2000 World Veteran Championships

By Tim Boggan | Dec. 03, 2017, 6:53 p.m. (ET)

Leon Ruderman and Tim Boggan, USA's Over 70 Doubles silver medalists – USA's only silver

Introduction by USATT Hall of Famer David Sakai
Tim Boggan, as most Table Tennis enthusiasts know, is our Sport’s historian. He also has served as President of the Association, served as an ITTF official, been a player, a Hall of Fame inductee and Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement award recipient. Here is Tim’s insight into one of the early World Veteran Championships. I think you will find it a very interesting perspective. 

 

World’s Veterans Championships: 

Kwing Yu “Albert” Lau wins 60’s Gold! 
Ruderman/Boggan Take Silver; Chui/Hlava Bronze


WELL, SOME U.S. PLAYERS WERE THERE
By Tim Boggan
(From July/August 2000 USA Table Tennis Magazine)

The 10th World Veterans Championships, held in three venues at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, May 21-27, drew the second largest entry ever for these biennial Championships – 1867 players in Over 40 through 80 Singles and Doubles events. Quite a turnout – though, alas, not enough for the bonus money the CTTA would have received from Canada’s International Conference Services Ltd. had the entries reached a record-breaking 2,000.

Fifty-seven countries participated – with Germany (roughly 560 players) and Japan (roughly 300 players) leading the way. England had more entries than Canada itself (about 100), Canada maybe 15 more than Sweden. The fact that Czechoslovakia, France, Chinese Taipei, Australia, and India all had a larger entry than the U.S. (a mere 40 players) was very disappointing – particularly to Hans Westling, Veterans Executive Committee Chair who’d begun these Championships in 1982, and to Klaus Traeger, head of this year’s Organizing Committee, who told me he’d anticipated 200 U.S. entries!

The conflicting May 27-28 St. Joe Valley Open at South Bend (almost $19,000 in prize money), and the June 2-4 Meiklejohn National Senior’s at Laguna Woods, CA (more than $14,000 in prize money), were thought to have dissuaded many players from coming, especially those who needed to cut expenses, for of course these Veterans Championships, though prestigious, offered no prize money.

What was offered here, perhaps even more than the competition (for as many as 1,000 of these come-from-afar players were relatively weak), was social interaction. Player identification cards had the first name of the participant writ large, the full name and country in smaller print – thus encouraging strangers to be openly familiar, friendly. A good idea – for, according to Bowling Alone, a new book by a Harvard University professor (reviewed coincidentally this very week in a Vancouver paper), more and more Americans increasingly over the last four decades have been spending less and less time with others. How many U.S. table tennis players at any major tournament today have the social capital of knowing many of their fellow competitors? And certainly in Table Tennis, as in Bowling, participation in local league play has severely declined from what it used to be, for nowadays people seem to prefer sitting alone at their computers and TV sets.

A number of Americans here – even, say, Richard McAfee, minding the sole exhibitor’s booth (for sponsor Butterfly), or Deputy Referee Larry Kesler, or Umpires Irina Borisova, Terry Canup, Joe Lee, and Tom Miller – might feel they’d not been socially active enough. But the players! During the first day of Singles, as well as the next day of Doubles, one participated in a round robin group of four, or occasionally even three – that alone was the competition (with the top two players or teams advancing to the Championship proper, the others to the Consolation). The third day was totally free – except for those who’d represented their country at World Championships who were attending the evening Swaythling Club reception hosted by President Di Schoeler.

So what did one do during all those non-playing hours – at least before the often exciting last rounds were played on the sixth day, or before leaving early for home? Mingled with, cheered on, friends ... from all over the world? Uh, how many such Championships abroad had many of these Americans ever been to? Who did they know? Introduce themselves to?

The 4th day saw Singles single elimination matches, the 5th Doubles single elimination matches – fast exits in both the Championship and Consolation for most. Luckily you had an early morning match and lost quickly? Time still to take the ferry over to the inimitable Butchart Gardens in Victoria, perhaps come back by sea plane. But if you won a match or two? I was told to be ready to play single elimination at 10:30 a.m., so I left downtown early, got out to the University at 8:00 o’clock ... to find, like many another, I’d drawn a bye, didn’t play until 4:30 that afternoon ... then 6:30 ... then 9:30. At the end (how much really, in my 70th year, could I have practiced, even if I’d wanted to?), a wearying 14-hour day.

Of course, I, more than most Americans, had old acquaintances to renew, especially from English-speaking Canada – Bill Cheng, Bina Chohan, Canadian National Coach Mariann Domonkos, Brian Hackeson (who years ago directed many a Toronto CNE tournament), CTTA Executive Director Tony Kiesenhofer, former Ontario TTA Executive Director Ken Kerr, his wife Marie and daughter Donna, Zedplin Law, former Canadian Men’s Champion Larry Lee (who reached the quarter’s of the Over 40’s here), Maurice Moore, Violetta Nesukaitis (one of North America’s best-ever Champions), Detlev and Sheila von Nottbeck, Ralph Spratt (who for two years now, in a successful transplant, has literally the heart of a 19-year-old), and long-time CTTA Historian Marge Walden.

CTTA President and ITTF Vice-President for North America Bruce Burton told me that, on seeing action shots in the Vancouver Sun of Sydney, Australia’s 89-year-old Dorothy de Low, a woman called and wanted to know if Marge Walden might possibly still be on the table tennis scene. Put in contact with Marge, the woman identified herself, and said, “Do you know who this is?” “Sure,” said Marge, now in her mid-80’s. “We used to work together in the 1940’s.”

For these Canadians I’ve mentioned – some of whom I’ve known since the ‘60’s – coming to Vancouver was a labor of love, though the official workers among them were helped out, entitled to free accomodations, meals, and part of their transportation expense.

I also passed the time (while my wife Sally was Touring about) by trying to keep abreast of how the Americans in particular, often playing in different venues, were doing (up until the last day, results were very difficult to come by), by writing an article (accompanied by a Robert Enders’ digital photo) for Chandra Madosingh’s Media Committee and their daily “Talking Stick” Newsletter, by snacking and reading, and by watching matches, often rather disinterestedly. Eighteen years ago I’d organized a U.S. group to the first Veterans Championships in Gothenberg, Sweden. Now I no longer had the desire or energy to organize another. Nor, apparently, did anyone else in the USATT.

I think it’s a fact that the Europeans – Germans, English, Swedes, Czechs – and the Japanese are used to socializing in their Senior play much more than the disparate Americans. And likely they’ve all more a sense of national togetherness than do the melting-pot Americans. (I never saw anyone waving a stars-and-stripes flag.)

So there are reasons for the poor turnout of U.S. players.

But, though the Japanese won 22 medals, the Germans 21, the U.S. didn’t come away empty-handed.

Let’s start with the extremes – which means forgetting the 40’s and the 80’s. I counted about 240 in the 40 Men’s, only one of whom was from the U.S. In the 95-entry Women’s 40’s there was – some consolation – just one U.S. player. And of the combined 32 entries in the Men’s and Women’s 80’s, again only one American.

Five of the approximately 225 entries in the Women’s Over 50 were from the U.S. Of the advancees – Irena Borisova, Mahin Roufeh, and Tyra Parkins – Borisova did best, eking out a gutsy -19, 16, 21 win over one Japanese before losing to another.

The Men’s Over 50’s drew about 350 players, among them 10 Americans, 6 of whom advanced. These included Geoff Civil and Jalih Roufeh (Jalih said he lost to a German who played with anti on both sides), and also Peter Siklos, the President/Director of the World Class Chess Association with its stars Judit Polgar and Anatolij Karpov.

Lim Ming Chui, who learned to win as a youth in Hong Kong, lost in the 16th’s to an Iranian – a Houshang Bozorgzadeh surrogate stop-stroke angler. Chui began by playing penholder, then, on falling behind in the 1st, switched to shakehands. Forced back to lob, Ming suddenly discovered this chop/blocker and his tricky long pips had a defense problem with topspin to his hard-rubber forehand and so was able to force the match into the 3rd. Unfortunately for Ming, this fellow then showed he still had the kind of vicious forehand attack Houshang used to have.

Jiri Hlava, the expatriate Czech, also lost in the 16th’s – to Germany’s Wolfgang Lux who once played in the Bundesliga for Berlin. Jiri, down match point, did what he hadn’t the luxury of doing – mishit his own serve.

Ex-Russian Simon Shtofmakher, on coming second in his round robin, lamented: “This guy held the racket claw-like and blocked everything. I just didn’t have the patience to push balls with him to try to win.” After advancing, Simon was beaten in the 3rd round, 19 in the 3rd (“Everybody loses to a German,” I heard someone say). Shtofmakher’s best serve, fast and deep to the backhand, was negated by the German’s anti returns, and when Simon tried to duplicate this favored serve to the forehand, he had to slow it down or risk twisting it off the table – hence much of its effectiveness was nullified.

The Women’s Over 60 had 211 entries – plenty of Japanese housewives, but, again, only one American.

Our advancees in the Men’s 60’s included Joe Chen (winner of three straight-game matches before losing 18 in the 3rd to an Austrian); Bohdan Dawidowicz (ohh, having survived the more than momentary loss of his and his wife’s luggage – it had been sent to Houston! – he finally succumbed in his third expedite match to a Swede); and Ray Fahlstrom (who fell to last year’s Champion, Per Magnusson of Sweden). In addition to Kwing Yiu “Albert” Lau, the eventual winner of this Championship, whom I’ll speak of in a moment, other U. S. players – George Brathwaite, Toon Mao, Mark Shapiro, Lynwood Smith, and Fumio Yoshikawa – also advanced. Lynwood, particularly, scored a gutsy, memorable win – 23-21 in the 3rd over a Chinese-Taipei opponent.

Stopped abruptly in this 60’s Championship was many-time U.S. Over 40/50/60 Champ George Brathwaite. He right away caught Germany’s Carl Rauch, a strong, combination-pips player who by chopping steadily and picking backhands would go on to reach the semi’s. The Chief didn’t expect to be playing against inverted-sponge players, but that ball that kept sliding away from him needed some getting used to. “After I lost,” said George, “I looked round the playing hall, and thought, ‘I can beat anyone else here.’”

Kwing Yiu "Albert" Lau, USA's Over 60 Singles gold medalist – USA's only gold

Kwing Yiu "Albert" Lau, USA's Over 60 Singles gold medalist – USA's only gold.

Lau, the U.S. 60’s player who did beat everyone else, first became interested in the game in his native Hong Kong. In 1952, as a boy, he saw Marty Reisman play in the Southern Playground Stadium there and proclaimed him his idol. After practicing with Chui three times a week at Ming’s Waltham, MA Club, Albert, our 1999 U.S. Open 60’s Champion, came here quite focused and showed exceptional patience and determination in winning his last three do-or-die matches.

In the quarter’s, against Siegfried Lemke of Germany, a backhand-pips picker, Lau, on losing the 1st at 12, was advised by Dawidowicz, his corner man, to steady his play and forget trying to power shots through. But on being up 13-8 in the 2nd then down 16-14, Albert was in trouble. However, from 19-all, steady topspin play kept him alive. In the 3rd, after Bohdan had re-emphasized his warning to keep the ball away from Lemke’s backhand – and, despite the fact that during one point Albert’s racket slipped out of his hand to go high-flying into the next court – much of the match resulted in an unspectacular forehand pushing duel, which, pursuing this correct strategy, Lau won.

In the semi’s, opposite Dieter Lauk, another German pusher/picker, Lau again lost the 1st at 12. Then, up 19-17 in the 2nd, he faltered to go match-point down. But careful, long-point backhand pushes, followed by Lauk’s missed backhand picks, helped Albert to survive, and at 22-all he got successive point-winning forehands in to even the match. After that, the German’s concentration was broken.

Lau’s final opponent was Chinese-Taipei penholder Sung-Ming Liu. Up 9-2 in the 3rd, Albert appeared to be a winner. But, as Chui would say, “Liu then played like a youngster – smashing ball after ball” to lead 15-12. Lau knew what he had to do, though – and from there on in, both players fought for the offense. Down double match-point, Albert again raised his level – defended, countered, scored four in a row – and so at these Championships became our only gold medal winner.

The Women’s 70’s, with a draw of 75, saw both our players, Mary Shum and Lisa Modlich, advance – with Lisa doing well to get to the quarter’s before losing to a Belgian who could smack forehands by her.

In the 160 or so-entry Men’s 70’s, four of the nine Americans would advance ... up to a point of course. I particularly liked Jerry Wartski’s line, “I lost to an International Umpire.” And speaking of officials, I understand that Head Referee Karol Ziduliak and his Canadian Deputies – Art Koberstein, Peter Kosek, and Mike Skinner – had an Oh-for-the-moment-let’s-give-him-a-little-leeway discussion concerning Marty Reisman’s single-elimination playing attire: fedora and leopard-skin trousers. Notice I said “for the moment” – for, wonder of wonders, or horror of horrors, Marty lost his first Championship-round match, two straight, 19, 20, to ... a German. Of course Reisman still has an attack arsenal...from both forehand and backhand – problem is he won’t bring himself to use it. Perhaps, then, the officials took pity on him? As if his jaunty line, “My game is starting to fall apart – I’m getting bored with my outfit,” said in jest, was all too true.

Leon Ruderman, scoring with some slashing backhands, got to the 8th’s before losing 19, 16, in a battle of long pips to England lefty, current European 70’s Champion, Geoff Brook.

I also lost in the 8th’s, after having a great straight-game chance, 19, -21, -12 – to the eventual winner, Sweden’s Curt Osterholm, who in ‘96 at Lillehamer had taken both the 70 Singles and Doubles. I feel my hit-or-miss attack was called for, but that on the whole I blocked too predictably, too passively, needed to intersperse those blocks with chops or backhand counters that might have given me more forehand openings. However, I must say that in the quarter’s Osterholm showed marvelous poise and backhand-attack steadiness in rallying to beat the Czech, Vladimir Buchta, from 20-14 match-point down.

As for the Americans in doubles, only several matches are worth commenting on.

In 50’s play (where, as was not the case in singles, a player could participate in a younger age group), Brathwaite paired with Shtofmakher – and lost in the 3rd-round in three to an Australian/Singapore team.

Lim Ming Chui and Jiri Hlava, USA's Over 50 Men's Doubles bronze medalists – USA's only bronze

Lim Ming Chui and Jiri Hlava, USA's Over 50 Men's Doubles bronze medalists – USA's only bronze.

However, Lim Ming Chui and Jiri Hlava advanced to win a bronze – losing in two tenacious 20, 19 games in the semi’s to the defending 50 Singles Champion, Wilfried Lieck, and his Swiss partner, the strong looper Galal Ezz, who’d go on to win the final, 24-22 in the 3rd. For quite a while now Ming has been complaining about the calcium build-up in his playing arm that pains him when he hits backhands – in regard to which a Tai Chi master has suggested the paradoxical cure of hitting the ball ever harder, and Jiri has wryly commented that when he plays Chui for money Ming hits backhand after backhand in without so much as a flinch. At any event, what with Chui’s forehand loops and Hlava’s backhand flips going in, they were leading the winners in both games before bowing at the end.

In 70’s play, Reisman paired with former English International Jeff Ingber (in ‘59 at the Dortmund World’s, he and famed English Coach Jack Carrington’s wife, Elsie, knocked Dick Miles and Leah Neuberger out of the Mixed). But it was obvious Marty and Jeff (a diabetic) needed, well, injections of some kind to get going, for they couldn’t find the right flow to their games.

2000 World Veteran Championships

Leon Ruderman and Tim Boggan, USA's Over 70 Doubles silver medalists – USA's only silver.

The timing did seem right, though, for Ruderman and me, for we’d won eight straight matches – helped greatly by Leon’s varied long and short-pip serves and my follows – and had reached the final. Whereupon, though we played spottily, we managed to win the 1st 24-22, and were leading by several points in the mid-game 2nd, only to lose it at 19 – then could not much contest the 3rd. This was naturally a big disappointment to me, for 18 years ago, at Gothenberg, I’d been the loser in a similar final in the Over 50 Doubles with Derek Wall (and there, too, I’d lost in the 50 singles to the winner).

Oh well – gee whiz, heck – what’s a world championship anyway?

Better I go away with the positive thought that I really want to compliment the organizers – not only for running the enormous number of matches on time, but especially for the last-match, five-table set-up that, in simultaneously playing the finals of all five events, gave as much due as possible to all those who passionately love the Sport ... whether they’re 40, or 80.

Men’s Results
Over 40 Singles: Cecava Miroslav (CZE) d. Yi Yuxiang (GER), 15,19.
Over 50 Singles: Liang Ge Liang (CHN) d. Neubauer Herbert (SUI), 19,14.
Over 60 Singles: Lau Kwing Yiu (USA) d. Liu Sung Ming (TPE), 16,-16,20.
Over 70 Singles: Oesterholm Curt (SWE) d. Illberg Horst (GER), 18,20.
Over 80 Singles: Saewerstroem Gunnar (SWE) 2nd Blomvist Olof (SWE), 12,16.
Over 40 Doubles: Murakami/Tokai (JPN) d. Li/Liu (GER/CAN), 21,11.
Over 50 Doubles: Lieck/Ezz (GER) d. Neubauer/Amelin (SUI/RUS), -18,10,22.
Over 60 Doubles: Hirt/Lippelt (GER) d. Budzsisz/Langehegermann (GER/LUX), 11,14.
Over 70 Doubles: Fleiner/Ilbert (GER) d. Tim Boggan/Leon Ruderman (USA), -24,19,16.
Over 80 Doubles: Saweerstroem/Blomkvist (SWE) d. Widawski/Natterer (FRA/GER), 20,11.

Women’s Results
Over 40 Singles: Takakiwa Keiko (JPN) d. Indu Puri (IND), 8,14.
Over 50 Singles: Mochida Keiko (JPN) d. Federova Svetlana (RUS), -18,9,16.
Over 60 Singles: Ikeda Akiko (JPN) d. Nagase Chizuko (JPN), -19,15,6.
Over 70 Singles: Yamanaka Harue (JPN) d. Krejkova Eliska (CZE), 19,18.
Over 80 Singles: Gray Betty (WAL) d. Rebattet Genevieve (FRA), 14-15,19.
Over 40 Doubles: Rambert/Pedersen (DEN) d. Dunning/Shields (ENG), 19,17.
Over 50 Doubles: Fukui/Mochida (JPN) d. Foeldy/Ferderova (SUI/RUS), 14,-16,19.
Over 60 Doubles: Bird/Pilliere (AUS/FRA) d. Uchida/Yoshimura (JPN), -17,15,19.
Over 70 Doubles: Butcher/Wetterstroem (ENG/SWE) d. Friebe/Mueller (GER), 15,16.
Over 80 Doubles: Penny/Grey (ENG/WAL) d. Delay/Rebattet (FRA), 14,17.