(Excerpted from interview of Jun Gao by Marianne Yeh in the Jan/Feb 2000 USA Table Tennis Magazine)
USATTM: You were a world champion, and once ranked #3 in the world. What’s your secret? Can you share with our readers?
GAO: I have three words to share with everybody: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. That’s my secret. That’s the secret for all the top players in the world. Let me elaborate on this a little bit. There are three elements a person needs in order to be successful in sports: diligence, talent, and opportunities. Diligence is the most important. I’m not talking about simple diligence here. I’m talking about diligence with motivation. You need to use your body, and your brain, in practices. When I was competing for the Chinese National Team, I had little notebooks that I brought along everywhere I went. I would review my notes on other players' styles before I played them. I’ve always treated each match very seriously, and I don’t make the same mistake twice.
USATTM: Besides practice, are there any shortcuts?
GAO: Definitely no shortcuts. Table tennis requires a lot of practice. It’s not a sport that you can simply rely on power and speed to win. You need a lot of control, strategies and skillful touches, too.
USATTM: How can one become a good table tennis player? What should one watch for in his/her training?
GAO: First of all, you need to spend a lot of time practicing. As I said, there is no shortcut. Secondly, you should never give up. Imprint that in your head – never, ever, give up! Be cool, and fight for every point. It’s not over till it’s 21. Thirdly, you must pay attention to basic training. It might be repetitious and boring sometimes, but it’s critical. You have to learn how to walk first before you can run. Don’t envy those fancy shots. They will come natural to you after you master the basic skills.