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Development - 12 Jun 2014

Special trio united again in Otocec


The ITTF coaching team is doing a great job at the ITTF World Hopes Week and Challenge in Otocec, Slovenia. Eva JELER, the head coach, and her assistants have already been able to assess the level of each individual’s play. The youngsters are working hard

The ITTF coaching team is doing a great job at the ITTF World Hopes Week and Challenge in Otocec, Slovenia. Eva JELER, the head coach, and her assistants have already been able to assess the level of each individual’s play.

The youngsters are working hard and even though they are only 10 to 12 years old, they seem to be happy to spend six hours per day training hard in the Otocec Hall. Dr Miran KONDRIC, Chair of the ITTF Sports Science and Medical Committee, visited the training camp and showed 49 young players from 29 countries several physical training drills. However, it was the trio of Dejan PAPIC, XIAO Zhan and Zoran PRIMORAC that stole the show.

Dejan PAPIC, ITTF Hopes Chief Evaluator and XIAO Zhan, assistant coach to LIU Guoliang and also the personal coach of ZHANG Jike, are staying in Otocec for the whole week; while Zoran PRIMORAC kindly responded to the invitation and drove to Otocec from his hometown Zagreb, only some 70 kilometres away.

In the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons Dejan PAPIC as coach plus XIAO Zhan and Zoran PRIMORAC crossed paths in Serbia, where they took local club Partizan to new heights, finishing third in Europe Club Cup on two occasions.

One member was missing today though, Ilija LUPULESKU, a player who shares a rather painful experience with PRIMORAC. In New Delhi at the 1987 World Table Championships, the then Yugoslav pair squandered two match points at 20–18 in the deciding fifth game of the gold medal Men’s Doubles match against the eventual winners CHEN Longcan and Wei Quingguang from China.

“After the match I was crying and nobody could stop me; I was 17 years old and everybody was telling me that I am going to win five World Championship gold medals in the future”, said Zoran PRIMORAC. “Sadly that never came true; that loss was the closest I ever got to winning the elusive gold.”

Zoran PRIMORAC is now the coach of the Russian, who lost a close national league final against their rivals Orenburg over the weekend.

Being the Croatian flag-bearer at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and a seven times Olympian, Zoran PRIMORAC is widely considered as one of the all-time European table tennis greats. Dejan PAPIC, his former coach refers to him as one of the hardest working players ever seen and few if any would disagree.

After the warm welcome between ex-teammates, Zoran met national team coaches in the conference room at Hotel Sport, located just some 100 metres away from the training hall.

Sandwiched between Dejan and Polona CEHOVIN, ITTF Education and Training Programme Director; Zoran was in the centre of attention as he expressed his thoughts on coaching young players and shared some of his experiences and anecdotes.

In the afternoon, Zoran spent time in the training hall where he kept a close eye on young talents and gave them some useful tips. A privilege not many players can brag about. When Zoran was young, such training camps didn’t exist and once again he acknowledges the importance of Dejan PAPIC and XIAO Zhan.

Another man that knows all about Zoran PRIMORAC’s work ethics is Miran KONDRIC, who works at the Faculty of Sports in Ljubljana and is also a personal physical trainer of Slovenia’s top table tennis player Bojan TOKIC.

He prepared a special training session for young players and focused on many aspects of the complete physical preparation.

Many players aren’t exposed to physical training but Miran KONDRIC believes that those exercises should be included in every training session.

“It’s extremely important to provide young players with motor learning exercises because this is a certain area that can’t really be improved when the players get older”, he added. “It’s also important to do those exercises when kids have enough energy left, because it’s the quality that matters and not the quantity.’

Once the afternoon training session concluded, all the kids gathered around Zoran PRIMORAC and asked him for a photograph or an autograph.

Once again, Zoran was a perfect gentleman. He treated the kids with respect and he didn’t skip on some words of encouragement. Another six hours of intense training are behind young players and you can see the first signs of tiredness.

However not even a gruelling three hours session, which included footwork exercises, multi-ball practice and physical training, couldn’t stop players from leaving the hall smiling. When tiredness was beginning to tell, Zoran Primorac and his legacy stepped in to save the day.

Tim SFILIGOJ

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