Timo Boll the principal challenger
Photo By: Tamasu Butterfly
2012 Olympic Games
A gold medal winner at the Olympic Games and Jan-Ove Waldner stands alone; he is the only European, the only non Asian player to achieve the feat.
It was a proud man who received the congratulations of Carl XVI Gustaf, the King of Sweden and his wife Silvia on Wednesday 8th August 1992 in the Estacio del Nord, a converted railway station in Barcelona.
Four further Olympic Games have passed and no European, male or female, has been able to match the feat of the mercurial Swede.
Can a successor to Jan-Ove Waldner emerge in London? If so the popular vote is Timo Boll.
He spearheads the European challenge in the Menís Singles event at the London 2012 Olympic Games; in fact he heads a wider challenge. He is the major threat to China, the major challenger to Zhang Jike and Wang Hao.
Eyes are focused on Timo Boll to take us back 20 years, when in August 1992 the semi-finals of the Menís Singles at the Olympic Games, saw Europe face Asia in each duel, the two continents with the deepest traditions in the sport of table tennis.
Twenty Years Ago
On both occasions victory went to Europe.
Jean-Philippe Gatien, the pride of France one year before he is to be crowned World champion, beat Chinaís Ma Wenge (20-22, 22-20, 21-16, 12-21, 21-13), Jan-Ove Waldner, one year after he had surrendered the World title to compatriot JŲrgen Persson, overcame Koreaís Kim Taek Soo (21-9, 21-18, 21-19).
Jan-Ove Waldner progressed to win the title; he beat Jean-Philippe Gatien in the final in three straight games (21-10, 21-18, 25-23).
We did not know it at the time but it was a golden age for Europe; in the Menís Doubles event Steffen Fetzner and JŲrg Rosskopf clinched silver, losing in a full distance five games final to Chinaís Lu Lin and Wang Tao (26-24, 18-21, 21-18, 13-21, 21-14).
Silver in Beijing
Four years ago Timo Boll led Germany to the silver medal in Beijing, in 2011 he won his first ever Menís Singles medal at a World Championships and early this year he was the pivotal player for his country in the Menís Team event at the LIEBHERR World Team Championships.
Close Against Zhang Jike
In both Rotterdam and Dortmund, Timo Boll was beaten by Zhang Jike but on both occasions he tested the young man who now stands at the top of the World rankings.
At the GAC GROUP World Championships he won the first game before losing the next four; at the LIEBHERR World Team Championships, after losing the first two games he extended the Chinese star the full five games.
Defeats at the hands of Zhang Jike but perhaps Timo Boll can take heed from the words of Jan-Ove Waldner.
Prior to the World Championships in Kuala Lumpur in 2000, the first time that only the team event had been staged, Jan-Ove Waldner had never beaten Liu Guoliang; he had lost time and time again.
At the team meeting prior to the final against China, Jan-Ove Waldner stunned Ulf ďTickanĒ Carlsson, the Swedish National Team coach by suggesting he should play first and if he did, more than likely he would face Liu Guoliang, the man he had never beaten.
Jan-Ove Waldner thought differently; perhaps that is what made him truly great.
He argued that if he beat Liu Guloiang it would be a hammer blow for China and in previous encounters against the Chinese star he had rarely lost in straight games.
Decision Proved Correct
If you can win one game against an adversary, you have the skill to beat him was basically the Waldner theory. In that memorable final, Jan-Ove Waldner beat Liu Guoliang, Sweden won the match and clinched the Swaythling Cup.
Repeated Success in Sydney
Furthermore, Jan-Ove Waldner never lost to Liu Guoliang again.
Later that year in Sydney; Jan-Ove Waldner beat Liu Guoliang in the semi-final of the Menís Singles event at the Olympic Games. Not only did he beat Liu Guoliang in Sydney, he won in three straight games (21-19, 21-16, 21-19) before losing to Kong Linghui in the final (21-16, 21-19, 17-21, 14-21, 21-13).
He had overcome his nemesis. Can Timo Boll do the same in London if Zhang Jike is an adversary?
Timo Boll take heed and remember LiŤge 2005, the LIEBHERR Menís World Cup; in the main draw, you beat Wang Liqin, Ma Lin and Wang Hao.
Three Chinese; in London thereís only two!