Jan Ove Waldner
Pride And Prejudice
While Waldner enjoys a faithful fan base in Sweden, table tennis hasn't been given the respect its players and fans believe it deserves. In China, the sport's other powerhouse, the sport is played by the masses. The Chinese play in clubs and schools and even on cement slabs in the park. In the United States, however, the game is largely recreational and usually called Ping-Pong, a name given to the game when Parker Brothers first manufactured a set of equipment more than fifty years ago. Although in some corners of the world the game is wildly popular and highly competitive, it has never risen above its recreational reputation in much of the Western world.
It was in this environment that Waldner began his domination of the sport. Coming up in the liberal Stockholm of the 1970s, he quickly gained a reputation for a punishing serve and outstanding offensive and defensive technique. He began to climb the ranks on both the Swedish and European tour. He won his first Swedish title, one which he would go on to win seven times in his career, in 1983. He has also won the European Top-12 Championship seven times. His reputation was solidified, however, in 1989 when he won his first ever World Singles title and was ranked number one in the world. It was his second appearance in a world singles final but the first time he'd left victorious.