by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
A quite outstanding record of longevity and of course he is the only player on duty at the forthcoming event in Astana who was present in the very first when we met in Tianjin in 1996.
On that occasion he concluded play as the runner up in both the Men’s Singles and Men’s Doubles event, in the former he was beaten by the host nation’s Kong Linghui, in the latter when partnering Germany’s Jörg Rosskopf; the duo lost to a pair who dazzled. China’s Wang Liqin and Yan Sen gave a breath taking performance. It was a clear sign of what was to come as later the duo progressed to become Olympic Games and World champions.
Notably the following year in Hong Kong, the first tournament to use the “Time Out” system, Vladimir Samsonov won the Men’s Singles title at the Grand Finals; he beat Wang Liqin in the title decider. The result confirmed his status at the top of the Men’s World Rankings.
It was an age when if you “skyped” someone it meant you smashed them across the face and “wifi” was the lady to whom you were married. More importantly, it was an era when Vladimir Samsonov was at the peak of his powers; it was also the era when another young European player was moving rapidly from promising junior to established senior.
The world was taking note of Germany’s Timo Boll, a player who likewise has stood the test of time. He won his first ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title in São Paulo, Brazil in 2001, his most recent, like Vladimir Samsonov this year; he succeeded in Incheon, Korea. Pertinently in 2005 in Fuzhou, China he won at the Grand Finals.
Role models for the sport and one more name who has stood the test of time is that of Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan; the player who owns the unique record of winning at the Grand Finals before ever winning on the Tour itself.
Against the odds he won at the Grand Finals in 2002 in Stockholm, the following year he won his first Men’s Singles title at an ITTF World Tour tournament when he prevailed in Rio de Janeiro.
Timo Boll, Chuang Chih-Yuan and Vladimir Samsonov, I shudder to call them senior citizens, better icons of the sport but for the rest of the field, by comparison they are mere juniors, not bad juniors.
Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals: Confirmed List (Wednesday 22nd November)