Day 41, July 22 - Masahiro Maehara Values Friends Made Along His Journey
“I chose to live in the world of table tennis.”
Masahiro Maehara achieved a childhood dream in 1977, not only to represent Japan playing table tennis, but to “stand on the stage of the final.” He was a member of the Japanese Men’s Team who finished with the silver against Chinese’s Men’s Team. In 1979, 1981, and 1985, he was again on Japanese Men’s Team when they won three bronze medals. In 2013, he was elected ITTF Executive Vice-President. Today he speaks with the Countdown about his journey in our sport.
Coming from Japan, one of our sport’s most dynamic contributors, what were your earliest impressions of table tennis?
My earliest impressions of table tennis were:
- Japan has a proven track record since its first appearance in the World Table Tennis Championships in 1952;
- Our former players won many medals; and
- Japan is in a position to play a leading role in the table tennis world.
How did you get involved with the sport?
I started table tennis at the age of 10. I saw the All-Japan Championships finals at the age of 12, and I felt, "I also want to stand on the stage of the final."
And again, at the age of 17, when I saw the 1971 World Championships in Nagoya, I strongly thought, “I would like to play in the international stage." I chose to live in the world of table tennis since then, even during and after graduating from the university.
I understand that you actually coached President Sharara when he was training in Japan with the Canadian team in 1974. Could you comment on that?
Yes, when President Sharara came to Japan as a player in 1974, it was I who gave him a lesson for table tennis.
This time, I think it is my turn to take lessons for “Vice-Presidential” business from him.
How did it feel to realize your dream in 1977?
I got a chance to play in the team final game against China at the 1977 WTTC’s in Birmingham. Through the experience there, I had found something which greatly affected my subsequent approach to the table tennis.
When you were the National Coach of Japan, Ichiro Ogimura sent you to spend one year in Hastings (former location of the ITTF headquarters). What year was that and what were the primary things you took away from that experience?
I spent one year in Hastings from the month of September in 1991. From there, I went from place to place across Europe and I learned coaching methods. What is most memorable for me are the many friends I became acquainted with through the world of table tennis.
Eventually, how and when did you become the Secretary General/General Director of the Japanese TTA?
After representing Japan as a national team player, coach and general manager of the national team, I was appointed the General Director of the Japan Table Tennis Association in 2008.
Now that a couple of months have passed since the fantastic WTTC’s that the JTTA hosted in Tokyo, what are the main points of success that you can share with us?
It is that for the development of table tennis: to face a new challenge as much as possible without fear.
Your teams had wonderful results at this year’s WTTC’s. And there’s something very note-worthy about Japan, the Women’s Team is equal to or even more visible; dare I say “more popular” than the Men’s Team? Can you comment on that?
In the Japanese table tennis world, our Women's Team won Japan’s first Olympic medal in table tennis in 2012 at the Olympic Games in London. Our country took great interest in the achievement. The Men’s Team won a bronze medal as well at the Tokyo WTTC’s recently. Because the Men’s Team has steadily raised their results, along with the women, there is a possibility of a medal for the Men’s Team in the future Olympic Games. And it will surely get a lot of attention.
Of course, I want to focus also on your role as an ITTF Executive Vice-President. With the WTTC’s behind us now, what are the primary areas of responsibility you have on the ITTF’s Executive Committee?
My responsibilities in the ITTF are with the Equipment Committee, Racket Control, Sports Science & Medical, Veterans Committee, Veterans World Championships and Research. Through the performance of this business, I want to contribute to the improvement of the level of table tennis in the world through the Japan Table Tennis Association.
It’s been almost a year now since Japan was awarded the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. That is great news for our sport. What news can you share with us about the developments underway?
We will hold more international competitions toward 2020, not only strengthening the Japanese Team, but also to focus on the development of the table tennis competition environment in Japan for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Finally, as we count down the last couple of months of Adham Sharara’s presidency, do you have some comments about the special contributions he has made to our sport?
The ITTF had 180 member associations in 1999, but has increased the number of affiliated associations up to par with the International Volleyball Federation, which had the top record in the number of member associations, at 220. This has resulted from, and will lead to more, development of table tennis globally.
I feel that with the Junior Circuit tournaments, currently over 30 events in a year, contributes to raising the improvement of the competitive abilities of the younger generation of the table tennis world.