10 Apr 2020

Created to honour brothers and sisters, in several parts of the world, Friday 10th April is International Siblings Day.

In the sport of table tennis there are many instances of brothers and sisters competing, some at the very highest levels.

by Kabir Nagpal

Furthermore, every generation has witnessed siblings who have excelled.

Diane and Rosalind Rowe

Twin sisters born in Marylebone, London, created a record which is unique in sport; one that may never be equalled.

After winning the women’s doubles title at the 1951 World Championships in Vienna, they regained the crown in 1954 in London beating compatriots Ann Haydon and Kathy Best in the final, the date was Wednesday 14th April; their 21st birthday!

“Winning that day, it was more relief than anything!” Diane Schöler

Make no mistake, if you lived in that era and you knew nothing about table tennis, you knew about the Rowe twins. They are the only sisters to be crowned world champions.

Sadly on Monday 15th June 2015, Rosalind who married Jack Cornett, passed away; Diane is married to Ebby Schöler, runner up in the men’s singles event at the 1969 World Championships. She is the Honorary President of the Swaythling Club International and the oldest living World champion.

Arguably the greatest siblings of them all; the Lady Dowager Swaythling presents the W.H.Pope Cup to Diane (left) and (right) Rosalind. The Rowe twins, the women’s doubles winners at the London 1954 World Championships (Photo: courtesy of Diane Schöler)

 

Jozsef Koczian and Eva Koczian

Hungary’s Jozsef Koczian and Eva Koczian have an age gap of ten years, Jozsef born in 1926, Eva in 1936. They are the only brother and sister siblings to win gold at a World Championships.

At World Championships, Jozsef won a total of 14 medals, his greatest success was in 1949 in Stockholm and in 1952 in Bombay when he was a member of the Hungarian outfit that won the men’s team event. Later he made it three world titles when in Bucharest he partnered compatriot Ferenc Sido to success in the men’s doubles event.

Meanwhile, Eva won 12 medals at the World Championships, her proudest moment being in 1955 in Utrecht when she won the mixed doubles with Kalman Szepesi. She also won the women’s singles title at the first ever European Championships in 1958 in Budapest and then retained the title in 1960, before winning again in 1964.

“My brother Jozsef was already an internationally renowned table tennis player; that encouraged me to try as well. However, in the beginning my brother tried to talk me out of it by saying wait till you grow up!’ Eva Koczian

Sadly Jozsef passed away on Thursday 1oth December 2009; currently Eva resides in the city where she was born, Budapest.

Eva (left) and  (right) Jozsef Koczian both World champions (Photo: courtesy of Table Tennis Legends)

 

Jean-Michel and Philippe Saive

Guided by Wang Dayong, the Saive brothers lifted Belgium from being a team in third division at the World Championships to silver medallists in 2001 in Osaka. No country owes so much to two brothers; they stand alone.

They won their first title together, the boys’ doubles in the minimes (similar to hopes) category at the Belgian National Championships in 1981.

In consecutive seasons, commencing in 1993, they guided Belgium to gold in the Super Division of the European League. Notably Jean-Mi won the men’s singles title at the 1994 European Championships in Birmingham, after having been the runner up at the 1993 World Championships in Gothenburg.

Phil has a marketing company; the company organised the Men’s World Cup in Liège in 2005 and 2008, in Verviers in 2017.

Philippe (left) and Jean-Michel (right) Saive with parents Jean-Paul and Jeanine after the brothers retained the European Men’s League title in 1995 in their native Belgium.
Liu Guoliang and Liu Guodong

The man who kept the pen-hold grip art alive. Liu Guoliang arrived on the scene in the early 1990s, a time when European men were dominating the international scene.

Thoughts were rife in China that the pen-hold grip should be abandoned and resigned to history. However, tradition was strong; Liu Guoliang became the first pen-hold player to utilize the backhand top spin stroke using the reverse side of the racket. He set the example for Ma Lin, Wang Hao and Xu Xin.

He won men’s singles gold at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games and at the 1999 World Championships.

Liu Guodong never achieved such heights as player but like his twin brother, who became head coach of the Chinese men’s team, he enjoyed success in an advisory capacity. He guided Singapore to silver in the women’s team event at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games; he is now national coach for Hong Kong.

Liu Guoliang (left) celebrates his birthday alongside brother Liu Guodong (right).

 

Veronika and Viktoria Pavlovich

At the Liebherr 2006 World Team Championships in Bremen, in the women’s event, Belarus beat Korea Republic 3-1 to reach the semi-finals; thus for the first and only time to date, Belarus won a medal in a team event at a World Championships.

Sisters, Viktoria and Veronika Pavlovich secured the vital three wins.

The fact that Viktoria was a defender proved crucial; Veronika, a top spin attacking player was most comfortable against backspin play. Korea Republic’s top two players were both defenders, Kim Kyungah and Park Miyoung, the third was Moon Hyunjung a right hand pen-hold grip powerful attacking player.

Viktoria beat Park Miyoung and Kim Kyungah, Veronika accounted for Kim Kyungah the sisters remained unbeaten; the one win for the Korea Republic was recorded in the third match of the fixture. Moon Hyunjung beat Tatyana Kostromina.

Later, Viktoria won the women’s singles title at the European Championships in 2010 in Ostrava and 2012 in Herning.

Emotion, Veronika (left) hugs (right) Viktoria after she beat Kim Kyungah to book Belarus a place in the semi-finals in Bremen (Photo: Rémy Gros)

 

Jan-Ove Waldner and Kjell-Äke Waldner

He needs no introduction whatsoever, the successes of Jan-Ove Waldner fill an encyclopedia; he is a true legend of the sport.

Elder brother, Kjell-Äke is less well-known, much more resigned to the background. For several years he was a member of the Swedish national team coaching staff, in particular the women’s team.

Most notably, he was seated courtside alongside Ulf “Tickan” Carlsson at the 1997 World Championships in Manchester; Jan-Ove Waldner won the men’s singles title without losing a single game!

Kjell-Äke Waldner (left) helps brother (right) Jan-Ove with his player’s number at the 2000 European Championships in Bremen (Photo: Butterfly)

 

Tomokazu and Miwa Harimoto

If Tomokazu Harimoto is known for stealing the spotlight from his older opponents, his younger sister Miwa is quite adept at doing the same.

First breaking records by winning the mini-cadet girls’ singles title at the 2018 China Junior and Cadet Open in Taicang, 11 year old Miwa recently won the junior girls’ singles title at the 2020 ITTF World Junior Circuit Premium Czech Junior and Cadet Open in Hodonin, before the following week reaching the final of the under 21 women’s singles at the Safir International.

Miwa is clearly following in the footsteps of elder brother Tomokazu. In 2017 when he won in the Czech Republic, he became the youngest ever men’s singles winner on the ITTF World Tour; in 2018, the youngest ever to win at the Grand Finals and in 2019 the youngest ever to reach the final of the Men’s World Cup.

Miwa (left) and Tomokazu (right) Harimoto – Japan’s most exciting ever siblings in table tennis? (Photo from Tomokazu Harimoto’s Instagram account).

 

Adriana and Melanie Diaz

A family steeped in the sport of table tennis; four sisters, Melanie is the eldest followed by Gabriela, Adriana and Fabiola.

Guided very much by father Bladimir, mother Marangely being a lawyer, both no mean players, all have represented Puerto Rico at international level. However, it is very much Adriana who is the star turn, winning the Universal Pan American Cup in both 2019 and 2020.

Similarly she has enjoyed success at the Pan American Championships and last year in the table tennis events at the 2019 Pan American Games, thanks to the help of Melanie, secured a clean sweep. She won the women’s singles, the women’s doubles partnering Melanie and with Daniela Rios added to the list, the women’s team.

Sisters in harmony at the Liehberr 2019 World Championships in Budapest; Adriana (left) and (right) Melanie Diaz, coach and father, Bladimir looks on seemingly satisfied (Photo: Richard Kalocsai)

 

Bruna and Giulia Takahashi

Elder sister Bruna very much sets the standard for Giulia. Currently, on the women’s world rankings she is the highest listed Brazilian, most notably in 2015 in Sharm El-Sheikh being a member of the Latin American outfit that struck gold in the girls’ team event at the ITTF World Cadet Challenge before securing the girls’ singles title.

Most recently, Giulia, 14, has already stood out on the international scene. She is a current “With The Future In Mind” scholarship holder, eyes focused on the Dakar 2022 Youth Olympic Games. Recently, she won gold in every event at the 2020 South American Junior and Cadet Championships and then did the same at the 2020 Peru Junior and Cadet Open. She remained unbeaten over a ten day period.

Sisters, friends and rising table tennis stars! Giulia (left) and Bruna (right) pose together (Photo from Bruna Takahashi’s Instagram account).

 

Omar and Khalid Assar

In 2009, Omar and Khalid Assar both competed in the Word Junior Championships in the Colombian city of Cartagena de Indias  but the significant fact was that in the same year both played in the ITTF World Junior Circuit Finals in Tokyo; the only brothers to date to achieve the feat.

Notably both were present in the men’s singles event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games but on the international scene Omar has very much been the predominant brother.

He has enjoyed success at the Africa Cup and African Championships; he is the only African player to win an ITTF World Tour men’s singles title. He won in Nigeria in 2014 and 2015.

Omar (left) and Khaled (right) Assar representing Egypt (Photo from Omar Assar’s Instagram account).

 

Bernadette and Hunor Szocs

Maintaining national traditions of excellence, Hunor somewhat lives in the shadows of Bernadette; after having enjoyed a glittering junior career she has become the leading light in the Romanian women’s team.

Notably she was a member of the Romanian outfit that won the women’s team title at the European Championships in 2017 in Luxembourg and in 2019 in Nantes. Most significantly she emerged the winner at the CCB 2018 Europe Top 16 Cup in Montreux, being the runner up one year later.

Meanwhile, for Hunor, a most valued member of the national team; having won the cadet boys’ singles title at the 2007 European Youth Championships in Bratislava, he reached the semi-final of the men’s singles event at the 2017 ITTF Challenge Series Chile Open in Santiago.

Hunor (left) and Bernadette (right) Szocs competing in doubles action.
Maharu and Kazuhiro Yoshimura

Born to a Japanese father and Filipino mother, the Yoshimura brothers have both made a major impact in recent years; most notably Maharu forming a most successful mixed doubles partnership with Kasumi Ishikawa.

At the Qoros 2015 World Championships and at the Liebherr 2o19 World Championships in Budapest they were the runners up; sandwiched in between in Düsseldorf, they struck gold.

Notably Maharu Yoshimura was a member of the Japanese silver medal winning team at the Rio 2o16 Olympic Games; additionally both were members of the Japanese bronze medal outfit in the men’s team event at the 2019 Asia Championships in Yogyakarta.

Furthermore, both have ITTF World Tour men’s singles titles to their name; Maharu, the master server, won in 2015 in Croatia and Spain; Kazuhiro in 2018 in Hong Kong.

In Depth Tomokazu Harimoto Adriana Diaz Bernadette Szocs Maharu Yoshimura Bruna Takahashi liu guoliang Kazuhiro Yoshimura Viktoria Pavlovich Melanie Diaz Hunor Szocs Miwa Harimoto Jean-Michel Saive Jan-Ove Waldner Liu Guodong Philippe Saive Rosalind Rowe Joszef Koczian Giulia Takhashi Eva Koczian Diane Rowe Veronika Pavlovich Kjell-Äke Waldner