USA Table Tennis

History of U.S. Table Tennis Volume 13: 1984

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX 

            1984: Sue Butler’s “Ping-Pong Diplomacy III and IV.”  Play in China and India. Americans in Italy and Germany. Former ITTF President Ivor Montagu is Dead. 

            Sue Butler continues (from Chapter 22) reporting on her talks with Chinese table tennis leaders (SPIN, Nov., 1984, 12, and Dec., 1984, 18): 

            “…All the Chinese around the dinner table began talking at once. I had just asked, ‘What do you want and expect from the U.S.?’

‘I want to see the Wild West and the cowboys,’ replied Cai Zhenhua. [I thought, as I read Sue’s embracive question,  the Chinese were being addressed as a table tennis-minded group, and so was surprised at this personal comment from Cai, which seems to me, as he takes the lead in responding, diversionary, sophisticatedly conversational, giving the Chinese time to think.] I asked if he really thought the West was like he imagined it [I share Sue’s skepticism], and he said he was convinced that it was so.

President Xu Yinsheng said he’d like to live with Americans for a while, observe their way of life, and learn some English. He thinks the Chinese and Americans are very much alike. I asked if the Chinese felt they had a realistic view of what the U.S. is like, or did they have questions on what they see on TV and read in the newspapers. Everyone began speaking at once and the interpreter put it all together: ‘Most of us here tonight have been to the U.S. at least once. Americans are very open, confident, outspoken, and full of enthusiasm—unlike Europeans who are very conservative.

We are Asians and perceive the Americans as being far ahead of most in technology. You have a great work ethic, and yet when at play you enjoy yourselves so much. We admire that. The U.S. is such a developed country and it confuses us that you have so many social problems that seem unresolved.’

[Sue now begins what she calls ‘a formal interview.’] ‘Some of these questions may make you feel uncomfortable,’ she says, ‘and if they do, please tell me. I’m interested in all of your reactions.’ The Chinese laughed and said they would answer anything and wanted me to do the same with questions they had for me.

‘How do you cope with the constant pressures of training, and with new, younger, stronger players coming in to unseat the older people?’ I asked. Xu Shaofa replied, ‘The people here tonight are experienced players, but maybe in technique they are not as good as some younger players. We use the new training-center recruits to enhance the technique of the veterans and to prepare the stars for international competition.

The coaches decide when a young player’s time has come to move into the top ranks. They must wait their turn; jealousy is not allowed. In China, virtually no players after age 25 are competing seriously, not like Bengtsson and Surbek in Europe. [As I write, decades later, a number of established Chinese stars certainly don’t fall into that finished-at-25 category, and still represent China at World Championships.]

‘Why are those players thought too old to compete?’ I asked. ‘We have so many excellent young players coming up that deserve a chance,’ stated President Xu. I commented that this phenomenon is somewhat strange to much of the world. If a person is really good and wants to continue playing, why do you discourage them?’ ‘Because our players come up earlier and train heavily from, say, age 14 on, instead of 17 and up like in Europe,’ replied Coach Xu. Our players mature sooner and therefore are finished sooner. Age 15-25 is long enough for anyone to devote themselves so completely to a sport.’

President Xu added, ‘It looks rather awkward for a player such as Surbek to play beyond his prime. Also, if Surbek stops playing, his country has few players to replace him. This is not the case in China.’

‘Why don’t you participate in the World Senior Championships?’ I asked. ‘Has the U.S. ever invited us?’ asked President Xu. [Strange answer. Surely he knows the U.S. hasn’t been hosting such events?] I said that it was not a question of being invited, you must enter yourselves. In response, I was told that money was the problem. The individual in China does not possess the financial resources to travel abroad.

‘China is #1 in the world,’ I said, ‘but the majority of the crowd watching will be cheering for anyone that plays you. Does this bother you? ‘This is normal and we try to look at this from the right point of view,’ stated President Xu. ‘For example, at the World Championships in Pyongyang, North Korea, when Pak Yong Sun played Tong Ling, it seemed like all 25,000 spectators were cheering for Pak. The noise was incredible. Tong showed such courage in that win. It was something in later years we have not forgotten.’

‘I saw that match,’ I said to Tong sitting nearby. ‘Did you hear that crowd’s noise?’ ‘Of course,’ she said. ‘In the beginning, I was very upset by the noise and tried to find cotton for my ears. But there was none around. I tried to concentrate, but that didn’t work either. I finally began to blot it out of my mind when I started to beat her and she lost confidence.’

President Xu interjected, ‘Spectator noise is probably the thing that bothers us the most. We are very worried about a strong Swedish performance next year at the World Championships in front of their home crowd.’

Why don’t you have the World Championships in China?’ I asked. The Chinese answered that they have applied for 1989 or 1991.

‘Are Chinese players working on new techniques to specifically combat the European spinners?’ They laughed, then there was silence for quite a while. ‘You have been watching us play against others a lot. Do you see anything new?’ ‘Not really,’ I replied. Xu laughed. ‘That’s because there hasn’t been anything new for about 10 years. We think all the time about the European spinners, but we have not solved how to play them yet. If you watch video tapes you see our same good players using the same techniques.’

‘And still winning,’ I said. ‘Yes, that is true,’ said President Xu. ‘But, you know, we didn’t do well at the 1983 World Cup.’ I replied, ‘I’m sure you’re working to correct that situation.’ President Xu smiled and said, ‘We are trying to cope with spin by using speed. If we can use our quick style we can win. Serve and serve returns also receive much emphasis. It is very difficult to come up with anything new. If you have any ideas, please let us know.’

‘What is the style that gives you the most trouble generally?’ I asked. ‘The all-around player who hits well off both wings and is very strong and quick. The Hungarians still bother us and the Swedes—they are young, fast, and have several left-handers. They will be very strong at the next World’s,’ said the suddenly very serious President Xu.

            ‘Another thought I have has to do with how you train your young players. When do you start them playing seriously?’ ‘How old were your sons when they began playing?’ President Xu asked. ‘Five or six years old,’ I replied.’

            ‘We don’t begin that young,’ said Xu. ‘Come on,’ I answered. I’ve seen your little pre-schoolers hitting balls fastened to strings suspended from the ceiling. They could hardly talk, but they had a good forehand.’ The Chinese all laughed and said that kids that age aren’t serious. They can’t be good.’          

            I asked, ‘How young of age do you determine a particular style?’ Xu Shaofa answered that the coach always has the final say in this matter. Nine to 11 is about the right age for that.’

            President Xu interjected, ‘You know, Henan Li Ai used to be a fast attacker, but when the Japanese invented the loop, we wanted her to change. The same was true of Guo Yuehua. Those two players would not have had the success they did if we had not changed their style. Guo was 17 or 18 when he changed, and it took a lot of courage for him to do this and still become a champion. Tong Ling, our former World Champion, was a defensive player from the beginning. She is such a gentle person and could never have been an attacker.’

            ‘Ling, don’t you get tired of people always coming at you?’ I asked….After a long silence, President Xu replied for her, ‘No, she’s very patient—so patient she still hasn’t given you an answer yet.’ Ling blushed. Then she smiled and said, ‘I will answer your next question. I’m a good disco dancer and I like music.’

            I laughed. ‘What do you like about the U.S.?’ I asked. ‘Your technology,’ she said. ‘And how you get your work done so efficiently. Americans do so many things and don’t seem to get tired. I want to learn English so I can communicate with the world.’

            ‘Do you have men who work with the women at the National Training Center?’ I asked. ‘Not as much as you might think,’ was the reply. ‘But sometimes they do.’ I persisted. ‘Do the women ever help the men?’ They all laughed. ‘Yes, they clean, wash, and cook.’ This got the biggest rise out of the women. It was the only time they really got into the discussion and were excited. They said, ‘That’s not true.’

            ‘How do you account for the extremely high level of play of your women?’ I asked. ‘That’s because we have so many women playing, and their level is so high. It isn’t good for them to play against men because they will only compete against women.’ ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘you mean it’s not helpful for Tong to play against Cai because a woman opponent would never be that good?’

            Cai said something in Chinese and everyone around the table laughed, and I noticed that Tong Ling’s face had again turned red. I asked the interpreter what had caused everyone to laugh, and was told that Cai had said, “One thing is for sure; if Tong and I had played, it would have been a short match.’      

            President Xu stated that the Chinese really can’t rely on the men to work with the women. I asked, ‘How then do you account for the utter dominance of Asian women in the sport today?’ President Xu became very serious. ‘I think women in Europe and even the U.S. make love to boys too early. It’s bad for their game.’

            ‘Ogimura,’ I said, ‘told my oldest son Scott when he was 11 that the first rule for being a good player was to stay away from the girls, they would ruin his game.’ Cai laughed. ‘Maybe that’s what’s the matter with my game. ‘It isn’t the color change after all.’ 

            On Sept. 14th, I received a letter from George Szeto (on Bradley University, Math Department stationary) informing me that Chinese Coach Wang Fuzheng, who’d been a Guest Coach for the U.S. in 1982, was now in charge of all foreign affairs for the Chinese TTA. If I wanted him to, George said, he would serve as a go-between this Coach Wang and an excellent player he’d met while visiting China this past summer who’d like to come to the U.S. for half a year as a player-coach-exhibitionist. His name’s Tsang Yi-Qing, is 23, ratings’s about 2600, and he plays for an apparently prestigious Army Team. It wouldn’t cost us anything for him to come here, stay here—his uncle in California would fully support him. So would I please write an official invitation letter for him?

            I did, and, three weeks letter, got a nice reply—but, though I felt we’d have use for him, especially since he speaks and writes serviceable English, it turned out he couldn’t at this time leave his Army Team. Increasingly, beginning in a few years, more and more strong Chinese players will move to the U.S. and eventually become U.S. citizens. 

            This U.S. citizenship issue has been suddenly raised just before our upcoming 1984 U.S. National’s and World Team Trials. Turns out—as Rufford Harrison points out (SPIN, Jan., 1985, 13)—the USTTA Handbook has a forgotten regulation that’s unexpectedly been brought to the fore. “This regulation permitted aliens with ‘green cards’ to represent the U.S. and to take part in the National Championships, but only for six years—the five-year period during which the U.S. government does not permit citizenship to be obtained, plus one year in which to obtain citizenship.” Problem is, for some, six years have gone by, and so technically they’d be disqualified from playing in the Vegas Closed in Dec. But since the rule had been forgotten, no awareness of it publicized, the USTTA E.C. felt it had no choice but to waive it—though only for this one year. After all, a rule’s a rule.

Controversy will continue for a while as to who should or should not play in our U.S. Closed and on our U.S. Teams. Here’s Sue Butler (SPIN, Mar., 1985, 9) with her point of view: 

“The eligibility of players for U.S. international teams is a problem the USTTA E.C. has been working on for a number of years. The ambiguity of the permanent resident/citizenship aspect of this problem and its interpretation has become a major concern in recent years. [Actually, the rule in question (see Harrison’s comments that follow) is unambiguously there—it’s just been of little or no concern to those officials who ought to be concerned about it.]

Members of the Executive Committee are elected officials and as such are responsible and accountable to the general membership. When dealing with such an important question as eligibility for U.S. teams, the rules and regulations established must be supported by a majority of the membership. [Well, agreed that USTTA rules and regulations must be observed, if not individually supported, by an Association member, that still leaves a question or two for the E.C. voter who must make a judgment whether to accept a rule change or not: Does his (her) vote reflect the current thinking of the membership who elected him, and how is he responsibly to know that? And, even if he has evidence that he’s out of step with the majority, does that mean he shouldn’t vote the way he wants to?]

 In February, 1984, a rule change was proposed to the E.C. that said, ‘To be a member of a USTTA international team you must be a U.S. citizen.’ The issue was tabled in June and then voted down 2-6-1 at the September E.C. meeting in Colorado Springs. The reason given to me was that a majority of the E.C. felt sorry for U.S. permanent residents having to wait five years to become a U.S. citizen.

I have done quite a bit of research on this issue and one thing that has surfaced time and time again is that very few USTTA members know the Olympic or USTTA eligibility rules as pertain to citizenship.

Rufford Harrison makes it clear in his Jan., 1985 SPIN article [cited above] that a player is eligible to represent the U.S. in international competition if he (she) is a U.S. citizen, or a permanent resident who has not had this status for more than six years.

The U.S. Olympic eligibility rules as stated to me by USOC’s Bob Paul are:

Native-born U.S. citizen.

Or Naturalized U.S. citizen if hasn’t ever competed for another country. Or a permanent resident for five years and a U.S. citizen for at least three years.

If has competed for another country, cannot play for U.S. unless athlete becomes a U.S. citizen and is the spouse of a native-born U.S. citizen.

During the past three years, I have talked to many people about this issue. These people have included players, non-players, foreign officials, foreign players, and USOC officials. The question I asked was: Should U.S. National Table Tennis Teams be composed of only U.S. citizens?

Those who answered No said:

The quality of U.S. Teams would be improved by the addition of foreign players with superior training and experience.

Immigration is what the U.S. is all about. Everyone should have the opportunity to participate.

Those who answered Yes said:

To be a member of a U.S. Olympic Team, you must be a U.S. citizen.

Major media sources are not interested in U.S. Teams that are not composed of U.S. citizens.

The American general public will only be enthusiastic about sports and teams composed of U.S. citizens.

Limited funds must be used to train and provide experience for young U.S. citizens, for they will continue to live in this country and promote and support the sport as they grow.

U.S. Juniors identify with other U.S. Juniors and young adults. Non-U.S. citizens are unknown to the youth of this country and do not serve as role models for future development of the sport.

There appears to be more than a small amount of encouragement from foreign countries to have U.S. Teams composed of only U.S. citizens. Stellan Bengtsson in an interview with Scott Boggan, recorded in Timmy’s NAWTT, said that the U.S. will only be strong in table tennis when they have only U.S. citizens on their teams. In 1982, Zhang Zhunghan, Secretary of China’s TTA, and Xu Yingsheng, President of the China TTA, said to me, ‘Your teams must be composed only of U.S. players. Your country will not accept anything else. We do not want the Chinese to play on your teams. It would be bad for your country.’

The current USTTA rule allows for U.S. Teams to be composed entirely of permanent resident foreign citizens, provided they can compete and make the Team. Our current Women’s International Team is approaching this situation. [Yes, it’s the wave of the future—aging but not aged players from abroad, especially Asians, will become not only residents but citizens and it’ll be rare that any U.S. Team will be homogenized by native-born players. So how differently will U.S. Chinese-born citizens, as opposed to U.S. Chinese-born residents, playing for U.S. Teams be perceived?]

The USTTA would have great difficulty getting corporate sponsorship to teams composed of foreign athletes.

None of the other major table tennis powers in the world allow foreign players on their teams.  

It inhibits the development of our own native players to know that they can be replaced by a foreign player at almost a moment’s notice.
            It inhibits the development of team spirit.

A large majority of top U.S. players I interviewed favor U.S. citizens only on Teams.

Interviews, media exposure, promotion of the sport are all made almost impossible if our team members and national champions aren’t conversant in English

Requiring U.S. Team members to be U.S. citizens still leaves a very liberal policy that allows a foreign person to immigrate to this country, obtain citizenship, and then be eligible for Team membership.

[My own feeling is that some of Sue’s Yes arguments of almost 30 years ago are somewhat shaky, but, as she obviously has a passionate interest in this issue, and I’ve no comparable one, I’m not interested in possible rebuttal points that may be taken up by others and am moving on.]

I asked USOC attorney Ron Rowan for the reason behind the USOC rule that Olympic athletes be citizens of the country they compete for. He said, ‘It has always been an IOC rule. It seems only reasonable that in international competitive situations only citizens of the countries involved compete against each other.’

Mr. Rowan referred me to Bob Paul for further comments: ‘There is no one reason behind the rule,’ replied Mr. Paul, ‘The IOC did not want countries, especially the larger more powerful ones, stealing athletes away from other countries in order to unfairly improve the strength of teams.’

The E.C. is considering this issue again and has submitted the present regulation to the USTTA Rules Committee for possible rewording.

Rufford Harrison, in that ’85 January SPIN article said, ‘Furthermore, the new wording is likely to become a bylaw, not a standing rule, so that it may be much more difficult to waive it.’

It is at this time that this issue should be resolved once and for all and a bylaw be established. In the past few years we have had regulations waived, ignored, and/or misinterpreted. Athletes have come to the National’s only to find out that they cannot compete. Some athletes have been allowed to compete that were in fact not eligible.

At the ’84 National’s/U.S. Team Trials [as you’ll see in the upcoming write-up of that tournament], perhaps the most incredible situation of all occurred when a woman athlete was allowed to compete, eligible by USTTA rules but not by ITTF ones, and so could not represent the U.S. at the 1985 World’s. What complicated this situation even further was the fact that results of eligible International Team Squad (ITS) members playing against this ineligible athlete counted, and this caused ill-will among all concerned.

Should the USTTA have less restrictive citizenship requirements than the USOC, especially if it possibly inhibits the development of table tennis in this country?...

Since it is possible for USTTA Teams to be composed entirely of foreign citizens, one has to question the wisdom of such an allowance, particularly when noting our declining membership and rapidly decreasing interest and participation at the junior level.” 

     On Oct. 20-28 (Indian Table Tennis, Oct.-Dec., 1984, 8-9), the 7th Asian Championships (15 countries attended) were held in Islamabad, Pakistan. Results: Men’s Team: 1. China. 2. North Korea. 3. Japan. 4. South Korea. 5. India (d. Pakistan, 5-4). 6. Pakistan. 7. Australia. 8. Indonesia. 9. Malaysia. 10. Thailand. 11. Iran. 12. North Yemen. 13. Singapore. 14. Saudi Arabia. 15. Philippines. Women’s Team: 1. China. 2. North Korea. 3. South Korea. 4. Japan. 5. Singapore. 6. India. 7. Indonesia. 8. Australia. 9. Malaysia. 10. Thailand. 11. Pakistan. 12. Philippines.

            Men’s Singles. Final: Xie Saike over Chen Longcan, 18, -15, 16, -11, 12. Women’s Singles: Final: Dai Lili over He Zhili in five. Men’s Doubles: Xie/Teng Yi over Chen/Wang Huiyuan, 15, 15. Women’s Doubles: Dai/He over Yang Young Ja/Yoon Kyung Mi, 14, -22, 16. Mixed Doubles: Xie/Dai over Wang/He, 16, 19.

            Winners at the Asian Cup (Indian Table Tennis, Oct.-Dec., 1984, 10-15): Men’s: Hui Jun, current Chinese National Champion, over Cai Zhenhua, 19, -19, 14, 18. Semi’s: Hui over Xie Saike, 18, -10, 18, 19; Cai over South Korean jab-penholder with a lethal backhand, Kim Yong Hyun, -17, 19, 17, 18. Quarter’s: Hui over Ahn Jae Hyung, 10, 20, 16; Xie over Masao Shimizu, 13,10, 12; Cai over Takehiro Watanabe, 15, 15, 17; Kim over He Zhiwen, -16, -8, 20, 19, 18 [quite a turnaround for the 21-year-old University Commerce student, who, making his first appearance outside of South Korea, upset Japan’s former World Champion Seiji Ono in his initial round robin play, then eliminated He, World #14 (1985)]. Kamlesh Mehta, current and two-time Indian National Men’s Champion, was the only player from India to win prize money.

Women’s: Final: Tong Ling over Ni Xialian, -19, 12, 15, 15. (Some Chinese experts felt the “short, plumpy Ni was unfit for table tennis”—but even as I write, almost 30 years later, she’s still competitively playing world-class table tennis.) Semi’s: Tong over Park Mal Yun, 7, 10, 14; Ni over Lee Mi Woo, 7, 13, 7. Fifth-place finisher, the also ageless Indu Puri, current and eight-time Women’s National Champion, was the only Indian to win a prize.   

Results of the Indian Closed (Indian Table Tennis, Oct.-Dec., 1984, 18-21): Men’s: Kamlesh Mehta over V. Chandramouli, 16, 18, 10. 3rd-Place: S. Siram over Manjit Dua, 14, 14, 11. Women’s Indu Puri over Vyoma Parikh, 16, 12, -20, 14. 3rd-Place: Monalisa Barua over Niyata Roy, 3-1. Men’s Doubles: Mehta/Sujay Ghorpade over Rajat Kathuria/Dua. Women’s Doubles: Puri/Parikh over Barua/Laxmi Karanth. Mixed Doubles: Siram/Puri over G.K. Vishwanth/Karanth. 

In covering the Italian Open, played Nov. 1-4 at Venice, Mike Bush (SPIN, Jan., 1984, 20) concentrates on U.S. players Brian Masters, Mike Bush, and Charles Butler*:

 “The USA Team (Masters, Bush) drew Austria in the first round of the Corbillon-formatted Team event. I made out the order of play and put Brian, who was playing in his first European Grand Prix event, in the #1 position. [This ITTF Open, presented in cooperation with the International Management Group (IMG), is one of a number of tournaments held from Oct., 1984 through Mar., 1985 that will culminate in a Grand Prix Finals. Sixteen men will play for $30,000 and 12 women for $15,000. Not more than three men/three women players from any one country can compete.]

Brian played well to beat Gockner, the present Austrian National Champion, two straight. The Austrians had hoped their world-class chopper, Palmi, would show in time for the tie and risked putting him in the draw. I’d also hoped he would make it, even if it meant a loss for us. But he never appeared, and we received the victory by default.

  Our second-round tie was against Hungary. Brian started against Zsolt Kriston (ITTF #29) who plays with Super Anti and Sriver, flipping his bat constantly to set up his typical Hungarian forehand and backhand topspins. Again Masters played well and his unorthodox shots were winning points against his confused opponent. The first half of the first game was close and Brian led 13-12 before Kriston seemed to suddenly figure out what he needed to do, and, winning 9 straight points, ran out the game. In the second, however, Brian had Kriston confused again and stayed right with him to the end before losing in deuce.

In the second match, I went up against Takacs, a member of the 1979 World Champion Hungarian Team. I hadn’t been looking forward to playing him as I felt his steady, powerful topspin would be too much for me. But everything clicked into place in my game, including my block, and I battled him point for point. I surprised myself, Takacs, and the Hungarian and U.S. benches when I beat him two straight in a topspin duel. It was one of the best matches of my life—not a bad result for a 2330 player.

When Brian and I went to the table to play Gabor Gergely and Kriston, we were optimistic. And, sure enough, we played very well together considering it was our first time as doubles partners. Although we lost two straight, it was by a two-point margin each game. They beat us with experience.

In the fourth match, I lost the first game to Kriston after he’d gotten off to a 7-0 lead. I played much better the second game with my serve and follow poking holes in his normally strong blocking game. I took advantage of his Super Anti attack and went for all-out loop kills when given the opportunity. I took this game when he hit my high backhand chop into the net. From 10-all in the third, I won six consecutive points, only to have him come back to 15-16. He caught an edge at 15-17 and from then on I couldn’t win a point no matter what I did. So, that was that—a victory for the Hungarians.

Afterwards, Brian and I discussed the tie. We talked about the ifs and whens and luck, but we agreed that with such good playing conditions players earn their own luck. Experience, anticipation, and steadiness in playing points the right way are the deciding factors. That’s the difference between 21-19 and 19-21.

In Men’s Doubles, Brian and I won our first round over two Luxembourg players in straight games. Meanwhile, USA’s Charles Butler and his partner from Russia, Podnosov, lost in straight games to Ikonon and Jokinin from Finland.

Our next round of doubles was against the Chinese team of He Zhiwen, the eventual Men’s Singles winner, and Hui Sun, singles semifinalist. During the warm-up they were laughing at us. Every time Brian would punch a backhand they would break out laughing. We were laughing because they were laughing. But when I began the match by flip-killing four of Zhiwen’s serves, they stopped laughing. We played well and battled them point for point, losing by a two-point margin in both games.

Men’s Singles turned out to be a sad event for USA. Brian lost 3-0 to 18-year-old Alan Cooke of England who had no problem with Brian’s anti game. Brian used bad tactics in that match and had he played differently he might have had a chance. However, he tried to punch through Cooke, playing almost every ball long, but Cooke spun every long ball and had control of the table throughout the match.

My opening singles was against Italy’s #3 Giontella. I played poorly the first game and lost easily. In the second he was looping every ball on, and I was quickly down 11-7. But after complaining about his illegal serve, I broke his momentum and took the second game to even the match.

The third game was depressing for me. At 14-13 his favor, I loop-killed the ball as hard as I could for a winner, only to tear a muscle on the right side of my upper body. I tried to keep playing, got to 17-all by blocking, but all I could do was push his serves and watch as he looped the returns by me to win the game. I fought for the 15-minute injury break, got it, but to no avail as all I could do in the fourth was stand there like a statue trying to play t.t. with wrist and arm only. Surprisingly, Giontella was not crushing me and I was able to get to 17 by snapping in bodiless forehand kills off the loops. But that’s as far as I got.

Butler was the last American left in the tournament, but his fate was predestined. He had to play the talented young Swede, Persson, who has a tremendous backhand kill plus a solid counter and block. Charles did well considering he didn’t have a chance.

The tournament was over for us and we mingled with the others sharing the same predicament. On the last night, we feasted at the tournament banquet. Looking back on the way we were wonderfully treated, I wondered why for teams visiting us we can’t have it the same way for them. The Italians’ hospitality included beautiful hotel rooms, three good meals a day, and even a little ‘pocket money.’ On behalf of the Americans, I’d like to publicly thank the Italian Federation for giving us this opportunity to have such a marvelous time at their prestigious event.

Results: Men’s Team: Final: China d. Russia, 3-1. Semi’s: China d. Hungary, 3-1; Russia d. England, 3-0. Women’s Team: Final: China d. Russia, 3-0. Semi’s: China d. England, 3-0; Russia d. Yugoslavia, 3-0. Men’s Singles: Final: He Zhiwen d. Jiang Jialiang, 17, 17, 17. Semi’s: He d. Mazunov, 15, 14, 18; Jiang d. Hui Sun, 14, -19, 18, 12. Women’s Singles: Final: Qi Baoxiang d. Xu Jing, 14, 15, -18, 15. Semi’s: Qi d. Olah, 18, 12, 17; Xu d. Nemes, 20, 18, -19, -19, 18. Men’s Doubles: Akesson/Persson d. Jiang/Cai Zhenhua, 15, 15. Women’s Doubles: Qi/Xu d. Szabo/Urban, 17, 19. Mixed Doubles: Final: Cai/Qi d. Zhiwen/Zou. 

I approved the requests of various players representing us internationally that they be given airfare or pocket money. Specifically, I authorized the following money to the following players:

$100 each to Perry Schwartzberg and Quang Bui while in the Dominican Republic;

$753 to Brian Masters for airfare from Stockholm to Venice (to make a contending U.S. Team in the Italian Open);

$175 to Brian Masters to play in the Yugoslav Open;

I did not authorize any money for Eric Boggan to attend the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, or French Opens. Or for Scott Boggan to attend the French Open. Or for Mike Bush to attend the Italian, Netherlands, or French Open. Or for Charles Butler to attend any Open anywhere.

The Russian Open came upon us without much warning. Eric, Brian, and Charles couldn’t go, but Scott and Mike could, so ($400 each) we entered them. Then we found out that, unlike at the Italian Open, we needed three men for the team. Brian Eisner was in Europe and ($200) could go? Alright. But then Brian Masters ($200) was available after all. So, yeah, send all four men (make sure Eisner did not go alone by train but flew in from Sweden with Masters). To have sent an available player from the States would have cost us $1,700.

Obviously I believe the U.S. should be represented all over the world. 

“Host Families Sought” was the name of an article in SPIN (Feb., 1985, 25). Here’s why:

“In a program sponsored by the American Intercultural Student Exchange (AISE), Host families in the U.S. are being sought for high school students from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Ecuador, and Australia for the ’85-‘86 school year. The students, age 15-18, will arrive in the U.S. in August, ’85, attend the local high school, and return to their home country in June ’86. The students, all fluent in English, have been screened by their school representatives in their home countries and have spending money and medical insurance. Host families may deduct $50 per month for income tax purposes.

AISE is also seeking American high school students age 15-18 who would like to spend (1) a high school year in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, or Australia, or (2) participate in a three-week Host Family stay combined with a 10-day bus travel throughout Western Europe or England.” Perhaps AISE’s phone number (1-800-SIBLING) is still in service? 

Mike Bush gives us (SPIN, Mar., 1985, 18) the (1984-85) First Half-Season Results from the German Bundesliga:

Best Records, First Division: Douglas (ENG), 14-3; Lindh (SWE), 14-4; E. Boggan (YSA), 13-4; Waldner (SWE), 12-4; Carlsson (SWE), 12-6; Orlowski (CZE), 12-6; Appelgren (SWE), 11-5; Huging (GER), 10-4; S. Bengtsson (SWE), 10-7; Boehm (GER), 9-5. Eric Boggan’s Record: 13-4 (11 of the wins in straight games, the two over Douglas and Appelgren in three; three of his four losses went three games).

Best Records, Second Division (West): Dvoracek (CZE), 18-1; Bush (USA), 17-3. Leiss (GER), 17-4; Daus (GER), 15-4; Huttermann (GER), 15-6; Saive (BEL), 10-3; Bluem (GER), 10-6; S. Boggan (USA), 9-5; Anders (GER), 12-10; Hoffmann (GER), 11-9. Mike Bush’s Record: 17-3 (7 of his wins in three games, and four of those at deuce or 19 in the third). Scott Boggan’s Record: 9-5. [Reportedly (SPIN, Nov., 1984, 9), Scott, “who plays for the NF Rehydt club, posted a good win over Yugoslavian National Team member Ilija Lupulescu, the #3 Junior in Europe behind Russia’s Mazunov and England’s Prean. Lupulescu will later be a Men’s Doubles finalist (with Primorac) at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and will go on to become a U.S. citizen who’ll win four U. S. Men’s Singles Championships and be inducted into our Hall of Fame.]

Another U.S. player who likes it abroad is Kasia Dawidowicz. She wants to continue training in Sweden and asked me to write a letter for her requesting a visa permit that will allow her to go back to the Stockholm suburb of Vallingby. There she would be based at the Wallers’ home and have convenient access to Nisse Sandberg’s Angby Club. I wrote the Swedish Consulate and they sent me the requisite forms for Kasia to fill out.

One day Kasia will be inducted into our USTTA Hall of Fame—but that’s 20 years or more away yet. Since our Hall receives no financial help from the USTTA or any other organization, it’s formed a Booster Club with the following membership contributions—Diamond ($100 a year), Gold ($50), Silver ($25), and Bronze ($10). President Jimmy McClure (SPIN, Nov., 1984, 17) says the money will be used for “purchasing plaques for the inductees, subsidizing the cost of at least part of the banquet, including the printing of the evening’s Program, and possibly to provide hospitality for the inductees.   

The inductees into our Hall of Fame this year, much written about in my earlier volumes, are: Contributor Bernie Hock (maker of the famous Hock hard rubber bats used by Miles, Reisman, and many other famous competitors); Players: Charles “Chuck” Burns (1942 U.S. Men’s Singles finalist), Doug Cartland (World Singles quarterfinalist); Bobby Gusikoff (U.S. Open Men’s Singles and Doubles, and Mixed Doubles Champion); Mae Clouther (1947 World Women’s Doubles finalist); George Hendry (World Over 70 Champion); and Mildred Wilkinson Shipman (three-time U.S. Open Women’s Doubles Champion); and Official J. Rufford Harrison (USTTA President and longtime ITTF Equipment Chair).

Before coming to the U.S., Harrison, born in England, earned a Ph.D.in Chemistry from the University of London. And since he began playing table tennis there, it’s not surprising that his interest in such an addictive game could mushroom. He became very prominent not only in the USTTA but in the ITTF, which Ivor Montagu (also given attention in my earlier volumes) was Founder/President of—for an astonishing 40 years or so, until he was succeeded by Welshman H. Roy Evans, the current ITTF President since 1967.  

 Remembering Ivor Montagu

I bring up Evans and Harrison because as Montagu has just died I’m about to give you some of their recollections of this famous man (SPIN, Jan, 1985, 17).

First, here’s Evans: 

“Although I knew little of Ivor’s important contributions in other more prestigious walks of life [he was, for example, a film buff—director and writer], I was very much a part of his tremendous endeavors for table tennis over the 16 years [and counting] of my Hon. Secretaryship of the International Table Tennis Foundation.

I first became aware of his considerable presence at the World Championships in Baden bei Vienna in 1933, when I played for Wales and was also its delegate to the ITTF Congress. I had the temerity to propose the adoption of a certain ball, which I knew perfectly well stood no chance of being recognized, and experienced the full weight of Ivor’s disapproval.

But it was not until the Second World War when I became a member of the ITTF Advisory Committee that I came to understand the extent of his knowledge of our game, and the scope of his experience on international matters.

He certainly ruled, his mastery of several languages giving him an enormous advantage in the days before simultaneous interpretation. His political leanings showed clear in an extraordinary ability to handle complex problems in a split Europe. Indeed. It was mostly through his influence that table tennis became one of the first sports in which international competition between West and East took place.

He knew his subject better than anyone else, and although there are conflicting claims as to who set up the ITTF, it was Ivor who certainly led unorganized international table tennis into the formation of the Federation in London in 1926. And it was Ivor who remained unchallenged at its head for 41 years.

I became the Honorary Secretary of the ITTF in 1951, following the late Bill Pope, being at all times the close working colleague of Ivor and Bill Vint, the latter being a closer personal friend. Ivor drafted the original rules of the ITTF and in the late 50’s he chaired a weekend-long meeting, attendees at which were the late Ake Eldh at this time ITTF Deputy President, Vint, and myself when we investigated the whole of our Constitution and drafted a new Handbook. Although that Constitution, with its Rules and Regulations, has of necessity had to be updated from time to time since then, many of the original concepts are pure Montagu.

During the period of my Secretaryship, I knew Ivor in his many moods. He was certainly impatient and suffered fools badly. Yet the essence of his leadership was the ability to compromise, to find a way through the labyrinth of problems that confronted us during the period of the so-called Cold War. He usually managed to get his own way, but always gave his opponents the chance to save their faces. He was certainly a dictator, imperious for all his Communist leanings. A big man in every way.  A true leader. And our game owes so much to his astuteness, his grasp of huge problems and minute details, and, above all, to his belief in table tennis, giving it a solid foundation on which to build.

I succeeded Ivor as ITTF President in 1967. I learned much from him, sometimes in agreement and sometimes in disagreement. But I am confident that whatever of Ivor Montagu that has rubbed off on all of us who knew him will help to continue the growth of a tree planted by this never-to-be-forgotten man in 1926.” 

And here’s Rufford Harrison with his remembrance of Ivor: 

“I remember Ivor with a great deal of fondness. I received the occasional dressing down, of course, as did we all. It is no blotch on the escutcheon to be chastised by a man with Ivor’s capabilities. Ivor’s mind had no place for others’ stupidity—but he had unlimited capacity to cooperate with someone with a contribution to make.

I made a minor contribution once, when the ITTF Handbook was revised 25 years or so ago. We corresponded frequently while Ivor wrestled with my desire to make the document bilingual—i.e., British and American. He had the better part of the bargain, having to read only my imperfect but generally legible typing. My lot was the cryptography problem attendant on Ivor’s hieroglyphics. I have several specimens still; they all look identical.

The tribute in the London Times omits one of Ivor’s productions that gave me an enormous amount of pleasure. Today, very little writing is worth reading aloud to an audience unfamiliar with the subject. I have recited large sections, all much appreciated, of Ivor’s autobiography, The Youngest Son, which I was encouraging him to continue. Is it possible that, someday, the manuscript of a Part II might be found in his effects?

Memories of Ivor chase each other. The delightful Christmas card showing his animated conversation with his old friend Charlie Chaplin. His studiously unkempt appearance, ordering of which would have risked loss of recognition. His grasp of every aspect of our sport, from its politics to the technical aspects of equipment manufacture.

The memories will chase each other for many a year.” 

SELECTED NOTES.

*Why Eric Boggan didn’t play in this Open I don’t know. Perhaps he had a Bundesliga match. Or perhaps he was playing elsewhere. Almost 30 years later, the well-known U.S. National Coach from California, Dennis Davis, told me that he saw Eric play four-time German National Champion Peter Stellwag in a tournament in Trier in 1984. Dennis, then in the U.S. military, was watching the action with some German friends. Since Eric was losing, he abruptly, whimsically, said to his companions, “If Eric wins the next point, I’m going to loudly root for him. Eric did win the next point, and, sure enough, Dennis began screaming encouragement to him. Which of course drew everyone’s attention, including a sudden look-up from both players. Eric, realizing he had unexpected support, took heart, beat Peter, and, after the match, hurried up into the stands, astonished and very thankful that he’d found “An American!”