USATT Insider poses 11 questions to Olympian Jasna Rather
11 Questions with Jasna Rather
1) Why do you play?
I started playing for a few reasons: my sister already played table tennis, my uncle was the coach in the local club and my parents wanted me to play some sport that makes me active and keep me healthy.
2) Which is your favorite tournament?
I always preferred tournaments that had team, singles, doubles and mixed doubles events. The team event part was part of learning how to work with others, how to care about others and building team spirit. When you are part of some team, you have more sense of belonging, more people that supports your goals, and having other athletes on the team helping each other to be the best they can be.
3) Who is your primary nemesis?
Early in career there was always someone from the same country that would be the biggest rival, but by age 15, I was the top player in the country so my rivals were mainly international athletes from which you might know some of them very well: Emilia Gheorghe, Otilia Badescu, Chila Batorfi, Olga Nemes, ... I cannot say that I had really nemesis since mostly it was rivalry. When I moved to the US, I was not very active player ( I did not train almost at all, and I just played some major events like trials, Nationals and the US Open, because my focus was on school and job). Gao Jun and I played each other in the worlds when she represented China and I played for Yugoslavia, and I won. When I moved to the US, I would have need to train on regular basis in order to continue beating her or players of that level. You cannot play your best if you don't put time into, and I had different priorities here in the US.
4) What is your favorite game tactic to score?
I like to lead 1:0 in games, but I am sure everyone prefers that.
5) Thoughts on the Poly Ball.
I am not very supportive of any changes since 1990's. I liked speed gluing and celluloid balls. I feel as game was more virtuous than with new technology rubbers (in which many use boosting) and plastic ball. To me, game became more robotic since they implemented new rules.
8) Toughest Loss?
Probably in semifinals of Olympics after 1:1 and 15:12 lead against Chinese players.
7) Greatest Win?
There are so many of those that is difficult to select just one.
8) How you prepare for a tournament?
Making sure I pack what I like to wear when I play; having enough rubbers (I would put every evening new pair of rubbers at the tournament); going to shopping to release the stress; pack enough shirts, socks, towels,... to bring in the gym each morning; making sure to have someone to warm up during the tournament either from the team or to schedule warm up with another competitor; to wake up each morning at the tournament 4-5 hours before the first match so I have enough time to shower, eat and practice for more than hour before the first match.
9) When you see a new player at the club, what do you do?
I was never regularly going to clubs in the US. When I first came to the US, If I wanted to play I could play at the National Training Center in Davison, MI with people that I knew, and when I moved to Chicago, I would mainly play with Sasa or Lupi in a club that I was not member of and would be not be there very often. At Texas Wesleyan, our program is only for Texas Wesleyan students, so if a new student shows interest to play table tennis and stops by the gym, we welcome them and invite them to join practices. If I was in the regular club training, I am one of those who most of the time waits that people approach me first.
10) Player you would most like to play in a tournament?
Bettine Vriesekoop. I always loved to play in tournaments against her. She was one of top players in Europe but one of cleanest styles, and I would enjoy so much playing matches against her, and not only because I would mainly win, but points would be long and probably fun to watch.
11) If you had to face Jimmy Butler, Lily Zhang or Kanak Jha what would your game plan be?
If I start planning how to play them, that means I will actually start practicing seriously and start thinking what I need to do, which I did not do since 1992!
BONUS - 12) What do you do now?
I am about 10 years head of the program at Texas Wesleyan University. I also work for USA Table tennis as Para Program Director which is in some way very similar job as what I do for Texas Wesleyan. I love both of my jobs. I feel very lucky to do what I love to do.