International Events | 3 Jul 2024

Mikael APPELGREN, a star in Rome for the World Master Championships

Mikael APPELGREN will be one of the stars of the ITTF World Masters Table Tennis Championships Rome 2024 - presented by Stag Global. Among the 6,100 people who will play at the New Fair of Rome, no one has won like him, having been a four-time world champion and a nine-time European champion. The 62-year-old Swede will play MD55 doubles with Carsten JUNG from Germany.

Roberto LEVI, Italian press officer talked with APPELGREN in the eve of the Masters.

“I practice just a little bit, not much, and then I have some trainings in my club Spårvägen BTK in Stockholm (the biggest club in Europe), for the first team. I also teach some elite players. That's it. I do not play in the League anymore. I started playing table tennis in 1971, when I was 12 years old, quite late, and I stopped playing in the First Division when I was 52.”

Of course, you have a lot of wonderful memories. Which are the best?

“The biggest team achievement was in 1989, when we beat China 5-0 in the finals of the World Championships in Dortmund. We had lost many times against China, but that time we had a great win. My teammates were Jörgen PERSSON and Jan-Ove WALDNER, with number four being Erik Lind and number five Peter KARLSSON. We were five very good players. During that period, Sweden played in seven world finals in a row from 1983 to 1995, losing the first three and the last to China, but beating China in 1989 and in 1993 in Göteborg, and Yugoslavia in 1991 in Chiba.”

And individually?

“The best memory is when I won my third European title in singles in 1990 in Göteborg. I defeated Andrzej GRUBBA from Poland in the finals. It was historical for me. We were at home in Sweden, we had television coverage every day, and we were in the newspapers. The sport arena was crowded with ten thousand people. It was fun. My first gold medal in singles was in 1982 in Budapest, against WALDNER, and the second in 1988 in Paris, against Andrey MAZUNOV, the Russian player. In Göteborg, it was also very nice to win the world title in doubles in 1985 with Ulf CARLSSON.”

Did you expect such a great career when you started playing?

“I did not think I would win so much, but we had a very good team at that time, we practiced a lot together, we respected each other, and helped each other to improve. In other teams, there were one or two good players, but in Sweden, we had seven or eight European and world-class players, and that made the difference. There was also a very good organization in the Swedish team.”

Last year, Sweden returned to the top step of the European podium in Malmö.

“I was there for two days to watch, and it was very nice. We have a lot of good players, and the team is very strong. I think we have some chances for the Olympic Games in Paris. I am confident.”

Are you still in contact with your teammates from your golden period?

“Of course, we meet very often and we speak a lot by telephone. Last month, we were together to play golf and had a very good time.”

What about the World Master Championships?

“I won the Over 40 singles in 2004 in Yokohama and the Over 50 singles in Stockholm in 2012 and was a silver medalist in doubles in Yokohama. I lost in the semifinals of the singles in Bremen in 2006. Now I will play in Rome, but only in the Over 55 doubles with Carsten JUNG from Germany. For me, it's enough.”

What is your objective?

“I do not know much about the other players. We will see what happens. Carsten was in Stockholm last December and we practiced a little.”

Do you have memories of Italy?

“The first time I was in Italy was in 1966, in Rimini with my family. I still have a picture of those days. As a player, I was in Rome in 1979 at the Junior European Championships, and after that, I was in the capital for vacation maybe seven or eight times. I know Rome very well. I played the Italian Open many times, in cities like Bolzano, Como, and Bologna. In Italy, I remember a wonderful vacation with the family more or less twelve years ago, when the children were younger. We visited Amalfi, Positano, and Sorrento. This time I will come with my wife Marita (she will play singles and doubles).”

In Rome, there will be 6,100 players. What do you think?

“It's unbelievable, an incredible record. Rome is a very special place. Many people will come to play and then stay for holidays. I think I will meet many friends again. I'm looking forward to seeing them.”