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22-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

By Sheri Cioroslan | Aug. 10, 2014, 7 a.m. (ET)

Day 22, August 10 - The Gift of Braking and Changing Focus

“Let us all, from time to time, examine when it’s time to accelerate and when it’s time to brake.” 

Taking a cue from Anders Thunström (Day 33), today The Countdown is applying the brakes and taking a day to reflect and comment.  It’s my birthday, so I wanted to change things up a bit.

Remembering Rong Guotuan

First, I want to commemorate Rong Guotuan, who shares this birthday with me.  Today he would have been 77.  While his name may not be as recognized as many of the other Chinese World Champions, he was the first!   He set an example that we would do well to remember as we strive to be in the TOP 5 IN ALL WE DO.  In much the same way that the ITTF has committed itself to a course, so Rong Guotuan too had boldly promised in advance that he would deliver China’s first-ever world title.

Despite having tuberculosis, he courageously dedicated himself to bringing glory to his country.  He won Men’s Single’s at the 1959 WTTC’s in Dortmund.  Later on, he became the coach of China’s Women’s Team, where he achieved success helping China to capture both the Women’s Single’s title and Women’s Team title.  His contributions literally changed the course of our sport’s history.

He perished in 1968 during the Cultural Revolution, causing my generation never to know him in person.  But he is so inspiring.  Today I honor him.  Two of his compatriots who have always shown me so much consideration, kindness, and support are Li Furong and Xu Yinsheng.  So I feel Rong Guotuan’s presence as part of a special triumvirate. Rong Guotuan was born in Hong Kong.

1959 World Table Tennis Champions

1959 World Championships: Sido, Rong, Ogimura, Miles

Wishing Tony Yue a Happy Birthday

Another birthday wish I’d like to extend is to my birthday “twin,” Tony Yue, who is today concluding hosting of the Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open.  Yes, we enjoy something rare: two friends born on the same day in the same year.  Happy Birthday, Tony!

Braking and Changing Focus

Today, as originally planned a couple months ago, was meant to be the “bridge day” in the Countdown series between profile interviews and retrospectives by ITTF President Adham Sharara.  But the response has been phenomenal, so there are still several more contributions to follow from the ITTF family.

Today’s topic is the “gift of braking and changing focus.”  So often we can find ourselves on auto-pilot, just doing the same thing today that we did yesterday, last week, last month, last year.  President Sharara could have chosen to follow suit.  After all, he did win another 4-year mandate in 2013.  Yet he chose a different path.  He chose the path of “braking and changing focus.” 

Today I would like to elaborate on the gift that that presents to the ITTF family.

First, I would like to refer to the message President Sharara circulated within the table tennis family on April 21 with the explanation regarding retiring from ITTF Presidency and seeking the position of Chairman.    

In essence, he explained that in order to focus his attention on ITTF priorities -- including the new P5 Plan, a revision of the ITTF’s Constitution, and attention to other international bodies the ITTF is affiliated with – he needs to put the brakes on his ITTF Presidency.

What he didn’t mention in the message is that he is also looking forward to devoting time and attention to particular “extra” projects, in essence, to mentor others as they encounter challenges and obstacles in their own leadership paths.  That gift, in my mind, is the greatest contribution a person can make to the continued growth, development, and evolution of an organization.  It’s a necessary ingredient as we strive to be in the TOP 5 IN ALL WE DO.

I do see a connection between China’s much-beloved first World Champion Rong Guotuan and ITTF President Adham Sharara.  Both achieved acclaim in what they set out to do, but then they sought a way to contribute in new and unexpected ways.  I salute them for that.

In the case of President Sharara, he recognized that “braking” is what will allow him to “change focus.”  As Anders alluded to on Day 33, let us all, from time to time, examine when it’s time to accelerate and when it’s time to brake.