10 Sep 2018

Two decades ago in 1998 in Eindhoven, for the first time in their illustrious careers they won the respective Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles titles at the European Championships; now two decades later, the names of Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus and Luxembourg’s Ni Xialian appear on the entry list.

They appear amongst the 130 men and 112 women destined for the forthcoming Liebherr 2018 ITTF European Championships. Play commences in the Spanish east coast resort of Alicante on Tuesday 18th September.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Vladimir Samsonov repeated the success in 2003 in Courmayeur and retained the title two years later in Aarhus; similarly, in 2002 in Zagreb, for a second time Ni Xialian stood on the top step of the podium.

Once again present; the fact they are competing pays them great credit as athletes but does it not also pay great credit to the tournament itself?

Over the years the Olympic Games has become the pinnacle; next is the World Championships but then what follows? More than one player from the old continent has suggested to me that in terms of importance, being crowned European champion is ahead of winning the Men’s or Women’s World Cup titles.

Notably of European players who have won the Men’s Singles title at a World Championships in the past 60 years, Hungary’s Istvan Jonyer, Frenchman Jean-Philippe Gatien and Austria’s Werner Schlager were never crowned European champion.

Equally, Romania’s Angelica Rozeanu, winner of the Women’s Singles title at six consecutive World Championships, was never the European champion. However, to be fair, she only played in the first two editions of the European Championships; she competed in the inaugural event in 1958 in Budapest and two years later in Zagreb.

Likewise, Hungary’s Tibor Klampar, Croatia’s Zoran Primorac and Poland’s late Andrzej Grubba, all winners of the Men’s World Cup, never won the European title.

Also, those who have won in the past are hungry for more; the only player to have won the Men’s Singles title at a European Championships, since Eindhoven in 1998 and does not appear in this year’s current entry list, is that of Sweden’s Peter Karlsson, the winner in 2000 in Bremen. Thus if 2000 is the year that brought the last century to a close, every previous winner this century is present!

Somewhat similarly, taking into account the winners of the Women’s Singles title in the past 20 years, only three names; those of Li Jiao of the Netherlands, Germany’s Wu Jiaduo and the reigning champion, Turkey’s Hu Melek, do not appear.

Do those facts not endorse the argument that the tournament is third in line to the throne behind the Olympic Games and World Championships?

Most certainly, the initiative of 60 years was far seeing and the European Championships has a very special place in sport, a very special place indeed; the players just keep coming back for more!

2018 Liebherr European Championships Vladimir Samsonov Ni Xialian

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