by Kabir Nagpal
The Danish version of BBC Strictly Come Dancing, will play host to many celebrities; table tennis representation on stage will be through Michael Maze.
Olympic 2004 men’s doubles bronze medallist, Maze has had an illustrious career in the sport, and now he’s about to take his best moves on to another floor; while he is used to long hours of training, the Danish superstar will now be in room practising something that has nothing to do with table tennis balls or his famous backhand.
The show ‘Vild Med Dans’ rather prosaically translates as ‘Wild with dance’ to an English audience, and given who’s footsteps Maze is following it will be interesting to see how this new adventure works out for him.
“I’m used to dealing with something I’m good at, and now I spend a whole lot of hours on something I can’t figure out. I think it is crazy to go in front of most of the people of Denmark and stand razor-sharp and try to put together something that I am not an expert in” Michael Maze
Bayley leads the way
A few weeks ago, Britain’s Will Bayley announced to his fans delight that he was stepping onto another stage when he was officially confirmed in the Strictly Come Dancing line-up for 2019.
As an outgoing personality, born in Tonbridge Kent in the south of England, Bayley has always been an intensely likeable character in the world of table tennis; despite his extremely friendly nature, his competitiveness has never suffered.
When on the court he has a safe, equal backhand and forehand. It means he maintains a high level of consistency because it can be physically difficult for him the generate power when he plays. He also has a penchant for being in spotlight and has admitted to being over excited when he lost in the final to Germany’s Jochen Wollmert at the London Olympic Games in 2012.
For someone like that, taking part in Strictly Come Dancing is the perfect platform to strut his new moves! According to British media, Strictly Come Dancing is the 66th most popular contemporary TV programme and the 18th most famous.
Now it seems the lure has reached Denmark, with Maze following in the steps of Bayley. But is that really why he is participating?
A friendly Maze-Kessler bet
It turns out there is more athletic honor in this adventure than earlier believed. About eight years ago, Michael Maze and his good friend Mikkel Kessler gave each other a handshake and made a bet. The former professional boxer had brought up the topic of Vild Med Dans to him over a short conversation.
Speaking of completely different things to do when they were retired or close to it, the two Danish sportsmen then proceeded to promise one another that they would only say yes to the dance program if they did it together.
In its early days, the bet was mostly for fun – and neither friend had taken it very seriously. Up until a fine day when Kessler received a sudden call from Maze.
“Eight or nine years ago, I was in town with Michael Maze. At that time we had a handshake that if one was to be ‘Vild Med Dans’, the other should be too. We were both asked a few years before but we said no. But then he suddenly called earlier this year and said he was signing a contract. So there was no way out for me (laughs).” Mikkel Kessler
And so both friend are currently engaged in preparing for a battle in a sport completely different than either of their own. Maze has been playing table tennis since the age of six, making his big break in the 2000s, bringing homet medals at the Olympic Games, European Championships as well as the World Cup. After hitting a pause on his professional career in 2016, he has every plan to make a comeback for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
However, he still believes what he is about to do on the dance floor will be his greatest challenge yet:
“It is going to be hard. I knew this well before, but this will be the challenge of my life so far. I have no experience with dance or anything in that world. I wish I could say I will figure it out, but it’s enough to have to follow a rhythm and think about heel and toe. And just having to have an attitude. I am used to having to stand completely opposite the curve over a ping-pong table, so I will struggle a lot with that at first.” Michael Maze
Everyone at ITTF wishes him the very best for the competition and we surely await to see his moves back on the table tennis courts very soon.