by Kabir Nagpal
Competing in the over 50 years category, Frank has reached the podium several times and maintains the same drive, no matter where he’s performing. Part of a growing veteran community worldwide, his athleticism is one which is not going to wane.
KN: As a veteran athlete, we understand it must take much more than just the physical demands of the sport. Could you please tell us how your table tennis journey began and, what still keeps you going?
FM: I started playing this great sport at the age of 10. By training rigorously and almost daily, I was able to catch up to my teammates in terms of performance after a year. It allowed me to train in a Leistungszentrum, which is a competitive centre for sports education. The prerequisites for table tennis weren’t the best, because the sport wasn’t promoted by the government. My training environment was dependent on my parents and my trainer. I played until I was 16, achieving small and big successes.
At the time there were no opportunities to compete at international level. Occupied with other challenges of life at the time like mandatory military service, my studies at university and other job related qualifications, I stopped playing table tennis 37 years ago. After many illnesses and personal set backs I was motivated to take up sports again in 2016. I took part in 24 hour extreme marathons and strengthened my body with daily Cross Fit to recover from this personal low.
Because of these accomplishments, I took up table tennis again in February 2018. Also to see if I had still got it. My spark, that fuelled me in my teens, was back once again and I was focused on training almost instantly. So I revisited my old table tennis club and was greeted by familiar faces from the old days who stayed true to the sport. Since it is hard to find adequate training clubs for adults, I started researching private trainers.
I found two trainers just right for me, namely Thomas Schermer from Brandenburg and Hartmut Lohse who plays in the third German table tennis league. Both manage to engage and challenge me multiple times a week, in addition I also attend training classes at my old club, to regain all the years I lost.
KN: What was your reaction to news that the World Veteran Tour was being launched for 2019? How do you think the World Veteran Tour is making a difference?
FM: After the World Championship of 2018 in Las Vegas I drove to the Izmir Open to meet doubles world champions Petra Gummesson Sörling and Pia Toelhoj. Both are very much committed to the sport and told me first hand about the Veteran Tour of 2019. I was immediately enthusiastic about the idea. I was missing such an event in table tennis for a long time, I know that a lot of older veterans want to attend not only the European or World Championships. This format is a world tour to celebrate veterans, to bring players together from all over the world, to compete and also to cultivate friendships that developed across borders.
KN: What is the biggest challenge for you during the season?
FM: I don’t specifically prepare for the Tour, since I train almost daily to continuously improve myself. The tour and all other tournaments and competitions are personal highlights to see how my training translates to the reality. The competition, for me, is playing practice under very good conditions, so that I have the pressure of the competition to survive there. The fear of losing is a big problem which I have to struggle with, but you can only defeat it through many competitions. Even if the success is often not yet there, I take however the experience with me, which further improves my skills.
KN: Speaking of the season, how would you say your 2019 Veteran Tour experience has been?
FM: The Tour is structured like the World Championship or EM in which I also participated. From an organisational point of view it was a bit chaotic. I think that the organizers of the respective countries will learn from their experiences in order to guarantee a smooth process. The association should also pay more attention to a proper process and perhaps not only entrust the organiser. But I would like to express a very special thanks to Gordon Kaye, ITTF Managing Director of Product Innovation, for his help and efforts for the participants are more than self-evident and I would like to thank him very much.
KN: It’s heartening to hear your honest opinions. For someone who has only missed one Veteran event all year, what motivates you to play at all the events? Which has been your favourite event so far and why?
FM: To be able to play in foreign countries and cultures as well as the attraction of such events is the motivation for me. Each event was something very special and therefore it is hard to name a favourite.
KN: How do you see the World Veteran Tour growing and developing in future?
FM: I hope that the Tour will establish itself and will be visited by many table tennis enthusiasts like me. As I have heard, there will be 10 events next year. I am very happy about that and would like to try to participate in as many as possible.
KN: What are your thoughts about the upcoming Europeans in table tennis – is there someone you particularly excited to see play or even play against?
FM: Especially the Swedes are strong with Mattias Falck and the young Truls Moregard, with these players they have two top players who are very impressive. But I have to say that my favourite player is Hugo Calderano, I watch every game he plays, I am overwhelmed every time. To do a training session with him would be a dream of mine.
KN: How do you like to reset and relax – away from table tennis or more of it on a screen? Are there any other sports you practise or watch for pleasure?
FM: As counterbalance but also to keep the stamina and strength in table tennis I do CrossFit in my own gym at home. This is sport with my own body weight as well as endurance exercises on the skierg, rowing ergometer or air bike.
KN: What is something you really appreciate about your supporters?
FM: My biggest supporter is my dear wife, who gives me the freedom to go to all these tournaments and is back at home. Furthermore my club of the 1st KSV 64/90 Fürstenwalde stands fully behind me and supports me with the competition preparation and mentally where it is possible for them.
KN: Finally, when it comes to your personal family time, what is your most favourite retreat?
FM: My place of retreat is my home, I am happy to come home every time and tell the family about my experiences and accomplishments.