by Mikael Andersson
Special guests, and from now on, also official Ping Pong Power Ambassadors, were present. They included Will Shortz from Westchester New York, Swedish world champion and local hero Jörgen Persson alongside with the newly retired WTA Tennis Pro and local sports profile Sofia Arvidsson.
They were on stage showcasing the depth and ambitions embedded in the city funded, project for table tennis growth.
The world famous New York Times puzzle-master Will Shortz was the main attraction for the afternoon. It did not take long for the table tennis crazy club owner from the United States to capture the audience with a splendid mix of stories and well prepared word games.
A treat to follow, prepared for Will Shortz day no.1471 of consecutive table tennis play, enthused the crowd of local dignitaries; on the other side of the table stood Jörgen Persson ready not only to play for the required minimum of ten minutes but also to give advice.
“Let’s make a trade of sort”, Persson said. “You agree to help me to become a better solver of crosswords and I will throw some technical advice the other way.” The answer was short and sweet from the New Yorker: “It’s a deal with pleasure!”
Sofia Arvidsson, 32 years old, shared the stage with Jörgen in a quick question and answer session. The subject in question was on life for professional athletes after playing days had ended.
She surprised the audience when she revealed the extraordinary achievement of capturing two Swedish Youth Championships titles in table tennis and tennis within one week early in her racket sporting career.
“I won the Girls’ Under 14 event in the Swedish Championships by beating the favourite Marie Olsson in the final”, reflected Sofia Arvidsson. “The week after I continued the winning streak and became the Swedish Champion in tennis; interestingly enough I was not the highest seed in any of the two events but I liked to compete more than anything and that was my trademark.”
Two promising careers; tennis was on the winning side.
“Well it was a natural choice. I felt that my success in tennis somehow was more promising considering how little I had trained in comparison with my opponents at the time”, added Sofia Arvidsson who competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. “I also started to travel more internationally for tennis and that became my choice.”
On top of the entertainment provided by the three PPP ambassadors the organizers also managed to squeeze in an update on the preparations to host the world of table tennis in 2018.
“We did receive a lot of positive feedback mostly on the playing conditions in the Halmstad Arena from our two major events in the last year, the Liebherr Men’s World Cup and the European Olympic Qualification”, said Johnny Ewerstein, the World Team Championships Project Manager. “We have gone about to identify the future problem spots with an action plan to address them; most of the questions or concerns are connected to the hotel situations, we have good hotels nearby that people will enjoy!”
Likewise, Thomas Buza, the Project Manager for the Ping Pong Power Brand, closely attached to the World Championships, was positive having inspired plans in place.
Furthermore, he is man of some pedigree; he has wins to his credit over Jan-Ove Waldner, Kong Linghui and Vladimir Samsonov
“The goal with PPP is simple enough”, he said. “Let me summarize, table tennis for anyone, everywhere, it’s a challenge for sure but we are on the right track at least locally.”
Notably the final words of wisdom to an audience of around 100 people came from Anders Nelson, the Halmstad University department of Health and welfare. He explained how the Halmstad University historical ties can support the organization of the World Team Championships.
“We are a small to midsized university in Sweden perhaps best known for our innovative programmes within the fields of technology”, he explained. “Don’t forget that we have always, actually from the very beginning, also been a pioneer of sort when it comes to sport inspired programmes like sport psychology and pedagogics.”
Plans are also in motion, very much in close co-operation with the ITTF Sport Science Committee, for the University to host a two-day international conference connected to the World Championships in 2018.
The final programme is still under consideration but with clear indications that the Ping Pong Power theme health and table tennis should be further explored.