Butler Remembers 1992 Olympics In A Career Filled With Highlights

By Richard Finn | March 12, 2018, 10:39 p.m. (ET)

Jim Butler USATT





By Richard Finn


Jimmy Butler’s Hall of Fame career has been filled with a lifetime of highlights.


He is a four-time US National Singles champion dominating in the early 1990’s winning in 1990, ’92 and ’93 before an improbable comeback win in 2014. He is a two-time Olympian in 1992 (Barcelona) and 1996 (Atlanta). Butler won the 2015 North American Cup title and was a member of the 1995 World Team Cup team.


Retired from serious competition since 2015, but with an eye to playing at the World Veterans Championships in Las Vegas this June, the 47-year-old Butler says it is hard to pick out one specific career highlight. However, he remembers vividly the 1992 Olympics when he had a chance to reach the round of 16.


“My very first Olympic match I played in 1992 I upset world #37 Thomas Janci from Czechoslovakia,” Butler said, as he recalls his Barcelona Olympic experience.  “The last person in my group defaulted the match (was a much lower ranked player from South Africa) and I had to play Zoran Primorac in order to win my group and advance to the final 16. 


“I was leading 11-4 the first game (to 21 points) and playing well.  Unfortunately my run of good play ended there. Primorac came back to win that game at 17, and I lost the second game which ended my 1992 Olympic tournament,” recalled Butler.


In offering advice to today’s generation of top players with Olympic aspirations, Butler said that there is no magic formula, just hard work and a well thought out practice regiment.


“You must practice as hard or harder than the competition you are playing against,” says Butler.  “It's important to be in a practice environment where you have players better than you, as well as different styles to practice against.  You must practice at a speed lower, equal, and higher than you in order to learn how to develop a complete game.  I would recommend playing at a club that has good 2500 to 2600+ rated Chinese players in order to master your skills.  Learn from them, and practice at their speed.”


Serving and returns of serves are areas of the game that most of our players need to improve according to Butler.


“American players are very weak in this area and it shows internationally,” Butler admits.  “American players struggle to get into rallies as they fail on the serve and receive against tough international competition. I put an emphasis on serve and receive when I competed in Sweden and it propelled my game internationally”


Additionally tournament play and lots of it will help combined with a well thought out strategy in setting up your tournament calendar advised Butler.  


“Try to play one every week if possible,” advises Butler.  “Don't only practice against players better than you...learn how to dominate players lower than you as well so you develop your own shots and your own game.  Sometimes if you only play players better, you can fall into a trap of learning how to only react to their shots and their speed...you must be able to create your own shots and speed as well, and this is important when you play players equal or lower than your level. “ 


Since stepping away from professional competition at the end of 2015, Butler has stayed busy working on two passions.


 “I stopped playing table tennis due to my desire and need to go back into my profession as a Muscular Specialist.  I am working on a film that will debut on the Internet called, "The Story of Jimmy Butler."  


“I have been working hard on it for 2.2 years and it was a very heavy workload, so I had to stop table tennis for a while so I could focus and complete the film. It is within a few months of completion.  It is a story of my entire table tennis career, combined with a new health breakthrough that I achieved within my profession as a muscular specialist.”


Sounds like a new addition to a lifetime of highlights for Jimmy Butler.