robin groups of eight—with group A headed by China and Group B by Sweden. In Stage Two, moving toward the final, there would be crossover matches, most prominently the #1 finisher in Group A would play the #2 finisher in Group B, and the #1 finisher in Group B would play the #2 finisher in Group A. In Stage Three the winners of those specific crossover matches would meet for the Championship. (Also those teams not in contention for the title would play finishing crossover matches to determine their final positions. Were last year’s format to be followed this year, the two teams finishing 15th and 16th would be relegated out of the Championship Division and would be replaced by the top two teams from the Second Division.)]
Unlike the Chinese women, the Chinese men didn’t win the team event without dropping matches. But that’s because their competition is tougher—like the South Korean men.
Americans are considered fighters thanks in large part to Danny Seemiller’s past performances and more recently (though less so at this world’s) to Eric Boggan’s. But it may be South Korea more accurately deserves the fighter label. Here in Gothenburg, against the Chinese in the fifth round of Group A competition, with no hope of securing a shot at the world title even if victorious [for they’d still have two losses and couldn’t finish #1 or #2 in the Group], the Koreans challenged the Chinese with a vengeance no other team duplicated. Their display of team spirit, individual intensity, and unintimidated play noticeably rattled the Chinese, right up to the ninth and final match.
It was penhold versus penhold with one exception. China fielded their lefty shakehand player Wang Huiyuan, a chopper with offensive skills that rival his defensive ones. (The same can be said of Chen Xinhua, China’s righty shakehand star.) Wang’s two wins (over Ahn Jae Hyung and Kim Wan) were key to China’s victory, especially his defeat of Kim Wan who was most responsible for South Korea pressing the Chinese to the nine-match limit.
Understatement works well to describe Kim’s rare style—a two-winged penhold hitter. Doesn’t sound very formidable until you see his penhold backhand kill. Hyperbole works well to describe that shot—totally awesome. Untold times he scored with it against Jiang Jialiang when he took J.J. down in three in the second match of the tie. And throughout that match Kim played with an emotional intensity even Danny Seemiller would envy. After every point he scored, there was his vocal cheer, raised clenched fist, and victory dance. It was sweet revenge for Kim, whom Jialiang had beaten out of $16,000 in the final of the ’84 World Cup.
After Ahn Jae Hyung had defeated Chen Longcan in the fifth match for South Korea’s second win, and Kim Wan had kept South Korea alive by toppling Chen Longcan, 19 in the third in the seventh match, that made the tie 4-3 China. Kim Ki Taek, who would convincingly knock Danny Seemiller out of the singles draw, then surprised everyone by defeating Wang Huiyuan in three to 4-4 tie up the tie.
Now, lo and behold, it was China’s new Golden Boy, World #1, Jiang Jialiang, who against Ahn 19, 15 finished the job for China. A tough 5-4 loss for South Korea, but still they can be extremely proud of the tournament’s best team performance in a losing effort.
Jiang Jialiang is more than the Golden Boy in China. He was/is the Chosen One for the Men’s Singles title. Chjna’s eight seeds in the draw stacked the deck in their favor. With their talent they simply can’t miss advancing several players into the late rounds. That also means they can’t avoid meeting one another. After the field of 128 had been reduced to 16, the eight Chinese seeds were still very much alive.
But then in those eighth’s, three Chinese (He Zhiwen, Fan Changmao, and Chen Xinhua) were eliminated from the top half of the draw—Jiang’s half. The other four made it through for an all-Chinese line-up in the bottom-half quarter’s. Jiang would not have to play a single Chinese until the final—that is, unless you count his semi’s opponent, 22-year-old Lo Chuen Chung of Hong Kong.
Lo’s success with his unusual style is remarkable. He’s an expert at the half-block—very much like our own Houshang Bozorgzadeh. According to Ricky Seemiller (who beat him in the team competition) Lo’s backhand pips are medium long. These allow him not only to effectively block fast shots back slow and short, but also to counter or hit strongly with them if he contacts the ball flat. (If he used truly long pips he wouldn’t be able to hit the ball as flat or as predictably.) Consequently, he was forever altering the pace of the ball. He did this by playing close to the table with minimal movement, thus giving the most lackadaisical appearance of any of the world-class players. It just doesn’t look like this guy should win.
Of course he didn’t against J.J. who had warmed up by practicing with one of his countrymen who was mimicking Lo’s style exactly, even using the same type of pips. Lo did take the third at 18, but only for the record books.
Chen Longcan had prevailed over Wang Huiyuan and then Teng Yi to meet Jiang in the final. There was no question concerning the outcome and there was no pretense of struggle by either player. No matter that the spectators had jeered the play,* Jiang was predestined to be the new World Men Singles Champion; Chen did his part by losing.
Given the Chinese women’s superiority as seen in the team competition, it’s really unfortunate the rest of the world hasn’t yet reached the same level of play. The final rounds of current world championship play virtually equal a private tournament among the Chinese: seven of eight quarterfinalists in women’s singles, all four semi’s teams in the women’s doubles, and three of the four semi’s teams in the mixed.
Cao Yanhua (never needing a five-game match) repeated as Women’s Singles Champ; China’s Geng Lijuan, rallying from down 2-0 in the quarter’s to China’s Jiao Zhimen, and from down 2-1 to Dai Lili in the semi’s, was runner-up. Dai and Geng (Horatio Pintea’s future wife) took the Women’s Doubles over Cao and Ni Xialian. And Cao with Cai Zhenhua’s help won the Mixed over the Czechs Marie Hrachova/Jindrich Pansky who in the semi’s had -18, 19, 22 struggled by China’s Chen Xinhua/Tong Ling.
Henan Li Ai still corresponds with and offers advice to her prize students He Zhili and Dai Lili. When she was asked if the Chinese women are frustrated by the nearly all-Chinese finals, she said, “Not at all. They have trained very hard and sacrificed personally to become so good. They are very proud of their table tennis accomplishments.”
While China alone takes almost all major World Championships, Sweden, hosting this year’s event for the fifth time, set a new participation record with 92 associations represented. And the Swedish players themselves were right there at the center of play with the Chinese. Retiring Swedish National Coach Thomas Berner summarized the team’s talent with this statement: “All nine of the players we have in the singles are fully capable of beating all the top European players. Never before have we had such quality in depth as we have now.” No braggadocio there, just an accurate assessment of the world’s number two team comprised of Erik Lindh, Mikael Appelgren, Jan-Ove Waldner, Ulf Carlsson, Ulf Bengtsson, Stellan Bengtsson, Jorgen Persson, Jonny Akesson, and Jonas Berner. [Stellan is now married and a father and hopes that the inner harmony he’s feeling will have a positive effect on his play.]
The tournament announcer supplied the hype throughout the competition. After matter-of-factly introducing any Swedish opponent he would switch to his professional voice: “…and representing Sweden, the current National Champion, Eri-KA LEEND!” Or how about his Apple intro: “…currently ranked seventh in the world, please welcome, Mikael Appel-GREN!”
The partisan fans loved it and who could deny the host country its self-promotion? From day one the Swedes were expected to meet the Chinese in the team final, a goal they accomplished by losing only 11 matches out of 40 from Stage One through their Stage Two crossover tie. (For comparison, the Chinese lost six matches.) No team on their side of the Stage One draw really pressed them, although Japan got off to a challenging start against them.
Hideo Gotoh opened the tie with a three-game victory over Erik Lindh. Gotoh is a formidable chopper and to the partisan fans’ dismay he put on an electrifying performance returning Lindh’s loops from deep in the court. (Danny Seemiller thought Lindh played Gotoh wrong, should not have looped so hard so often since Gotoh thrives on fast attack.) Left-handed penholder Kiyoshi Saito then took down left-handed shakehander Mikael Appelgren in three. But that was it for Japan. From Waldner’s defeat of 1979 World Champion Seiji Ono on, the Swedes ran out the tie for a 5-2 victory, delighting the vociferous fans.
The Swedes won one other Group B tie 5-2—that was against Denmark, or, more specifically, against that country’s veteran star Claus Pedersen. He defeated both Ulf Bengtsson and Waldner in three games.
Sweden’s real test, though, was in the first crossover against the now mighty Poland who’d come second with a 5-2 record—losing to China 1-5 and to Czechoslovakia 4-5. The Poles were led by Andrzej Grubba, World #4 and the recent winner of the European Top 12 in Barcelona. Grubba is about 5’8” tall, lean, and plays a mean topspin game off both wings, his backhand being nearly as fast as his forehand. His peculiar trait is his constant bouncing between points, lightly, quickly stepping from his right to left foot, barely lifting his feet off the floor. He will do this even as he approaches the table to receive serve and doesn’t stop until the moment before his opponent puts the ball in play. Grubba’s engine is set at fast idle.
Backing up Grubba is Leszek Kucharski and Stefan Dryszel. Kucharski came into the tournament ranked 26th in the world and had finished 11th in the recent European Top 12. He is a big man at about 6’3” and when you see him at his ready position he looks like he’s straddling an invisible horse, possibly a Clydesdale. Although Dryszel is not world-ranked, he plays a strong third for Poland and against the USA he beat both Seemillers.
Sweden and Poland traded wins through the first four matches of their tie, which was a classic confrontation of European topspinners. Kucharski knocked off Lindh in straight games, Dryszel lost to Waldner in three, Grubba downed Appelgren in three, and then Waldner stopped Kucharski cold. The fifth match, Lindh vs. Grubba, was crucial, for if Sweden didn’t beat Grubba at least once they’d be in serious trouble, given Kucharski’s win and Dryszel’s ability to be dangerous. Lindh came through for Sweden, though, with a straight-game win, narrowly escaping the first game at deuce after leading 20-15. That made it 3-2 for Sweden. Then 4-2 when Appelgren finished Dryszel in three. Grubba staved off Poland’s defeat by downing Waldner for his third win. But in the eighth match Appelgren bested Kucharski, and Sweden was in the final against China, while Poland would play Japan for third Place.
The Swedish-Polish tie provided convincing testimony that the spin and speed of modern table tennis as played by the world’s best is to the spectators’ benefit. The fans erupted time and again to such brilliant play as Waldner killing Kucharski’s bullet loops, passing the Pole with returns that went by him while he was still following through, or right-handed Grubba countering lefty Appelgren’s spinning forehand loops with his backhand, both players 10 feet off the table. Then too there was Lindh, who several times spun from his extreme forehand, directing the ball around the net post so upon landing it would bounce off nearly perpendicular to the table. And, once, Dryszel backhand-looped a ball so quickly off the bounce with so much force that even he smiled in disbelief at the white cannonball he had just shot past Appelgren.
Just a few good points all in a day’s tie.
New world-class USA spectator 17-year-old Toni Gresham focused her attention on the playing talents of her own gender. Her assessment of the women’s abilities underscores the athletic prowess of the world’s best. “They play like men.” Meaning? “I can hardly believe how hard and fast they hit and loop.”
Role models indeed, and there are many besides the Chinese to emulate. For example, those two from the Netherlands (Holland)—Bettine Vriesekoop, who won the women’s competition in the European Top 12 with a perfect 11-0 record (the next best was Zsuzsa Olah of Hungary at 8-3), and Mirjam Kloppenburg.
Holland finished second (5-2) in Group A behind powerhouse North Korea, but ahead of Czechoslovakia, Japan, and France. That won them the right to meet China in the first crossover, which really meant they would battle for third place against South Korea who in their crossover fell (as did the South Korean men in their Group play) to political rival North Korea.
South Korea won the tie over Holland, 3-1, with Vriesekoop scoring the lone win against Yoon Kyung Mi, but losing (as did Kloppenburg) to Yang Young Ja. Nevertheless, the emotional play of the two Hollanders enabled their team to finish fourth overall, a considerable improvement over their eight-place finish at the ’83 World’s in Tokyo. The bottom line here is that the Netherlands placed the highest of any of the European women’s teams, a triumph they actually celebrated in the last tie of Stage One against Czechoslovakia.
Both Holland and Czechoslovakia had 5-2 records in Group A play, but Holland finished second by virtue of their head-to-head finishing win. Czech Marie Hrachova had finished third at the European Top 12, while her teammate Alice Pelikanova would be only one of five Europeans to advance to the eighth’s of the Singles here before losing to China’s 1981 World Champion Tong Ling, a chopper. Holland got off to a great start—with Kloppenburg winning in three over Hrachova, and Vriesekoop downing Pelikanova. But the Czechs battled back and the tie went down to the third game in the fifth and final match—with Kloppenberg winning 21-15. Vriesekoop’s joyous embrace of Kloppenburg typified the exchanges of the whole Holland team.
Another outstanding non-Chinese woman was North Korea’s Li Bun Hui who is barely older that admirer Toni Gresham. Li is left-handed but more importantly plays shakehands. That’s significant because North Korea, with both their men and women, are no longer producing just penholders. Like the Chinese, they’re developing all styles, something Europe might consider for both sexes, and certainly the USA should think about in long-range planning for its men’s team.
Li had to have the highest high-toss serve at the tournament. From a perfectly flat palm she would launch the ball skyward a good 20 feet. Interestingly, she held her racket much like a penholder and would quickly re-grip after contact. Li came into the competition ranked 31st in the world, but posted an undefeated record in women’s team play until the final against China. She logged wins over South Korea’s world #6 Yang Young Ja and Holland’s world #7 Bettine Vriesekoop. But none of the North Koreans could take a match from China, though Li did win a deuce game from He Zhili.
“Kom Igen Sverfige!”
That’s “Comb-E-N Svear-a-gah!”…“Comb-E-N Svear-a-gah!”…“Comb-E-N Svear-a-gah!” While China was beating North Korea in the women’s team final, 6,000 Swedes were focused on the men’s team final, chanting encouragement (“Let’s go, Sweden!”), stomping their feet, and tooting air horns. At long last their beloved team was one-on-one with the Chinese. Unfortunately the tie didn’t last very long.
China fielded chopper Chen Xinhua and their two penhold stars Jiang Jialiang and Chen Longcan. Sweden came out with Erik Lindh, Mikael Appelgren, and Jan-Ove Waldner.
Chen Xinhua is the new animated Chinese shakehander. The previous one, Cai Zhenhua, was noticeably absent from team and singles play, although he did compete in men’s and mixed doubles. Chen is Mr. Carefree, a happy-go-lucky guy on court who seems to relish the competition. Always has a smile that borders on a smirk but is just soft enough not to be considered offensive. Blow one by him and he smilingly shrugs it off, appearing as if he’ll just have to win the next two points.
Lindh socked several balls by him in the first match of the tie but far too few to give him a real chance. A great problem when playing a defensive expert like Chen is the man’s offense. He has an amazing ability to chop two or three and then suddenly return topspin to initiate a counter-spinning point. He’s also a great looper and scored frequently by attacking. Xinhua’s got all the shots and he’s so effective because he mixes them up throughout the match. Modern defensive players at the world level are all-around players. Lindh goes down 16, 16.
After losing the first game to Jiang at 18, “The Apple” drove the partisan fans wild when in the second he ripped in a backhand winner following a furious six-ball topspin exchange, then forced the match into the third. But, with Jiang generally blocking very well before passing Appelgren with crisp pips-out hitting, Mikael couldn’t score the win. So, China 2-Sweden 0.
The fans were definitely disappointed with Appelgren’s loss, and now it doesn’t get any better for the Swedes. Waldner comes out and, with neither player displaying will enough to try to close the gap, splits two lopsided games with Chen Longcan. When in the third Chen extends his lead from 16-14 to 19-14, J-O can’t contest. And so it goes, Jiang over Lindh, Chen Xinhua over Waldner, as China blitzes Sweden in the final, 5-0.
Still, the style differences made for interesting spectating. Long-stroke shakehand players committed to topspin versus compact-stroke penholders bound to blocking and hitting. One style is not necessarily better than the other, but penhold simplicity and quickness definitely have an advantage in this game, especially when implemented by its masters. Of course the Chinese don’t limit themselves to penhold players, even though it’s been the style of most all world singles titleholders. The Chinese expression, “Let a thousand flowers blossom” works well for China’s table tennis program.
Even China was surprised, though, with their 5-0 victory, for they’d figured with the home crowd behind them the Swedes would take at least two matches and if these were won early that might spur the underdogs on to actually win the title. As it was, the Swedes did slightly improve on their third-place finish in Tokyo.
Poland had finished eighth at the ’83 World’s, but here in Gothenburg they took third, downing Japan 5-3 in their final crossover. Although Kiyoshi Saito and chopper Gotoh both beat Grubba, Leszek Kucharski’s THREE two-straight wins, following Poland’s opening one/two punch—Dryszel over Saito, and Grubba over Seiji Ono—eliminated Japan’s hopes. So China’s not the only team Sweden will have to be concerned about in 1987.
Unknown during team competition would be the ITTF’s decision near the end of the tournament to change the traditional relegation and promotion method of categorizing teams for subsequent World’s. Problem was with the present system: drop down a (16 team) Division by finishing last or next to last and it would be four years before you could make it back. (A two-year wait for the follow-up World’s and then, if you advanced, there would be another two-year wait to rejoin your original category.) So now at the next World’s some form of preliminary competition will determine what teams go on to play in which categories—and initially it can be
said that every team will at least have the opportunity to qualify for the coveted 16 slots in the men’s and women’s Championship Division. Then, win or lose, that opportunity will repeat itself at the very next World’s.
However, West Germany and Chinese Taipei, having finished first and second respectively in Second Division play, aren’t pleased because, although in the old format they would automatically have advanced at the next World’s into a Championship Division round robin, in this new format they are no longer guaranteed to have such play. Ditto the USA men’s team who, though finishing 14th in their Championship Division Group, will not be “safe” during highly meaningful initial play to contend remaining ties there. The same with both the Canadian men and Canadian women who, following the old format, had advanced—the men (Horatio Pintea, Joe Ng, Alain Bourbonnais, Bao Nguyen, and Eddie Lo) into the Second Division, the women (Mariann Domonkos, Thanh Mach, Gloria Hsu, and Cindy Choy) into the Championship Division.
[This will end Wintrich’s Team article. I, however, remind you that Tom, in properly reiterating the official ITTF I won’t say “lie” but “line,” had indicated that, with this new format, “every team will at least have the opportunity to qualify for the coveted 16 slots in the men’s and women’s Championship.” But while it’s true that now no team will be initially pigeon-holed away from the paper-possibility of playing in the Championship Division, the thought that the World title is open to all is, as Tom and everyone else knows, theoretical nonsense.]
…The Championship was played Mar. 28-Apr. 7 in Gothenburg’s Scandinavium, the largest sports complex in Sweden where just a couple of months ago the Swedes scored a Davis Cup victory over the U.S. As part of the opening ceremony, Bengtsson and Johansson gave a fun exhibition dressed as ’85 World Championship Mascot Bears.
[I’ll select from Toni’s article excerpts on the play that aren’t covered elsewhere in this chapter.] In Team play, in the Championship Division, England and France had an exciting tie. England’s Prean defeated Birocheau in the opening match, 21-13 in the third. Then came the first surprise (at least to me): France’s Patrick Renverse beat Desmond Douglas, 22-20 in the third. The tall, strong-as-a-bull Frenchman plays an impressive close-to-the-table looping game from both wings. Tie 1-1. Now, though France’s Secretin scored twice, Douglas beat Birocheau, and Alan Cooke, a young English attacker, defeated Renverse. Tie 3-3. Then Secretin, obviously sick, had to default against Douglas; but Birocheau balanced against Cooke. Tie 4-4.
In the decisive ninth match, Renverse won the first game at 18; Prean the second at 19. The third was a real treat. Prean was mixing it up with his long pips, producing smooth combinations; Renverse was playing his most beautiful looping game, knowing that he had to continue the pressure because Prean would take the offense without hesitation. At 19-19, the Frenchman finished the match/the tie with two hard backhand (long to be talked about) loops.
England would also lose a 5-4 heartbreaker to Japan—with Douglas dropping a swing match 20 and 19 to Saito.
Canada, struggling successfully to advance from the Third Division into the Second, had a surprisingly strong 5-1 victory over Greece. Joe Ng, after losing the first game at deuce, rallied to win the second from 20-all, and took the third as well.
In the China (5)-Poland (1) tie, in which Grubba beat Xie Saike, my “connection’ to the Poles assured me that Kucharski had not wanted to waste his energy in that sixth match against Jiang Jialiang, but if they got to the final it would all be different. I was somewhat skeptical, but who was I to suggest to anyone he was wrong.
The U.S. was down 4-1 to Czechoslovakia when Danny Seemiller sparked a rally, first against Vladislav Broda, then, fighting, yelling, dancing, and scoring against Pansky, he brought the tie to 4-4. But in the ninth match, against that same Broda, Danny’s brother Ricky couldn’t bring home a winner. The U.S. also lost 5-4 to Hungary, though they had a great chance for a win until Danny -19, 19, -19 fell to Takacs in the eighth match, and in the ninth Brian Masters couldn’t contest with Kriston. However, it was USA, 5-4, in their critical first crossover tie with Italy—with Danny and Eric winning two, and Brian one.
The Hungarians (without Klampar) gave the Poles a 4-5 much harder time than expected. This was due largely to the fact that the Polish team, after great playing and excellent results, seemed arrogant and rude. There was table kicking, racket throwing, and a lot of swearing. Kucharski, particularly, was not happy—he lost to young Harczi, 18, -25, -20, and to Takacs, -5, 18, -19.
Hong Kong also played a 3-5 much stronger match against Poland than anticipated. Lo Chuen Chung went 19 in the third with Kucharski, then, with Poland leading 4-2, it was Grubba’s turn to meet Lo and he won the first at 15. At which point Lo asked for and got an official time out because his hard rubber had ripped. His coach got him a new sheet and carefully glued it to Lo’s racket. But it didn’t fit—the rubber sheet was too small and the referee wouldn’t let him play with it. However, they stretched this no-sponge sheet a bit until it was playable and Lo went on to take the match from Grubba.
Denmark finished last in their Group, but they had a hell of a 4-5 fight with India—seven of the nine matches went into the third, and the tie wasn’t decided until Sujay Ghorfade finally outlasted Claus Pedersen 23-21 in the third.
The final of the Team’s saw China blitz Sweden 5-0. Let me say this about the Swedes. Lindh plays a fast, close-to-the-table offensive game, as if adopting the Chinese table tennis philosophy. If all the risks he takes were to go in his favor, he could certainly be successful against the strongest Chinese players. Appelgren’s looping game is much too defensive to deter the quick, hard-hitting Chinese attackers. Whenever he stayed in close and played hard loops from either side he scored a series of points. But as he was not able to keep up the pressure, he was forced away from the table where he lost point after point. As for Waldner, he just didn’t look too good. [Swedish Coach Thomas Berner told Sue Butler that, “my three best players have an interest in different clubs and sponsorships and play in the German Bundesliga. That presents some problems as they have to travel too much and can’t practice every day.”]
Final Team standings: 1. China. 2. Sweden. 3. Poland. 4. Japan. 5. People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). 6. Yugoslavia. 7. Czechoslovakia. 8. France. 9. South Korea. 10. England. 11. Hong Kong. 12. India. 13: Hungary. 14. USA. 15. Denmark. 16. Italy….36. Canada…67 (last). Bermuda.
On now to the Singles. I’ll start with the round of 128. Former Japanese World Champion Seiji Ono lost to Hungary’s Takacs. Yugoslavia’s young Lupulesku lost in a fantastic match to Sweden’s Ulf Carlsson, 17 in the 5th. Europe’s #1 Grubba lost to Japan’s Myazaki in four. France’s Renverse lost to Italy’s Costantini. China’s #2 seed Xie Saike los—no, he didn’t, but he had to go five to beat Yugoslavia’s Bela Mesaros. Canada’s Joe Ng lost to the Czech Dryszel in four.
That left 64 players. Here China’s future winner Jiang Jialiang lost one of his two games in the Singles—to Canada’s Horatio Pintea (who’d advanced over Australia’s Gary Haberl). “Hory,” looping from both wings, turned in an excellent -15, 15, 15, 18 performance. Hong Kong’s Lo Cheun Chung eliminated Hungary’s Tibor Klampar. A surprise: Sweden’s European Champion Ulf Bengtsson lost to West Germany’s Ralf Wosik, deuce in the 5th. And another surprise: Costantini downed Poland’s volatile Kucharski—which meant that none of the Poles came out of the round of 64!
Out of the round of 32 came only four Europeans: Yugoslavia’s 39-year-old Surbek [who said, “Chinese players are replacing older Europeans—early rounds are no longer warm-ups”]. Sweden’s Lindh (he advanced over Chinese Taipei’s 1984 U.S. Open winner Wen-chia Wu). Bulgaria’s Mariano Loukov (an upset winner over both Japan’s Saito and Czechoslovakia’s Pansky!). And Sweden’s Appelgren (who’d eliminated the Czech Orlowski). South Korea’s Kim Ki Taek had a notable win over Jan-Ove Waldner in five.
All the Europeans were eliminated in the round of 16. Surbek lost to Jiang Jialiang, 3-0; Lindh fell in five to China’s Wang Huiyuan; Loukov went down in straight games to China’s Chen Longcan; and Appelgren was stopped by China’s Teng Yi. Two surprises were: Lo Chuen Chung’s and Japan’s Yoshihito Miyazaki’s advance (both took out Chinese—Lo defeated Fan Changmao 3-0, and after Miyazaki had squeaked by Russia’s Andrei Mazunov, 18 in the 5th, he upset Chen Xinhua 3-0).
The quarter’s saw Jiang over Kim, 3-0; Chen over Wang, 18 in the 4th; Lo over Miyazaki in four; and Teng over Xie, deuce in the 4th.
The semi’s went to Jiang over Lo in four, and Chen over Teng in straight games.
The final: Jiang over Chen 14, 21, 18. Jiang, a model athlete, was too quick, too strong, and technically too good for Chen.
[This ends Toni’s article, and Wintrich and I will go on in the next chapter to describe our USA’s play in Gothenburg.]
*Sue Butler said (SPIN, May-June, 1985, 20) that, “Immediately after the Men’s World Singles Championship between Jiang Jialiang and Chen Longcan, I questioned Cai Zhenhua about the match. To me it was a lackluster affair devoid of the fighting spirit one expects of world-class athletes, especially when a world title is at stake. I was not alone in this feeling as the fans themselves had expressed their disapproval with jeers and whistles.”
Here’s her interview with Cai:
SUE: Why don’t the Chinese players fight as hard to win against each other as they do against opponents from other countries?
CAI: In a final with two Chinese players the motherland already has a title. The individual who wins is not important.
SUE: Do you understand why the crowd is jeering, booing, and insulting you during these all-Chinese finals?
SUE: It is very difficult for the rest of the world to understand why you don’t fight. Don’t you think it’s bad for the sport?
CAI: We are not trained to care about such things.
SUE: C’mon. Won’t Chen Longcan go to his room tonight and be depressed that he lost so badly? I saw him holding the World Singles trophy a few minutes ago and he was looking at the names inscribed on it. I wondered what he was thinking.
CAI: Of course everyone wants to win. The loser can never be happy with a loss.
SUE: Thank you for your honesty. What’s in your future? I can’t believe #5 in the world didn’t play in the Singles. Surely with eight spots for China one of them should have been yours?
CAI: I am in a very difficult position to answer this question. The color rule really affected me and my ability to win has been lessened. It is not my business to say whether I can play in the Team event or not. The coaches decide such things. [Ogimura tells Sue that “the Europeans wish to stage a comeback by bringing the top Chinese players down by rule changes. I don’t think it will work.”]
SUE: But in the individual event surely you should have played. You are one of the most colorful performers in the world. People want to see you play.
CAI: In my opinion I couldn’t have beaten any of the final eight men. Many players back in China are much better right now than I am.
SUE: What are you going to do then in the future? Retire, or practice harder to improve your technique?
CAI: Work harder, and if I gain something then I will have success again. Maybe I’ll come to the U.S. and be the ace player on the American team.