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PostPosted: 01 Sep 2011, 09:56 
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Recently Vladimir Samsonov, one of the world's greatest players, agreed to an interview! :clap: :party:

As usual we collected questions from our members here. I did need to cut this down to a more reasonable number, as I didn't wanted to abuse his generous offer of answering questions, nor do I want to overwhelm with with a barrage of questions. Below are the questions and answers that were sent to him. If there are any follow up questions, I will be happy to ask him, but can't promise he'll answer those as well ;)

Vladimir Samsonov:
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Nationality: Belarus
Playing style: Right-handed, shakehand grip
Highest world ranking: 1
Born: April 17, 1976

Career highlights:
World Championships: runner-up (1997).
World Cup appearances: 12.
Record: winner Gold medal (1999, 2001, 09); 3rd Bronze medal (1996, 97).
Pro Tour winner Gold medal (×22):
Italian Open 1996; Swedish Open 1997; Croatian Open 1998; Croatian, Japan Open 1999; Croatian Open 2000; German Open 2001; Qatar Open 2003; Brazil Open 2004; Croatian, Russian, German Open 2005; Croatian, Chile Open 2006; Chinese Taipei Open 2007; Slovenian, Kuwait, Belarus Open 2008; Morocco Open 2009; Morocco, Korea, Polish Open 2010.
Runner-up Silver medal(×9):
Qatar Open 1997; Yugoslavian, German Open 1998; Brazil Open 2000; German Open 2002; Polish Open 2006; Croatian Open 2007; Singapore Open 2008; German Open 2009.
Pro Tour Grand Finals appearances: 12. Record: winner Gold medal (1997); runner-up Silver medal(1996); SF Bronze medal (2008, 10).
European Championships: winner Gold medal (1998, 2003, 05); runner-up Silver medal (2007, 08).
Europe Top-12: winner Gold medal (1998, 99, 2001, 07); 2nd Silver medal (1997, 2002, 03, 05, 08, 09, 10).

Interview with Vladimir Samsonov:

General:
Was playing Pro TT a dream from a young age or was there some other dream before it?
Yes, I always wanted to play table tennis.

For years, you and Timo Boll have been Europe's two main threats to Chinese dominance in the sport. What can Euro players do to be more competitive on the world stage?
I think the best Europeans should practice more, harder and if possible together.

Vladi, you are making a living from Table tennis as a Pro. Does your income come mainly from sponsorship, prize money or coaching? What are your future plans for this?
I'd say mainly from the club and sponsorship.

What does a typical practice day consist of for you?
3-4 hours table tennis, 1 hour physical training.

Vladi, how do you peak for Europe top 12? It is very remarkable that you are ALWAYS (it seems) in the finals of that event. Very remarkable indeed. I would like to be able to do something like that, even if it is at the amateur level.
Actually there is never time to prepare for the TOP 12, I think this is a coincidence.

You have had a long lasting relationship with Tibhar. What has kept this such a strong relationship? Do you have much involvement in the development of new equipment?
There are great people in the Tibhar company , very professional . We are 19 years together and I have never had a problem . They helped me a lot. Lately l was getting more and more involved in the development. There are lot of new interesting products.

You are one of the smoothest, calmest and relaxed players I've seen, are you like that in everyday life, or you can put yourself in that yoga kind state whenever you play? If so, have you practiced yoga or Tai-Chi in order to attain such inner peace?
Usually I am very calm, I wish I could show more emotions during the game and had time to practice yoga or Tai-Chi.

Vladi, what did you and Joo, S.H. say after 2010 Korea Open finals?
I do not really remember , probably that it was a great and tough game.

Technique / Strategy:
Since you're one of the sport's best blockers, what do you think is most important to improve a player's blocking?
I probably have a talent for this, still in the end it is training.

What style of play you find hardest to play against and what tactics you use against that style to win?
l do not like playing against very aggressive players. You have to attack yourself.

You mainly seem to use a forehand pendulum serve, which seem unique and looks very smooth and simple. Can you share how you vary the spin and how you place the ball to limit the opponents options in attacking it? Does it take a lot of your time to practice this?
It is not easy to explain . When you use same serve for a long time you have a feeling how to touch the ball in order to give a certain rotation. When I want to improve it I practice only serve for about 1 hour a day until I am satisfied.

Do you study the playing styles of your opponents before the real matches begin? Do you play on your opponents' weaknesses or on your own strengths?
I think it is important to know your opponent well , now it is much easier - you can find almost every official match on the internet. It is better to play on your opponents' weaknesses with your own strengths.

Equipment:
It is well known that a large number of players at the elite level play with tuned rubbers. What are your thoughts on Boosting/Tuning, and the difficulty in enforcing the new rules? Do you feel it's necessary for players to boost rubbers to continue to perform at an elite level, since many players are obviously already doing this?
The rubbers now are much better than one or two years ago , I think less and less players play with so called boosters , health damaging additives are not being used ,this is what the speed glue ban was supposed to achieve . Today table tennis is a very clean sport .

It has often been suggested that the elite players, like yourself, get special versions of rubbers, especially optimised for their liking. How common is this for the elite players?
It is impossible to produce exactly the same rubber each time , probably the rubbers for the top players are selected.

Without a doubt you are one of the world's best blockers. Have you ever thought of playing with Short pimples?
I have never thought of it, you can not win a game against strong player only with block.

What do you think about the large number of ITTF rules changes in the last decade or so (hidden serve, ball size, speed glue ban, frictionless pimple ban, 11 point game, etc.)? Where there any rule changes that impacted you a lot?
I think lot of them are good and logical, speed glue ban is because of health, open serve is better for a longer rallies, 40 mm ball should be seen better on TV, shorter sets are supposed to make the game more thrilling. Change to 40 mm balls had a big impact , because the weight of the ball did not change - the quality got much worse, I think it affects our sport in a negative way very much.

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PostPosted: 01 Sep 2011, 13:18 
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Very interesting comments. Thank you.

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PostPosted: 01 Sep 2011, 13:31 
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I get the feeling he didn't have too much time to put to his answers. Most the questions were longer than the answers :lol:

Still it is interesting. Particularly the 40mm ball being a negative for the sport! I wonder what he thinks of Adham's proposal for a further size increase!?

I thought his answer about boosting seemed kind of political.

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PostPosted: 01 Sep 2011, 15:52 
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RebornTTEvnglist wrote:
I thought his answer about boosting seemed kind of political.

He is the ITTF Athletes Commission Chairman... not sure if that influences what he can and can't say...

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PostPosted: 01 Sep 2011, 16:11 
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Many thanks great reading, he seemed more oppossed to the 40mm ball than any other rule change

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PostPosted: 01 Sep 2011, 23:55 
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Coincidence being in almost every final of Euro top 12 my azz !! Hehe, he could have just said that is how good he really is, but that would come accross as arrogent, even if it is simply a statement of fact. (Vladi being that good)

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PostPosted: 06 Sep 2011, 14:16 
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Does anyone have any follow-up questions for Vladimir?

I will ask him about the new balls, and whether he's tried them, as this seems to be a hot topics at the moment and of interest to many.

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PostPosted: 06 Sep 2011, 14:53 
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haggisv wrote:
Does anyone have any follow-up questions for Vladimir?

1) Your service toss is impeccable. That said, what is your opinion of the ITTF's enforcement of its own service toss rules?

2) Have you felt hindered by your height? If so, what techniques have you used to overcome?

3) Please describe your physical conditioning regimen apart from table tennis.

Yes, resubmitted verbatim as I find the moderator's editing of the question pool to be cursory, lily-livered, or both. If VS's ITTF ties prevent him from answering #1 then I'm sure he can craft an appropriatly political response. As one of the tallest high-level players in pro TT I think #2 was very apropos. And re #3, I, for one, would like to hear more about his specific physical conditioning apart from "3-4 hours table tennis, 1 hour physical training." To me, it seems obvious that the Chinese mens TT team (who have quads that more resemble gymnasts than TT players) are onto something and I'm sincerely wondering how the rest of the sport is reacting.

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PostPosted: 06 Sep 2011, 15:23 
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nathanso wrote:
Yes, resubmitted verbatim as I find the moderator's editing of the question pool to be cursory, lily-livered, or both. If VS's ITTF ties prevent him from answering #1 then I'm sure he can craft an appropriatly political response. As one of the tallest high-level players in pro TT I think #2 was very apropos. And re #3, I, for one, would like to hear more about his specific physical conditioning apart from "3-4 hours table tennis, 1 hour physical training." To me, it seems obvious that the Chinese mens TT team (who have quads that more resemble gymnasts than TT players) are onto something and I'm sincerely wondering how the rest of the sport is reacting.

I would have spent at least a few hours, collection, organising and then deciding which were the most relevant questions that were unique to him. I would have been more than happy for someone else to do this, but without any volunteers I'm forced to do it myself and have to try and decide what's most appropriate in the time available. I'm sorry if your questions were not passed in for the interview, as your questions are certainly good and relevant, but so were most other people's, so the decision on what to cut were tough (which is what made it so time-consuming!).

Anyway I'll collect yours and other people's questions, and will pass them on, and hopefully he'll be able to respond to those as well.

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PostPosted: 07 Sep 2011, 12:50 
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Here is an ITTF news items about Vladimir Samsonov" that is relevant and migfht be of interest:

A New Voice Signals Positive Introduction to a New Era
By: Richard Pettit, ITTF Media Manager 09/06/2011

At the recent ITTF Executive Committee meeting in Suzhou, a new voice was heard, a voice of an experienced campaigner but perhaps not in the traditional boardroom sense.

The voice belonged to Vladimir Samsonov, the new Chairman of the Athletes’ Commission, a group of eleven players who represent the views of the athletes and provide the link between the athletes and the International Table Tennis Federation.

Samsonov, a man who possesses a quietly spoken methodical manner, has undoubtedly been one of the most influential players in the modern game and one of only a handful of Europeans to have the honour of being world number one.

Different Role
“This is a new role for me, it’s different. I have always been interested in representing players, I like to talk about the game, speak and meet people, find out what others think”, said Samsonov.

Samsonov is joined by Korea’s Joo Se Hyuk, Belgium’s Jean-Michel Saive, Hungary’s Krisztina Toth, Spain’s Alfredo Carneros, Australia’s William Henzell, Ashu Jain from the United States of America, Guatemala’s Jose-Miguel Ramirez, Nigeria’s Offiong Edem, China’s Wang Liqin and Slovakia’s Alena Kanova from Para Table Tennis.

Opportunity
He continued: “This is an opportunity for all players, not only the commission; we want to activate the player body and build avenues of communication that provide the chance for everyone’s voice to be heard.”

It is clear that the fresh blend of player representatives is keen to usher in a far more democratic and holistic era, it is equally clear that this is supported and endorsed by the International Table Tennis Federation.

Integral Part
"The Athletes Commission has always been a very important integral part if the ITTF since its inception more than 20 years ago by then President Ogimura”, said Adham Sharara ITTF President, “The new Athletes Commission, which is now “elected” by the athletes themselves instead of being appointed by the Continental Federations, is a much-welcomed new approach.”

Ichiro Ogimura, winner of no less than 12 titles at World Championships, was the President of the International Table Tennis Federation from 1987 until his untimely death in 1994. He was instrumental in inaugurating the Athletes Commission.

Attended Meeting
“The new chairman, Vladimir Samsonov, attended his first meeting of the ITTF's Executive Committee and participated fully in the discussions and provided the view of the elite athletes on all points of discussion”, continued Adham Sharara. “This is an excellent start and I believe that the cohesion between the decision-making bodies of the ITTF and the elite athletes can only enhance the development of our sport in a spirit of harmony and mutual understanding.”

Co-operation is the key to success and certainly there was a mood of co-operation at the ITTF Executive Committee Meeting.

Step Forward
“Personally, I am very pleased with this step forward”, Samsonov reflected. “The ITTF and table tennis is such a big subject.”

A major subject and a broad range of topics were discussed.

Wide Ranging Topics
“At the meeting we touched on a wide range of topics from racket control, celluloid balls, world ranking system all the way through to the Olympic Games”, added Samsonov. “This meeting was the first step, it was an opportunity to present some of the players’ views and contribute directly to the discussions; it also provides an opportunity to report back to the players.”

Direct and Pragmatic
It was from Vladimir Samsonov a direct but pragmatic approach.

“In order for us to be a success, we need to be seen as approachable by all players, our opinions need to be listened to and we need to be able to get results”, continued Samsonov. “However, we also realize that we need to understand both sides of the argument, we have to be open.”

High on Agenda

Openness and democracy are high on the agenda for the new Athletes’ Commission following this year’s election, the first time ever that players have been able to vote for their representatives.

It is a significant step forward.

New Web Page
In addition Samonov was keen to point out a new web page is available and that he are looking at ways to improve communication, within the committee and for players.
With such a blend of high quality individuals and a determination to achieve, it is certainly an exciting time for the Athletes Commission.

Watch this Space
To find out more, watch this space. Literally!

Image
A new role for Vladimir Samsonov, present at the ITTF Executive Committee Meeting in Suzhou
left to right: Melecio Rivera (ITTF Executive Vice President), Chérif Hajem (ITTF Executive Vice President),
Vladimir Samsonov (Chairman Athletes’ Commission), Thomas Weikert (ITTF Executive Vice President)
and Anders Thunström (Managing Director TMS International)

Photo by Richard Pettit

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