Day 88, June 5 - Interview with Vladimir Samsonov, Chair of the Athletes Commission: “I still have a lot of fun playing.”
Congratulations on your re-election as Chair of the ITTF's Athletes Commission in Tokyo. What are your main objectives during this term?
Thank you. As before, to represent the athletes in the best possible way.
Could you tell us a bit more about the Commission? In particular, could you explain what role Claude Bergeret, 1977 Mixed Doubles World Champion and your predecessor, currently plays?
The Commission consists of 1 Para TT representative (elected at the Para TT World Championships), 5 elected and 5 appointed members (elected and appointed at the World Championships). Amongst us are representatives of every continent. There are active players and members who have finished their table tennis career; Olympic medalists, former world number one ranked and players that still have time to reach the top.
Wang Liqin, Ashu Jain, Claude Bergeret (Liaison), Vladimir Samsonov, Jean-Michel Saive, Alena Kanova (Para TT Rep), David Powell, Angela Mori, Alfredo Carneros (Previous AC Rep), ElSayed Lashin.
Regarding Claude Bergeret, she is our advisor and friend. As an ITTF Executive Committee member and Athletes Representative for many years, Claude has been involved in the decision-making process. She has always helped the athletes and she assisted in the creation of the current Athletes Commission.
Given the worldwide representation on the Commission, what is the mode of communication and the frequency of your contacts?
We organize meetings during the World Championships and some other events. Other then that, we communicate in person and by email. We have a dedicated section on the ITTF website and Facebook page.
I understand that you have been attending the ITTF EC meetings for quite some time. What are the primary benefits to the players that you, as their representative, have been able to achieve in making their collective voices heard at the table?
Together with other parties, we were behind the proposals to change the racket control procedure, the world ranking system, and the possibility to form doubles teams from players from different associations at the World Championships. We help athletes with anything related to table tennis, work on improvement of the playing conditions, give our opinion on rule changes, etc.
You have managed to have an extremely long and successful table tennis career. Going into the Tokyo World Championships, you were ranked #11. That's fantastic! How have you been able to stay so competitive?
I have great support from my wife, my children, my family, and my coach. I still have a lot of fun playing and have goals that I have not achieved.
Not surprisingly, China won both the Men's and Women's Divisions this year. What can be done to help the rest of the world challenge China for the top of the podium?
I think, for starters the popularity of table tennis outside of China has to be improved. We need more kids playing.
You started your professional playing career prior to President Sharara's election as ITTF President. What would you like to say about the ITTF during these last 15 years under his leadership?
Today the ITTF is definitely a much bigger and more professional organization than it was 15 years ago. The ITTF is involved in many charity projects, the fan base is growing, and a lot of attention is paid to the development and promotion of our sport. In addition, we have seen significant rule changes. Now it’s probably time to focus more on athletes.