After the initial interview, I asked a few more follow up questions:
I assume that as the new chair of the Althletes Commission, you would have had a lot of discussion about the new proposed plastic and larger balls? There is a lot of concern among the amateur players about this. The main concerns are:
1. The new tolerance on the ball will potentially make it 0.5mm to 0.75mm larger, which would have a very significant impact on the speed of the game, similar to that of the 38mm to 40mm change:
According to the new rules the minimum diameter of every ball must be at least 40.00mm and its maximum diameter must not exceed 40.60mm, probably balls are going to be a little bigger , I think hardness and roundness are more important . At the moment many are not satisfied with the balls we use – they are too soft in some places , not round , many mistakes we make in the game is because of the bad quality of the balls , we hope that with the new material many problems will disappear .
2. Many people are concerned about the the difference bounce and performance of the ball, which may require them to change equipment again, which can be very costly as they need to try different setups to find something that suits.
First reports show that the new balls are harder , jump higher ,there is less rotation . In general they are better than expected . Regarding the equipment I did not feel that big change is needed ,of course it’s up to every player.
3. Many players have expensive robots for training, and it's unknown whether these will work with the new balls.
According to what I heard the new balls should fit in .
The reason for the proposed change is the supposed ban on celluloid materials, but we cannot find any evidence of this, nor can we confirm that plastic is any safer, so we suspect there may be other reasons. I would really like to hear you input on these issues, and hope the athletes commission can influence the ITTF to carefully consider these issues, and the costs for players worldwide?
Please check the text I received from the ITTF-
- There is no ban on finished celluloid materials, the ban to be implemented is on the process to produce materials made of celluloid. Currently this is largely allowed in China, India, Korea and some other few countries. They produce the celluloid finished materials and resell to the manufacturers, including ball manufacturers. In China the producers of celluloid sheets have been informed by the government that a gradual reduction in quota will be implemented until no more celluloid production will be allowed. Of course this will affect TT balls. With the new materials (composite plastics) the ball could be produced in any country, so more options and more competition. Now more than 90% of world production for TT balls comes from China
-Our current rules allow balls to be made of celluloid and other materials such as plastics, PVC, etc., as long as they meet the set parameters as far as bounce, size, weight, etc. Because celluloid is already not available in many countries (a health hazard) and because China will also ban celluloid manufacturers, or at least limit them like in Japan, the ITTF must find other materials to make the balls.
- Celluloid is a health hazard at the factory level when the sheets are made that are used to make ping pong balls. Also, celluloid is very flammable and not allowed on airplanes, etc. The new balls will come into play after the London Olympic Games. There will be no change in rules because that is already allowed. They will be made of a special composite material, which will sound, feel and look like celluloid. The advantage is that the ball will be made seamless in one piece for better roundness and hardness. All the current parameters as far as size, weight, bounce, etc., will be the same as now.
- The only change, which has nothing to do with the new balls, but is a modification to the current rules (regardless of the type of ball) is that the size tolerance will be implemented only upwards. Since the 40mm ball came into effect, we never really had a 40mm ball, because the tolerance level was always applied downward. We will be more strict and insist on 40mm balls with less tolerance and applied upwards. This is just at the manufacturing level for approval and does not affect the players in any way.
- Celluloid is allowed everywhere in finished form. However, the process of making materials in celluloid is not allowed anywhere except for a few countries (China, Korea, India, etc.) with some quota limitations in Japan. The process of generating celluloid based sheets is a health hazard (same as Asbestos) due to the minute fibers getting embedded in the lungs. So although the finished product is used worldwide and is relatively safe, only a few factories are still in operation, mainly in China. As you may know, in India the handling of Asbestos is allowed even if the Asbestos workers have the highest rate of lung cancer and many die in their early 30s, whereas in most western countries it is forbidden. It is the same with celluloid. Except that since China joined the WTO the Chinese government is trying to follow international norms as far as working conditions in factories are concerned. All celluloid producing factories (those that make the sheets) have been given timelines to cut production gradually until it is eliminated all together. Instead they have to produce a similar product using plastics or composite materials excluding the fiberous materials such as celluloid. The handling of the finished celluloid sheets is not a health hazard it is the production of such sheets (or other shapes) that will be eliminated.
- In any case, this is all irrelevant, the use of plastics for producing ping pong balls is in the ITTF rules for over 60 years. In fact Dunlop used to produce plastic balls. But their method was using the 2 half-spheres, which is not the new method. The new balls will be one continuous piece, one sphere, no seems, and will look and feel exactly like the current balls. This does not even need a rule change. The only change will be the directives to manufacturers.
- All western countries have banned celluloid many years ago and do not produce it, same as Asbestos and many other fiberous products. Some countries, for economical reasons have continued to produce celluloid. The finished product is fine. But the production is a problem. China is the main producer of celluloid sheets used to make ping pong balls. The Chinese government has started limiting such production gradually until it is stopped or changed to another material.
- At the moment, to my knowledge, the only existing celluloid sheet factories (for ping pong balls) are found in China, Korea, India, in some ex-Soviet states, and in Japan with quota restrictions.
- As production is reduced we will have a ping-pong ball shortage and the prices will sky-rocket. So the wise thing to do is to have an alternative and take advantage of this opportunity to develop a better type of ball (better consistency, roundness, hardness, etc.). Also, with the new technology many other countries will be able to make ping-pong balls (there is already interest in USA, Germany and of course Japan), so the market will become more competitive.
A few more questions about your personal game:
Your service toss is impeccable. That said, what is your opinion of the ITTF's enforcement of its own service toss rules?
I think the service rule we have today is better than before 2001 , still it is very difficult for the referees to see the wrong service , some of the players hide it , many of course complain . We would probably benefit from a clearer rule .
Have you felt hindered by your height? If so, what techniques have you used to overcome?
Yes, I do not like when opponent plays in my body , you have to spend more time in training and pay more attention in the game , still I think it is my weakest spot .
Please describe your physical conditioning regimen apart from table tennis.
If soon I have to play an important tournament I concentrate on table tennis , if for a few weeks or more I have nothing special - 3-5 times a week I prepare physically , it includes gym, running , bicycle ,swimming . Always lot of sleep and stretching . Anybody could practise hard for a while , important is to recuperate .
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