by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
From Atlanta to Sydney
In 1996 in the World Congress Center, in a quarter-final contest when the lights went out half way through the match, Vladimir Samsonov was beaten by China’s Wang Tao (16-21, 16-21, 21-10, 21-15, 21-15).
Four years later in Sydney, he departed in the same round; he was beaten by Sweden’s Jan-Ove Waldner (20-22, 18-21, 21-14, 21-18, 21-19).
Athens to London
Fast forward to Athens, Beijing and London with the scoring system in each game being to 11 points as opposed to 21 points; matches best of seven games, not best of five games. O each occasion it was a fourth round exit.
In Athens in 2004 in the Galatsi Stadium which sadly is now a supermarket, he was beaten by Hong Kong’s Leung Chu Yan (11-7, 6-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-5, 7-11, 11-8). In Beijing, Sweden’s Jörgen Persson ended progress (7-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-13, 11-7, 12-10, 11-9).
Meanwhile, most recently in London, China’s Zhang Jike proved him nemesis (4-11, 11-7, 11-5, 8-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7).
The common factor: always the journey of Vladimir Samsonov had ended in a full distance duel.
“I didn’t do it on purpose!” smiled Vladimir Samsonov in a resigned manner.
“Life goes on, next time you have another chance; I have my family”, he added.
However, the problem for the now 40 year old, if that elusive medal is to be gained, time is running out.
Is it realistic to suggest that four years hence in Tokyo he will be a major contender for honours? Is Rio de Janeiro, the last chance; is it now or never?
Will he suffer the same fate as befell Jean-Michel Saive and Jörgen Persson; like Vladimir Samsonov two great servants of the sport who have gained the respect of all but for whom that precious Olympic medal always remained elusive?
Starts in Round Three
In Rio de Janeiro, Vladimir Samsonov is the no.7 seed; it means that he starts his quest in the third round, in itself that can be a testing task. Whoever the opponent may be, he will have played at least one match, acclimatised to the hall; a match is different to practise.
“The first match in any tournament is always difficult but equally by starting in round three, it gives more time to prepare”, explained Vladimir Samsonov. “You will face a good player in your first match but we are seeded so we must be ready.”
Who knows what may happen and could his destiny depend on a colleague?
Vladimir Samsonov appears in the same quarter of the draw as Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov; both play in Russian League for TTC Fakel Gazprom.