Chinese team, Werner SCHLAGER Academy and TT history
03/05/2011 – As the time grows short before the beginning of the GAC GROUP 2011 World Table Tennis Championships in Rotterdam (8-15 May), around the world the athletes’ preparation for the event begins to taper off. After all, rest and recover
03/05/2011 – As the time grows short before the beginning of the GAC GROUP 2011 World Table Tennis Championships in Rotterdam (8-15 May), around the world the athletes’ preparation for the event begins to taper off. After all, rest and recovery are part of the equation, as well as the travel particulars and ensuring all is right at home before the extended time away.
So too is this period of time influencing the Chinese National Team training at the Werner SCHLAGER Academy in Schwechat, Austria. The intensity remains, but the sessions are shorter now and the nature of play has changed. More points are being played, more drills and training points are started with a competitive serve, more service practice is seen, and doubles matches are popping up more frequently.
This gives us time for broader reflections, considerations beyond the exquisite skill and coaching brilliance shining before us these last few days.
Here is one thought that provides a perspective: It would challenge the finest table tennis historian to tabulate the Olympic and World Championship medals represented in this house. To have a sense of this athletic richness, let’s look around at this day’s engagement.
Before every session starts, the coaches are at a table, reviewing their plans, matching up the partners, finalizing the sequence of activities. There is YAN Sen at a far table, ever the enforcer of standards with the women’s team. We find WANG Liqin in the fitness center, pushing weights much heavier than his team mates would consider. It does not go unnoticed, for his comrades will watch, perhaps shake their heads or make a small joke, then just walk away.
The physiotherapists seem ever busy; nothing serious, just a soreness here, a tightening there, ensuring all the preventative measures are engaged.
A bit away from the action, LIU Guoliang, CHEN Weixing, and Werner SCHLAGER are chatting. The wealth of experience, accomplishment, and great understanding in this one spot gives us pause. KONG Linghui is sparring with GUO Yue, in complete control of the table as he always seems to be. For GUO Yue, it is often more of a sense of great dynamic, left and right, then more right, then into the table. And then she asks for more. She has a special place in our sentiments for those of us who observed she is the only player in the group to periodically wear leg weights during multi-ball training.
At an end table is Richard PRAUSE, former Timo Boll and German men’s national team coach, now head coach at the Werner SCHLAGER Academy. There he is with XU Xin, lefty to lefty, exchanging forehand counterloops, holding his own. You can take the player out of the competitive arena, but you can not take the player out of the soul. Coach LI Sun is doing some multi-ball with LI Xiaoxia, a stern yet curiously kind look on his face. He is firm with her as he has his corrective comments. He also will, on occasion, smile.
DING Ning is in a point-playing engagement with LIU Shiwen. Ms. LIU is holding the table, Ms. DING a step back, now two, now three, faster and faster they play. And those DING Ning serves! They are bothersome for Ms. LIU? Actually, no. [On a prior day, at the end of a session, LIU Guoliang spent 20 minutes serving to LIU Shiwen, still with his now very-illegal forehand serves. Likely these famously notorious offerings are nightmarish for this young player? Again, remarkably not.]
Off at another table two coaches are checking the rubber sheet thickness of various rackets. No detail too small.
And the last person to leave the hall, alone there is GUO Yan performing giant forward frog leaps over and over until she can not do another. 20 seconds of light running, then more.
Has any of the readership taken up the challenge of counting the accumulated World Championship and Olympic medals from all in the hall? Very likely not, for the precise number is of no importance; it is the greatest that they represent that is.
In what will seem like a blink of an eye, the action will begin in Rotterdam. All this toil, all this sacrifice, and now it is time. But just before that we acknowledge the present. It has been said that competition is the essence of sport, and perhaps it is, however for those many dedicated to the development that leads to the performance, it is the preparation that holds the heart. No one better represents the true greatness of preparation thanthe Chinese National Team. To be blessed to be a witness words cannot express. Only perhaps a lyrical expression can best grasp the sentiment of what the very select few have seen here this week. The late great song writer Dan Fogelberg, in the refrain of the song Run for the Roses seems to have understood what we have just experienced. He said it like this: “It’s the chance of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance.”
(by Donn OLSEN, courtesy WSA)
Photo: intense training days for Chinese team at WSA (courtesy WSA)