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

By Sheri Cioroslan | July 11, 2014, 5 p.m. (ET)

Day 52, July 11 - Miguel Delgado Discusses 20 Years of Progress for the ITTF and LATTU

“It was my goal to stage the first-ever World Junior Championships in Latin America.” 

Miguel DelgadoIn 1993, Miguel Delgado made his leap from player to continental leader.  Today the Countdown visits with him to review developments in Latin America, and especially within the Latin American Table Tennis Union (LATTU), over the past two decades as well as his reaction to changes within the ITTF during the same time period. 

How did you first become involved in table tennis?

First I was a chess player. The place where we practiced chess was one floor below a table tennis club, so I always heard the sound of table tennis balls.  Every time, after my chess practice was finished, I opened the door of the table tennis club to see what later became my beloved sport.  In 1974 my Aunt Dunia, gave me a ping pong racket as a gift for my twelfth birthday.  And there the story began. 

In 1993, you became a member of the ITTF’s then-Executive Board (since renamed the “Development and Continental Council”) as the ITTF Continental Vice President for LATTU.  How did that happen? 

Yes, on May 26th, 1993 I was elected as a Continental Vice President of the ITTF. It was a tough election. The result was 10 to 8 votes against former ITTF Vice President Helios Farrel from Mexico. At that time a change in Latin America was required, and I accepted the challenge. I was 31-years-old at that time.  I arrived in Gothenburg, Sweden as a player and a participant in the World Championship’s and came back as an ITTF official! At that time I was also president of the Guatemalan Table Tennis Association. 

How did ITTF President Ichiro Ogimura welcome you?

It was a great welcome from Mr. Ogimura. He made a promise to visit Guatemala.  And he accomplished it.  Mr. Ogimura came to participate in the First Latin American Junior Championships. This was a great honor to host him in my country.  Unfortunately, it was one of his last trips.  I will never forget his words during the Open Ceremony, which was held in the Guatemalan National Theatre.  He said, “We in Japan also believe in Culture.”

As you indicated, soon afterwards President Ogimura passed away.  Did you have any communications with his successor, ITTF President Lollo Hammerlund?

Yes, I had the pleasure to meet and work with Lollo since 1994. We attended the Executive Board meeting of the ITTF in Japan together.  It was a great honor to work with Ichiro Ogimura, Lollo Hammerlund, Xu Yinsheng, Nicke Bergstrom, Hans Giesecke, Neil Harwood, George Segun, Albert Shipley, Rufford Harrison and Tim Boggan. All of them were great officials of the ITTF at that time. 

Then in 1995, you were elected LATTU President.  What is the story behind that? 

I was elected LATTU President on November 25th, 1995 in the beautiful country of Cuba. The result was 12 – 11 for me against Oswaldo Papelon Borges from Venezuela. 

By then, China’s Xu Yinsheng had become the ITTF President.  I know that China has traditionally taken a strong interest in LATTU.  Are there some memorable programs that you had the opportunity to develop under his presidency? 

It was a great pleasure to meet and work with Mr. Xu Yinsheng.  He is a very kind person.  He always supported Latin America whenever there was a need.  China sent table tennis equipment to many Latin American countries, which greatly helped our continent.  Because of Mr. Xu, many of our players, coaches and officials were invited to go to China to learn more about our beloved sport. 

In 1999, Adham was elected ITTF President after serving as the Deputy President and ITTF CEO during Mr. Xu’s presidency.  Afterwards President Sharara went to Guatemala together with Anders Thunstrom and Jordi Serra to present the P4 Plan to the LATTU General Assembly.  Can you describe how that went?  Were LATTU delegates excited or skeptical?

It was a great honor to receive Adham, Anders and Jordi in Guatemala!  I still enjoy looking at the pictures of their visit.  There were 21 countries present.  Everyone was very anxious because it was Adham’s first visit as ITTF President to Latin America.  Because of the P4 Plan, everybody knew at that time that something big was about to happen. 

In the same year, 1999, I was elected USATT president.  Later on several of us in the ITTF worked together on what was a brand new development within the ITTF: the Junior Commission.  Two of the issues we were working together on was the ban of speed glue and creating not only the World Junior Championships, but also ensuring continental rotation of host countries.  Do you have some stories to share about that era?

It was my goal to stage the first-ever World Junior Championships in Latin America, to present our Continent to the rest of the world.  So we worked very hard to achieve that.  We made history when Chile was victorious and got the right to organize such a very important event.  Chile beat Austria by one vote in the Board of Directors meeting of the ITTF.

Chile organized a wonderful World Junior Championships, which inspired the confidence of the rest of the world in us. After breaking that barrier, Latin America has organized many other marvelous events such as the World Cadet Challenge in the Dominican Republic (Adham was present), the World Cadet Challenge and the Junior Circuit Finals in Puerto Rico (the most beautiful event I had ever seen!).  Additionally, in Cartagena, Colombia, the fantastic World Junior Championships were held.  Finally, Guatemala hosted the World Junior Circuit Finals, which was recognized by the ITTF as one of the best events of the year 2012.

Many Junior Circuit events have also been organized in El Salvador, Venezuela, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, etc. 

In the ITTF, we have separate continental recognition of Latin America and North America.  Yet we collaborated to create the first-ever Pan American Junior Championships, complete with a training camp beforehand.  Can you share how that event was received?

That proposal was received with great expectations. USA Table Tennis did a great job organizing the first-ever -- and only -- Pan-American Youth Championships in history, which was held in the beautiful city of Fort Lauderdale. Our two continents shared in the medal distribution.  Unity in America is important.  We need to work together to become stronger! 

Over time, we both moved on from our continental roles.  What were the circumstances that led to a transition in LATTU for you? 

There was a huge need to improve marketing programs in our continent.  After long discussions with our great president Adham Sharara, I made a decision to step down from the LATTU presidency to become 100% involved in marketing. It was a tough decision because I had at that time the support of at least 80% of the Latin American countries and they asked me not to retire. But, the way I see it, I never retired – quite the contrary: I have always stayed involved and I have always received support and encouragement from our president Adham Sharara, the ITTF, TMS, and LATTU.

Over the past several years, one of the biggest accomplishments for Latin America was the remarkable sponsorship Vivek and Rakesh Kohli of STAG offered us. STAG signed contracts with 22 Latin American countries and they received more support from STAG than they had ever received from any other brand in the past.  That made me very happy and satisfied because many brands are now willing to sponsor LATIN AMERICA!

It is very important to note that without Adham´s vision, and without the support of TMS International, especially from its General Director Anders Thunstrom, marketing and sponsorship would very likely still be very poor in our continent.

I would also like to acknowledge Raul Calin for doing an incredible job organizing the best ITTF events. 

Mikael Andersson delivered about 10 High Performance Courses in Latin America.  This helped us a lot to understand high level table tennis.  It was a superb pleasure to translate all of them!  I would like to give special thanks to Mikael for his many contributions.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the whole LATTU team who worked hard together with me for 13 years:  Melecio Rivera, Hugo Perez De Corcho, Leo Moseley, Roberto Miglietti, Rolando Mancilla, Arie Fialko, Fran Camargo, Evelio Alvarez, Nilo Castillo, Dagoberto Ewouske, Jairo Paez, Leonel Aguilar, Juan Vila, Carlos Marin, Luis Salazar, Vasdev Bob Roopnarine, Alexander Zamora, Jorge Herrera, Alaor Pinto, Leticia Castaldo, Ivan Santos, Norman Carrillo, Nestor Tenca, Jose Molina, Sergio Blanco, Oswaldo Papelon Borges, Pancho Seijas, and many more great officials from Latin America. 

Other people I would like to mention I enjoyed working with in the ITTF are Pierre Albertini, Khalil Al Mohannadi, Cherif Hajem, and Khaled El-Salhy and my great friend Ian Marshall. 

Do you have some special thoughts to share about Adham Sharara’s contributions to the ITTF?

Before Adham took over ITTF marketing, I remember that the annual budget of the ITTF was around US$ 500,000 dollars.  Now the yearly budget is US$ 5 million, more or less. This is a huge contribution and a great fact! To quote Adham, “Life is made of FACTS!” 

Another huge “fact” is that TV coverage of our beloved sport has achieved during Adham´s administration a similarly astonishing high level, including the quality of our sponsors. 

A very remarkable and visible improvement is the beautiful presentation of show-courts for table tennis, especially at the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Junior Championships, Pro Tours and World Tours, Continental Cups, etc. 

In one article I cannot describe all that Adham and his great team have done for table tennis and the ITTF.  All I can say, with all of my greatest respect to all the past ITTF Presidents, is that “ADHAM SHARARA IS THE GREATEST PRESIDENT OF ALL TIME.” 

I am very eager to know more about the ITTF’s P5 Plan and all of the efforts that Adham is making. I am sure that once again something big is about to happen! 

I presented two proposals to Adham:  a mass participation program (My Champion School Program) and a possible Network Multilevel Marketing to help the whole table tennis family. 

Thank you very much, Miguel.  As you have shown by your example, you have indeed “never retired.”  Now we all look forward to seeing what will happen next on the part of our friend, ITTF President Adham Sharara, when he too “never retires!”    

Remembering all of these great times brings tears to my eyes.  Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity.  I would like to add my gratitude to you, Sheri, as well for coming up with the whole Countdown idea and for doing all of these interviews.  You are another example of someone who also “never retired” from the ITTF.  It was an honor to work with you.  It’s great that you are still involved in helping table tennis.