by Olalekan Okusan
Back in February, just one month before international table tennis events were halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gardos sealed a bronze medal finish at the 2020 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup, thus booking his spot for the upcoming 2020 ITTF Men’s World Cup.
His only previous appearance at the Men’s World Cup came in 2015 in Halmstad, Sweden, when he got through the initial group stage, but was beaten by Japan’s Koki Niwa in the first knockout round.
Undoubtedly, the opportunity to compete again at such a prestigious event is a major motivating factor for a player in his twilight years.
“The World Cup is a very special event. The competition to qualify from Europe is always sky-high, so for me to compete this year means a lot to me and is very important for my career.”
FROM BUDAPEST AND GIVING HIS BEST
Born in Budapest, Hungary, Robert and brother Krisztian were introduced to table tennis by their father, Peter Gardos, coach at his hometown club Budapest VSC.
“Table tennis runs in the family. My mother and father are coaches. So I started playing in my early years. I grew up in Budapest and after school I would go to practise as well as on weekends. I liked practising with my father.”
“Table tennis was very fun for me when I started and it took time for me to improve. Since I started playing, it has helped me to mature psychologically. I feel lucky to have made a livelihood from this sport and to enjoy a good life with my family. It was through the sport that I learnt to work hard and give my best, so then life will give you back what you deserve.”
Hard work: make a ranking of players who fulfil that criteria and Gardos would be high on the list.
LOCKDOWN: LOOK BACK, LOOK FORWARDS
A father of three, like all sporting personalities, there has been a vast lifestyle change in the last six months.
“I spent the lockdown period with my wife and our three children and this made me have so much to do. I was also doing my fitness as well as practising with my robot at home. I want to give my best because now with this pandemic, it is very hard and different to prepare for the season.”
“There have been many great moments in my career but my bronze medal finish at the 2020 Europe Top 16 will remain with me for a very long time. Also the European gold medal moments and the Beijing 2008 bronze medal match win over Ryu Seungmin were memorable.”
At the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Gardos helped clinch a stunning fourth place for Austria in the men’s team event, eventually losing 3-1 to Korea Republic.
Partnering Daniel Habesohn, he is also the reigning European men’s doubles champion, having won the 2018 edition in Alicante, Spain, which followed on from their 2012 victory in Herning, Denmark.
“I do not regret embracing table tennis. My family played a big role in my career because, without their support, I could not have given 100 per cent to my sport.”