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World and European Titles but Rewards in San Diego are Pure Gold
By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Stellan Bengtsson all smiles as he watches play unfold at San Diego's Town and Country Club  Photo By: Richard Xue


He watches intently, he is in great demand; not as a player but as a coach and if you asked any player in the Town and Country Club in San Diego who they would select as their coach, he would win the vote by a landslide.

The man in question watching proceedings unfold on the first day of action, Thursday 29th November 2012, at the Mike Dempsey Memorial Tournament in the west coach American city of San Diego is Stellan Bengtsson.

A resident of San Diego for six years, he moved in 2006 following a stint at the Aspire Academy in Doha, Qatar where he coached alongside Jörgen Persson.

Difference in Temperature
Furthermore, he is most content in his adopted United States surroundings, as would seem to be all the people you meet in the west coast city; it may not be quite Utopia but San Diego, with its all your round temperate climate, is pretty near.

Unquestionably winter in San Diego is much different to winter in Falkenberg; more like summer in Stockholm!

Ended Asian Dominance
In San Diego he sets the example; just as he did as a player when he won the Men’s Singles title at the World Championships in Nagoya in 1971, beating the defending champion, Japan’s Shigeo Ito in the final.

The win brought to an end a period of Asian dominance; in 1953 Hungary’s Ferenc Sido had won the Men’s Singles title at the World Championships in Bucharest but from 1954, until Stellan Bengtsson’s watershed win, first Japan and then China had dominated the scene.

Opened Door for Swedish Glory
Stellan Bengtsson laid down a marker.

He became the first left hander to be crowned Men’s Singles World champion and opened a door to an era of Swedish glory, with the a host of titles finishing in the hands of the Nordic country.

Alongside Hans Alser and Kjell Johansson, he set the standard for the likes of Mikael Appelgren, Ulf Carlsson, Erik Lind, Thomas von Scheele, Peter Karlsson, Jörgen Persson and Jan-Ove Waldner to follow.

European Titles
After winning the Men’s Singles crown at the World Championships in 1971, he was crowned European Men’s Singles champion one year later in Rotterdam; the only player ever to hold both titles at the same time.

Furthermore, in 1973 he led Sweden to victory in the Men’s Team event at the World Championships in Sarajevo, whilst also winning the Men’s Doubles title with Kjell Johansson.

Also in 1973 in Böblingen and 1980 in Munich he won the Europe Top Twelve.

Later when playing days were over he coached at the German Bundesliga club he had represented, Saarbrucken, before alongside Anders Thunström becoming the Swedish National Coach.

Now, in 2012, the students Stellan Bengtsson coaches are of a somewhat different level to the likes of Jan-Ove Waldner, Jörgen Persson, Peter Karlsson et al but the motivation is just as strong if not stronger; especially helping those with a disability.

Try Hard
“They are good athletes”, said Stellan Bengtsson emphatically. “They try just as hard as able bodied players and they appreciate what you try to do for them; you get so much back from them.”

I would suggest many try harder; they overcome incredible odds to play table tennis.

In San Diego with his wife, Angie, Stellan Bengtsson coaches a group of players four days per week and in addition is in high demand to give individual lessons

Friend of Mike Dempsey
Also, he became a great friend of Mike Dempsey, the man in whose memory the tournament is being staged.

“I went to Mike’s house twice a week”, reflected a nostalgic Stellan Bengtsson. “He had actually retired from playing table tennis and had concentrated on his business; he decided to start again!”

Undoubtedly, the appearance in San Diego of one of the greatest players of all time was a motivating factor for the late Mike Dempsey.

“It was great fun coaching Mike, he always responded to what you tried to teach him”, smiled Stellan Bengtsson. “Sometimes, I would return home thoroughly fed up after coaching because the players did not respond to what you were trying teach them; that was never the case with Mike, I always came home smiling!”

Smiling and Stellan Bengtsson is smiling in the Town and Country Club.

The smile is that of satisfaction, seeing those he helps, those he coaches give their all at the Mike Dempsey Memorial Para Table Tennis Tournament.

It is his reward. Win or lose they all achieve, they all triumph; just as did Stellan Bengtsson, World and European champion.

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