Day 2, August 30 - Jörgen Persson Maintains: “One Time a Champ, Always the Champ!”
“The sporting world around us is changing by the minute and that should be our main reference point.”
How did you develop a love for table tennis?
I started to play for real when I was seven-years-old at the Halmstad Table Tennis Club. If you count playing at home on the kitchen table, then I started even earlier than that.
At the time I was inspired by the great Swedish generation of Hans Alser, Kjell Johansson and after that Stellan Bengtsson who won the World Championships in 1971 in Nagoya, Japan.
When I started to play in competitions, I liked it even more. Early success in Swedish tournaments inspired me and soon enough I was selected to play for the cadet national team. It became my life – a profession that I have always liked.
How has your life been impacted by being a World Champion?
One time a champ, always the champ!
Of course it was a great feeling to actually win the title in 1991 after losing in the final two years earlier against Jan Ove Waldner. When I got the chance to play him again I remember changing a few things in my warm-up procedures. When the match started, I felt that Jan Ove was a little bit stressed. It was a good feeling to play that match in a relaxed mood.
When you win a big title it gives you confidence and, of course, automatically people start to respect you in another way. In Sweden I also became a much more known athlete to the general public, which is always a good thing for your sport.
Besides competing in the Table Tennis Legends Tour, how are you spending your time these days?
True, I played one time in the Legends Tour in Belgium. Let’s see if there will be more events coming. I am happy to play in a few more for sure.
The last two years I have been working in China for a club/training center in Tianjin with mainly coaching duties, but also playing a bit in the second league. On top of that I have worked a bit on some business projects related to a Swedish milk product, Champ Milk, that I am trying to introduce to the Chinese market. Donic, my long-time sponsor, is also in the picture with some work.
As an Ambassador at the Youth Olympic Games, what messages did you share with the players?
Since I have participated in seven Olympic Games, it was not my first time in the Olympic Village. Of course I tried to share some of my personal experiences and to just be a good role model. I spoke to the athletes, tried to lighten up the atmosphere and encouraged the youngsters to really enjoy the experience and to be the best they can be. I urged them to try to go all out in their efforts.
What impressions of the YOG can you share with us?
Very big event. It is unbelievable to watch from close range the power of the Olympic rings. Nanjing did a fantastic job in organizing the event. All the volunteers worked extremely hard. The Olympic Village was very good – top class. The Table Tennis event stood up very well in comparison to the other sports. The event was high class and we had some really top players for this age participating. I am sure that we, as a sport, made a strong impression on the IOC people visiting our venue.
What do you think it will take for TT to be in the TOP 5 IN ALL WE DO?
Well, this is a tricky question. There are many, many things that we need to improve on. Our professional tournament system is one thing that I believe must become better for our sport to earn more recognition and media coverage. We need to understand that the sporting world around us is changing by the minute and that should be our main reference point. It would be nice to see a more concentrated dialogue around change and progress. It all starts there: open communication for the good of our sport.
What do you feel with the greatest legacy of the Sharara era?
For sure Adham has been a strong leader for the ITTF. Many things have improved, like the presentation at major events, TV coverage, media work, the ITTF professional staff, etc.
Professional players had to adapt to many changes during his time as the ITTF President. This was not always an easy process for the players. We now have a great challenge and opportunity with the new plastic ball. Let’s hope that we can make some solid improvements by securing good quality balls for our top players to use in competitions, then the game will become so much better for TV and the spectators.
Personally I also think it is great to see the many opportunities presented to youth and junior players that the ITTF is offering today. When I grew up, we never had World Junior Championships or any other ITTF junior events. Today young talents can play and compete all over the world and that in itself is contributing towards growing the game.