by Kabir Nagpal
In candid interview, Ma Long spoke first about living in this “new normal” which has quickly become the “current status” for every athlete, and how it has seen change become a bear necessity to continue living.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 was unexpected for everyone around the world. As a professional athlete, we all needed to make urgent adjustments accordingly. So while we had been preparing for the World Table Tennis Championships and the Tokyo Olympic Games to happen this summer, these the events are postponed. We thus have had to make adjustments with our plans too. This entire ordeal has given me the chance to recover from my injuries and shore up my physical training while being here in Macao” Ma Long
Ma has been involved in stringent and specific training programmes for his fitness during this time, which has meant his sole focus is on this aspect of training. He claimed that he was in fact spending more time on this than ever before.
Now with so much more time on his hands, Ma was candid about how it was helping him see more than just table tennis as part of his daily regime.
“Table tennis is more than just a physical and technical showdown for me. It is more often psychological and mental adjustment before, during and after the competition. For me it is very important to keep my mindset positive at all times. No matter whether it is facing a pandemic or upcoming competitions, I need to keep my positive attitude going. There may not be any competitions any time soon but we all still need to keep in good shape and stay well prepared.” Ma Long
When the questions moved to more specific details about his time on the court, Ma was equally eager to put his point across that his preparedness for every game is the main reason for widespread success.
“To me, it is most important to be fully prepared before each match. Prior to any big event, we usually have a rigorous closed training session. During this period, I keep adjusting my physical condition and improving my skills. I also try to adjust my mental status in advance.” Ma Long
Mentioning a consistency in all his years of competing at the top level, Ma spoke of making sure that self-adjustment and communication with coaches are a huge factor of success; they also affect an athlete’s mindset.
These are the preparations that he believes help him perform at the top of his game in each tournament.
It was then the flip to the extra amount of spare time he has now had due to this lockdown around the world. Ma was quick to point out how difficult it was not having his family – and his son – around, but this was something he shared with his coaches and teammates in Macao. He was very vocal of the immense support their families were providing and just how critical it was.
“In my spare time now, I enjoy reading, listening to songs, watching movies. I certainly believe that every player has learned to acquire their unique way of loosening up during their spare time. Right now, I like living in a double room with my teammate, we talk and this builds communication between us. This also helps me relax more.” Ma Long
‘Captain Dragon’ as he is called by his Chinese teammates finally also spoke about the major revolution in the world of table tennis – the upcoming WTT (World Table Tennis), which he believes is creative and ambitious, with the top executives from China playing a critical role in its foundation.
“Table Tennis is already viewed as the national sport in China, so I think it is most effective for China to lead table tennis development around the world. We have the experience of working with the best players, coaches, training programmes and also the fans. I certainly hope this will enhance the importance of Table Tennis worldwide, and the values the sport brings along with it.” Ma Long
Ma was further vocal in his praise of ITTF CEO Steve Dainton and suggested that the idea of “Four Grand Slams” is really good.
“I really appreciate Steve Dainton’s acknowledgment. I think it is more about than just my skills, and also the role that I play as an athlete. This is also by extension, an acknowledgement of the Chinese Table Tennis team, and we all believe the future of Table Tennis will be better and better. I hope to contribute and shoulder my responsibility during that process.” Ma Long
Finally, he left a message for his fans, which everyone at the International Table Tennis Federation certainly echoes:
“I miss everybody in the stadium. I hope to see you all soon! Take care!” Ma Long