31 Jul 2020

Identifying what makes a player great can be tricky business, very often it’s a combination of values which have been taught throughout years of hard work and training.

There are also some players who are just naturally gifted across a vast range of practices, one man who comes to mind is Hugo Calderano.

by Mamata Prabhu

A fine athlete who possesses a plethora of skills, in fact, Hugo’s collection of talents is so great that some might think they are being led on when you try and break the news to them. Perhaps you have had a conversation along the following lines with a friend:

Mr Possible: I know a person who is ranked sixth in the world at table tennis and can play tennis, football, basketball, chess in addition to swimming, rock climbing, back flips, performing handstands and more!!!

Mr Impossible: Oh, come on you have got to be kidding… Impossible

Mr Possible: You don’t believe me?

Mr Impossible: Prove me wrong!

Mr Possible: Look here in Brazil … Oh, actually I think he is locked down in Germany right now … here is the guy I was talking about: Hugo Calderano!

The same way a Rubik’s Cube is a 3D puzzle that can prove difficult for a newbie to solve so is Hugo Calderano. Just imagine trying to put all the different puzzle pieces together to uncover the secrets of the cube. Similarly, putting all the multi-dimensional sporting activities together brings out the table tennis icon known as the ‘Thrill from Brazil’.

Hugo is known as the ‘Thrill from Brazil’ (Photo: José Hudo Castañer)

This young man knows it all! Have you heard of the phrase “when work becomes play?” Very conveniently Hugo is one of the fittest, strongest players as he has managed to turn his work into play or is it his play into work? ….err I am confused!

Football is like breakfast for this Brazilian. Hugo likes to work on his favourite moves on a daily basis, starting with the Rabona in morning, Roulette in the evening before ending the day with some heading practice.

Mr Possible: Now do you believe me?

Hugo is just as skillful with his hands, showcasing some incredible basketball moves which would leave some players from the NBA awe-struck. Check out his insane sit-up shot, sinking the ball from more than 50 metres away. We have our own Michael Jordan here!


View this post on Instagram


Casual shot 🏀 Third time’s a charm 😄

A post shared by Hugo Calderano – Table Tennis (@hugocalderano) on

Back flips and front flips are an alternative to walking at times when Hugo is running late to club training session at TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen. In fact, Hugo doesn’t appear to like letting his legs do all the work. Here he is after a tiring session moving from room to room in the handstand position:

Mr Impossible: Wow! Truly incredible!

On a slow day Hugo likes to play chess and solve his Rubik’s Cube, whether it be the cuboid, skewb or the most challenging pentamix.

Mr Possible: Ohhh, you still don’t believe me. Check it out:


View this post on Instagram


Brain workout 🧠🏋️‍♂️ 😄 #rubikscube #speedcubing

A post shared by Hugo Calderano – Table Tennis (@hugocalderano) on

On Sundays it’s one of or even a combination of rock climbing, swimming and enjoying a game of beach volleyball – this is meant to be a rest day!

Mr Possible: See, this is what I have been saying this whole time! Believe me yet?

Hugo, best known as one of the world’s biggest table tennis stars, seems to have taken a multi-dimensional approach to fitness. Table tennis is a sport which requires all-round fitness in terms of speed, agility, dexterity, flexibility, strength, balance and much more – it’s one of the fastest games on the planet and requires decisions to be executed within milliseconds! Mental strength, reactive ability, creativity and spontaneity play a vital part when performing at the highest level.

Now, if we really divide all the facets to play table tennis on the professional scene then we might find ourselves standing at the bottom of pyramid.

All sporting skills are interlinked and interdependent. One of the best examples which can be highlighted is the double-handed backhand, a signature stroke Hugo has utilised on the odd occasion – the variety of skills starting from spontaneity, creativity, mental agility to physical capacities such as balance, speed and coordination. A fusion of all the physical and mental skills led to a master stroke, a stroke not mentioned in the school of table tennis.

All of this reminds me of the famous ‘Connect the dots’ quote from the late Mr Steve Jobs:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.”

Now if we reverse the Hugo masterstroke, we will find so many dynamics which would have gone into the making of this stroke. Analysing the action scientifically would present us with many theories built off calculations, execution, and closure of this stroke.

However, Hugo’s approach to fitness, his abilities to excel at different sports, his mental finesse, his attitude to look beyond the dictionary of table tennis and his conviction to produce this masterpiece comes effortlessly as he connects all the dots inherently.

Let’s all be more like Hugo and start connecting the dots!

Features Hugo Calderano