June 24, 2001

Waldner Chats With Chinese Fans

Waldner is in China to help with the Chinese bid for hosting the 2008 Olympics, and to play a challenge match with Xu Hui. On June 24 at 7:30 pm local time, he talked to the Chinese fans in a chat room arranged by sina.com.cn and the Beijing Youth Newspaper. Here is the translated transcript.

Host: Hello everyone. Waldner is here in the chat room. We welcome you to join.

Fan: Do you like China? Waldner: Very much. First of all, thank you all for joining; it is a very good feeling for me. This is the first time I come to this chat room, and it was hard for me to imagine there would be so many people here.

F: How you do maintain your athletic longevity? W: Two things. First, I still have the passion and the motivation for the sport; that is very important. Second, through the years I have persevered and I have trained hard to stay in shape.

W: Everyone knows me. I am an ordinary person. My number one love right now is not table-tennis, but golf. I have played golf twice in Beijing.

F: How do you see Chinese table-tennis? W: China is now the strongest country in this sport. It has the best team, and many excellent young players. I believe that China has an excellent future.

F: Do you come to China a lot? W: Because it is almost July, I am here with some sports organizations and Ericsson customers to promote China's bid for hosting the Olympics. These organizations asked me, and I also want to do more in Beijing. July 13 will be here soon.

F: What do you think of China's chances? W: China has a very good opportunity, but it is hard to say. We all think that Beijing has an excellent chance, otherwise I would not have come. But I have to reiterate that China is making a bid, and the results are not certain yet.

F: Will you play in the next Worlds? W: I will. Based on my present condition and my motivation, I will play until in the next Olympics. The next Worlds is in 2003, so there should be no problem.

F: There were news that you would retire, are these rumors? W: The news is not correct at this time. It is not time for me to retire yet.

F: Besides table-tennis, what sports do you like? W: Football, golf, tennis, Go (!?), and if there is a fifth one, ice hockey.

F: Which football team do you like the best? W: My favorite team is the one from my hometown. It is not well-known at all.

F: What is your Go level? W: I played in clubs when I was 12 years old. Now I am not good, but I used to play well.

F: What is your level in golf? W: Not bad. As someone who starts late, I am fairly good.

F: How well-adjusted are you to the big ball? What are your thoughts? W: In the beginning, I did not think that it was a good thing, because the change is too sudden. Now I am adjusted, and so is everyone. When we played in the World Cup right after the change, the quality of the ball was very bad, and we could not adjust. But now we are used to it. I still do not think it is a good decision. The change is too quick, and we should have let the players take more time to make the adjustment.

F: There are many new rule changes. What do you think? W: The scoring change is a very good change, I think. It will make the game more exciting. About the new serve rules, I think it is fair because it is the same for everyone. I am OK with that.

F: Your brother is a coach. Will you become a coach after you stop playing? W: This is a possibility. If I decide to retire, I will not be a coach right away. I will get away for the sport for a while, and see what else I can do.

F: Who do you admire the most, of all the Chinese players? Used to be Ma Wenge, we are very good friends. Among the newer players, Kong and Liu Guoliang.

F: China is setting up an international team league. Will you come here to play? W: It is possible. This is a very interesting set-up.

F: What do you think of the Liu Gouzheng-Kim Taek Soo match in the Worlds? W: From this match, I think Liu Guozheng is the best among the younger Chinese players. I also think very highly of Wang Liqin. Both these players are very strong and will do well.

F: Who do you think is the strongest table-tennis player in the world? W: It is hard to answer. The level among the top 15 players is very close. But since Wang has just won, it seems that he is the strongest.

F: There were news that because of the service rule changes, Waldner would retire. Is that true? W: This is not really true. I only said that if they made too many changes to the sport, I will consider retirement. I said that because it is unfair to many players (to have so many changes). Table tennis will be a new sport instead of the original one.

F: You played a match yesterday. Who did you play? W: In Inner Mongolia, against a 17-year-old.

F: What do you think of this player? W: He is a very good player, and very young. He was too tight in the first game, but then he played better and better. I think his level is very good.

F: Where do you think the sport is heading? W: I think table-tennis should become a bigger sport, unlike now when it is big only in China and not very popular outside of China. This requires more competitions, and better organization. It needs better tournaments with more media exposure and prize money to attract more people to the sport. I think the sport will get better, but it depends on media coverage. This is very important.

F: Do you surf the web at home? W: No. I am always traveling to tournaments. My lawyer and my manager are teaching me. I am seldom home, and I can't help it. But I think it is very interesting.

F: Do you have a personal web site? W: I plan to set up a Chinese one in China. Perhaps I will do it in sina.com.cn. I will have one, but not right now.

F: Which match is the most memorable for you? W: The team match in 1989. We had not beaten China for a very long time before then, so we were very excited.

F: Can you speak Chinese? W: Ni hao. Wo shi Lao Wal. (How are you? I am old Wal.)

F: When you first played table-tennis, was it because of your own interest, or was it because that was what your parents wanted? W: It was my choice, but my parents' support was very important. When I was 15 and I could choose my profession, I made the choice to be a professional table-tennis player. My parents agreed with and accepted my decision. This was very important: I made my own choice.

F: Which Chinese player presents the most challenge to you? W: There are 5 or 6 Chinese players who could challenge or beat me, but I cannot say that I am afraid of anyone. For an athlete to be successful, he or she cannot be afraid of any opponent, but should respect the opponents. That is the way I still feel.

F: Would you become a full-time golf player after your retirement? W: Definitely not.

F: Why are you still single? W: No time. I am busy playing matches.

F: Do you understand Chinese football. W: I watched a little on TV, because there were several Swedish players here. I hope that China will advance (in World Cup).

F: You have been in China many times. Which place are you most impressed with? W: Beijing, of course. The second place is Shanghai. When I came to China the first time, I arrived in Shanghai. But I like Beijing the most.

F: Is table-tennis a job or an interest to you? W: Of course I am very interested. If you do not love a sport, it is hard to reach a high level in that sport. When I was young, after every loss I would stay in my room and watch how the opponent play, to try to figure out his weakness. I love the sport very much, and I watch how others play. This is very important if you want to understand your opponents. I am very interested in the sport, otherwise I would not watch it.

F: Do you have a personal idol? W: When I was young, I loved the tennis player Borg. There was another one: Bengtsson, who won the 1971 Worlds.

F: Do you like Chinese food? W: Yes, I like dumplings the most.

F: After you retire, will you open a table-tennis school in China? You have to talk to my manager. I will try a lot of things in China.

F: Liu Guolaing beat you several times in a row, and now you have beat him several times. Why? Is it because you thoroughly understand him? W: Among world-class players, it is normal to win or to lose several times in a row. You cannot say that you have thoroughly understood an opponent. Just like Kong has beaten me recently, and I used to beat him.

F: Can you use chopsticks? W: Yes.

F: What do you think you can do for Beijing's Olympics bid? W: Many groups have asked for my help. I will do whatever it takes to help the Beijing bid.

F: Will there be new developments in the penhold style? W: Now there are many top players that use the penholder style, but I think more will use the shakehand style in the future. It is the same in China. One cannot say that no one will play penhold, but the shakehand style will have an increasing advantage.

F: Do you think you are a table-tennis genius? W: Yes, I do have the natural talent. To be a top athlete, you have to be naturally gifted, or else you will never reach the peak. When I was small, I could beat players 4 or 5 years older than me. I always thought that I was talented.

F: Tell us about your family. W: I have my parents and an older brother.

F: From watching your interviews on TV, you seem to live in an apartment, and not in a luxurious house like other sports stars. Is this because the income from playing table-tennis is less? W: In Sweden, a top player like me makes pretty good money. If I were to live in a big house, I will not be happy. I will feel lonely. So I would rather live in an apartment, with neighbors.

F: If someday Sweden wants to host the Olympics and have a Chinese spokesman, who will be picked? W: This is too hard to say. I hope it will be a table-tennis player, because I play the sport. Table-tennis is an important form of communication between Sweden and China, and many people are interested when Sweden plays China. For the Swedes, they know Chinese table-tennis the most.

F: Do Swedes like table-tennis? W: In Sweden, there are many players. But there are many popular sports, like hockey and football. Any sport that the Swedes are good at is popular.

F: There are few new talents from Sweden. Are there anyone with great potential? W: In a small country like Sweden, it is hard to have generations and generations of players like in China. Persson and I were very lucky to be both talented and developing at the same time. This is true with other European countries. There are good players with potential, and they are not known in China. There was a player not yet twenty years old who lost to Liu Guozheng at the Worlds. He is pretty good.

F: Compared to the men, the Swedish women were not very good in table-tennis. Why? W: In Sweden there were one or two players who got to the European championships, but why are there no really good players? There is very little money, and the women cannot be full-time professional players. It is expensive to travel to tournaments.

F: Do you treat winning and losing very seriously? W: I try my best at every match. There are many reasons: I am a professional player, I have to be responsible to the club and to the spectators, so I have to play my best. But I cannot put the same amount of importance on every tournament. I care about the results very much in tournaments like the grand slam events, because I have to prepare long and hard for those events. To care about the results means that you will play at your best. This is important for the top players. To win a grand slam event or a major tournament, you have to do your best and not use excuses. Don't look for an excuse. If you lost, it is because you did not play well.

F: Who do you think is the best player in the history of the sport? W: Me. I am partly joking, but also partly seriously. Table-tennis has a long history. There were great players and there are great players now. It is hard to say who is the best. But in Europe, I think I am the best.

F: When you have your own children, will you let them play table-tennis? W: If I have children, I will let them decide. I will not put any pressure on them. Interest is important, and you cannot force them to do anything.

F: China is very strong now. Does this limit the growth of the sport, or bad for the sport? W: If China always wins everything, it will have a negative impact on the sport. It is not good for one country to have all the titles. But I don't think that China will win everything. It was not easy for them in the team event this time.

F: You did not do well in the Worlds, why? W: It depends on how you look at the results. Compared to previous Worlds, I did not do very well. I got to the semis in the previous Worlds and we won the team event. In the Olympics, I was in the finals. But this time I have not lost a match in teams. In singles, it is much harder to always go to the finals. But things are not as bad as everyone thinks, because I have not lost in teams. Let's take Wang Liqin, for example. He won the men's singles title, but he was not picked to play in teams, and he might not have played well in teams. I did well in teams, and I wished that Sweden had won. In singles, you lose one match and you are out. It is hard to always play at your best.

F: Will you write any books? W: I have written a book in Sweden. It is an autobiography. I hope it will be translated into Chinese.

F: Some say that table-tennis will become a bigger sport, like tennis. Do you think that is possible? W: The sport has been developing continuously, and may get bigger. The important thing is that people get interested, and that more people play, and more money invested in the sport. I think the market is very big in China. We should start in China: better tournaments, more investment, and more prize money.

F: How did you feel when you lost to Kong in the Olympics? W: Right after that match I was very disappointed. Especially when I had caught up to 2-2 in games. But then later I felt that I did quite well. First of all, to reach the finals in such a big event, and then winning the silver medal, is a very difficult task, so I should not feel so disappointed. Also, in the quarters and in the finals, I had overcome great resistance, and I tied the score 2-2 in the finals. I should not feel any shame.

F: In Europe the sport is not progressing fast. Will we still see the Europe vs China balance in the future? W: I don't think that the sport is not advancing in Europe. There are countries that are very strong, like Belgium, Germany and Sweden. I also think that Korea is very strong, they have young players that are developing. In the last 8 teams at the Worlds, 6 were from Europe. So Europe still has the advantage. Of the last 32 men, 21 were from Europe.

F: Do you like Peking duck? W: Very much. I tried it when I came here in 1982, and I liked it a lot. That year I saw the Great Wall and had Peking duck.

F: How many professional table-tennis players are there in Sweden? W: Less than 20. Unlike China, Sweden has only 9,000 people playing the sport. To be a professional, you need a license or permit.

F: How many hours do you practice every day? W: I do not practice every day. Before an important tournament like the Worlds, I will find time to do nothing else but practice. The summer is a relaxing time for me. June 23 is the summer holiday in Sweden, and we take two weeks off.

F: How high is table-tennis ranked as a sport in Europe? W: Maybe 6th or 7th. Not in the top 5.

F: When you are not playing well, what kind of adjustments do you make? W: I take a positive perspective, and i do not let myself think that I am not in good shape. When I am indeed not excited, I would do something that I like doing, and not dwell on it.

F: What are your standards for choosing a girlfriend? W: This is hard to answer. I do not have any standards or metrics. The key is that we feel good when we are together.

F: Of all the Chinese players, who do you have the best relationship with? Are there players that you communicate a lot with? W: It used to be Ma Wenge. Now because of the many tournaments, I have fewer chances to meet Ma. I have the closest relationship with Kong and Liu Guoliang. The Swedish players respect the Chinese players, who in turn respect the Swedish.

F: How do you feel about this chat session? W: For me, this is a great feeling. The fans have given thoughts to the questions before asking them. And some of the questions I am answering for the first time. I want to say thanks to everyone.

Host: Our time is up. Let's say good-bye to Mr. Waldner.

W: If I have the opportunity, I will definitely do this again. Now I have to leave. See you next time.

Host: Thank you Mr. Waldner. Thanks to all the fans.

News from International Challenge Match

Waldner faced young Chinese star Xu Hui in a Challenge match in a small Inner Mongolia city on June 23, and won the match 3-2. Waldner started the match with a quick 9-1 lead and won the first game 21-16. In the second game Xu Hui recovered and with his aggressive play, won 21-11. The two players split the next 2 games. In the 5th, Waldner played well and did not give Xu any chance on hi sway to a 21-14 victory to finish the match. Click here for photos of Waldner, and here for photos of Xu Hui.

In the earlier match, Lin Ling lost to Singapore's Li Jia Wei 1-2. See photos here.

Waldner's Weapon

Player Blade Description Forehand Backhand
Saive Joola 5-ply shakehand Andro-Zenilh-G (red) Andro-Zenilh-G (black)
Li Ju Butterfly Adolescen 5-ply Globe 999+DHS 20# sponge Butterfly
Lin Ling Stiga-OC 5-ply DHS Hurricane II Butterfly (red)
Xu Hui Yasaka-YE 5-ply penhold 999T (black) Nittaku-JO (red)
Waldner Donic-J.O.W. 5-ply Donic-J.O.W. Donic-J.O.W

News from the Chinese Super League

Another round has been played this past Saturday. The Shanghai team, led by Wang Liqin, Feng Zhe and Guo Jinhao, defeated the Sichuan team 4-0. Guo faced Korean Ryu Seung Min in the first match, and won -11, 17 and 18. Wang then easily beat Chen Junji 2-0. Feng Zhe beat penholder Chen Jian 2-1. In the 4th match, Wang/Feng beat Chen/Ye 2-0.

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