17 Apr 2020

The date is Friday 17th April, it is the 44th birthday of Vladimir Samsonov, a player who continues to delight crowds throughout the world with his quite incredible control of a table tennis ball.

Currently listed amongst the top 30 names on the world rankings, it is a status he has maintained for over three decades, it pays great tribute to his remarkable skills.

by Olalekan Okusan & Ian Marshall

Moreover, there are no signs that “Vladi” is ready to resign his racket to retirement; that is his name as he once explained to the most stupid journalist in the world who asked him why he had such a long name!

Present earlier this year at the ITTF World Team Qualification Tournament in Gondomar, as well as on the ITTF World Tour in Germany, Hungary and Qatar; Vladi is in his fifth decade of international play!

Vladimir Samsonov made his debut in the Men’s World Cup in 1996 in Nimes, the previous year he had been the reserve. He wasn’t a happy young man! (Photo: Manfred Schillings)


Rapid progress

Notably in 1988, when representing what was then the Soviet Union, at the European Youth Championships in Luxembourg, he won the cadet mixed doubles title partnering Oksana Kush. Later, as the map of Europe changed representing the Commonwealth of Independent States and then as now Belarus, he enjoyed further success, securing more medals in the annual tournament that any other player to date.

In the next decade, he was to emerge the runner up in Manchester at the 1977 World Championships before winning the men’s singles title at the European Championships and at Men’s World Cup each three times.

Vladimir Samsonov en route to the men’s singles final at the 1997 World Championships in Manchester (Photo: Butterfly)


Holds his own

Now amongst a new set of players who are ultra aggressive, the former world number one continues to hold his own.

Vladi has constantly adapted and continues to make adjustments to the smallest details of his game in order to stay competitive. Having competed with no fewer than three generations of the best Chinese players, Samsonov always finds a way to remain on top of his game; like all good players, he adapts, a fact that was underlined earlier this year in March.

In 1997 he beat Wang Liqin in the gold medal contest at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals an event which tested his thinking, it was the first tournament in which “time out” had been implemented; Vladi found answers. He won; now fast forward to just over one month ago in Qatar, in the opening round of the men’s singles event he accounted for Lin Gaoyuan; at the time listed at no.4 on the world rankings.

Vladimir Samsonov won the men’s singles title at the 1997 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals (Photo: Manfred Schillings)


So near yet so far

Very much, Vladimir Samsonov continues to fly the flag for Europe, in a similar manner to Jan-Ove Waldner, Jörgen Persson and Werner Schlager he continues the dynasty. All became world champions, a title that for Vladi has proved elusive, as has an Olympic Games medal.

Four years ago in Rio de Janeiro, he came so close losing to Jun Mizutani in the bronze medal match.

So near yet so far in Rio de Janeiro (Photo: Rémy Gros)


Outstanding record

Nevertheless, the record speaks for itself, a total of 27 ITTF World Tour men’s singles titles, only bettered by Ma Long. At club level he is Mr European Champions League, competing in the event for 15 years without a break. Notably he has won 12 times, three with the German club, Borussia Düsseldorf five times with Royal Villette Charleroi of Belgium and four occasions when on duty with Fakel Orenburg of Russia.

Always, Samsonov has upheld the highest values of sport; significantly he was awarded the Richard Bergmann Fair Play Trophy at the World Championships in 2003, 2007 and 2013.

In 1999 Vladimir Samsonov won the Europe Top 12 in Split (Photo: Manfred Schillings)



Unquestionably, the goal is the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games; achieve that feat and he will join Jörgen Persson, Zoran Primorac and Jean-Michel Saive of having competed in seven Olympic Games.

Married, father of two boys; Vladimir Samsonov is the ultimate role model and long may he continue to delight crowds throughout the world.

Today, “happy birthday, Vladi!”

Features Vladimir Samsonov