by Simon Daish
Europeans the leading force in Xiaolan
The final ITTF Men’s World Cup of the 20th century featured an all-star cast with big-time giants of the global table tennis scene in attendance. Such a talented player pool on display, there was always going to be a major casualty or two along the way with the group stage elimination of 1992 and 1998 runner up Kim Taeksoo just one of the upsets to note.
Crowned champion in 1995 Kong Linghui also departed the arena early, finishing behind Werner Schlager and Vladimir Samsonov in Group A. Three of the four group winners hailed from Europe, while players representing the continent made up six of the eight quarter-finalists – a sign of the times!
For Vladimir Samsonov, there was an extra sense of determination surrounding the event. Bronze medallist in 1996 and 1997, the Belarusian missed out on the podium entirely at Shantou 1998 – returning to China one year later he booked his date with destiny.
Vladi takes top billing
Doing enough to seal his place in the knockout stages, Samsonov followed up with an impressive straight games win over Japanese Group D winner Koji Matsushita. A Men’s World Cup semi-finalist again, the Belarusian accounted for 1993 and 1997 champion Zoran Primorac 3-1 to guarantee a personal best finish.
Could Vladi go all the way? His opponent at the final hurdle, Werner Schlager had other ideas. Making his first appearance at the event, the Austrian had beaten Samsonov in group action and toppled Swedish greats Jan-Ove Waldner and Jörgen Persson in the lead-up to the final.
A mouth-watering contest, the first game of the final itself proved the most significant as Samsonov survived a stern test to edge in front. Dealing with the early pressure in exemplary fashion, Samsonov’s confidence and momentum continued to build and before long history had been set in stone – Vladimir Samsonov had overcome his opponent 3-0 (23-21, 21-15, 21-10), and as a consequence the ITTF Men’s World Cup crowned its first, and to this date only, champion from Belarus!
Get ready for #RESTART!
Who will lift the cup when the sport’s biggest talents spring to action at the Dishang 2020 ITTF Men’s World Cup?
One of three events welcoming back international table tennis as part of the #RESTART series, the ITTF Men’s World Cup is bound to deliver edge of the seat drama. You won’t want to miss out!