by Wade Townsend
Perfect: Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.
It’s not a word that is uttered very often in sport. As good as it is possible to be? Who decides the limits and sets the boundaries? Well twenty years ago one man found the limits and realised perfection.
Jan-Ove Waldner won the 1997 World Table Tennis Championships in Manchester without dropping a game. When he took his place on the podium the final score was Waldner 21 games, the rest of the world 0.
He defeated a baby faced Vladimir Samsonov in the final. Vladi was as much a spectator as the rest of us, except he had the best seat in the house, or perhaps the worst. It is a sad day when your silver medal just becomes part of a statistic.
But Waldner was simply untouchable. The Mozart of table tennis played his opponents like an orchestra.
It’s sometimes easy to forget just how much the GOAT of table tennis dominated the sport. From 1987 to 1999 he won two gold, two silver, and two bronze medals in singles at the World Table Tennis Championships. Let that sink in. In a dozen years missed out on the podium just once.
With the Liebherr 2017 World Championships fast approaching there will be discussion and debate about players winning titles and chasing down records. But perfection? No. A man’s reach should exceed his grasp; unless of course you are Waldner.
In Manchester the man that turned table tennis in to an art-form created a masterpiece. He was as good as it is possible to be. He was perfect.