European champions amongst themselves


Li Fen & Dimitrij Ovtcharov
Li Fen & Dimitrij Ovtcharov


With WSA key players such as Marcos Freitas, Robert Gardos, Alexander Shibaev, Chen Weixing, João Monteiro, Daniel Habesohn and many more, the term "world-class table tennis" was already commonplace in Schwechat.


An exceptional athlete who has redefined the term, especially in the last few months, this week was at the gates of Vienna. No one less than the actual number six in the world, bronze medalist of London and reigning European champion Dimitrij Ovtcharov spent a week at the Werner Schlager Academy as a guest.

The Lower Saxony pitched his tent for a few days at the WSA, to pursue his training under the best conditions and the supervision of head coaches Richard Prause and Dirk Wagner.

In spite of the hard work "Dima" spent time for answering some interview questions to the WSA:


*) How old you have been starting with table tennis and what / who motivated you to do?
As far as I can remember, I started with the table tennis when I was five years old. For I was very young, I first played on the kitchen table. Later, my father has built a ping pong table on stilts until I could look upon a normal table about the age of seven years. For table tennis I have been persuaded by my father who himself was a player and it has been his life's task to make me a table tennis player.

*) You like to remember your time at the WSA (Note: European Championship 2013)?

That's right. I'm really happy here. I stay even in the same room in hotel which I did, when I became European champion. All the people are very nice. I know many players and of course the coach Richard Prause, who has been my national team coach for five years and Dirk Wagner under whom I've played for Borussia Dusseldorf, very good. So I only have positive memories.

*) What motivated you to come back?

I am invited to many training groups and it is not as easy to get out of your personal "system" , as you already are very much on the road. But Vienna -Schwechat is really nice. Everything is extremely professional here and the training is of course very good. Therefore, it was the right move to come now and I plan to come more often.

*) What do you think are the advantages of the Werner Schlager Academy?

It is the largest hall for table tennis training purposes that I have ever seen. It's a real competition hall. This means that the conditions are as at a major tournament. I've also never seen a hall where so much adequate and professional trainers are at work. This is also the reason for so many players are here.


*) How was the training at the WSA?


I'm satisfied. It is very varied. I've trained with some right-handers such as Stefan Fegerl and Daniel Habesohn and with Marcos Freitas as one of Europe's best left-handed players and today with the defender Chen Weixing. I worked on many details with Richi (Note: Richard Prause). There are, besides at my main training facility in Düsseldorf, really few training groups, where you can find good left, right-handed and defense players.


*) Usually how many (table tennis) trainings do you have in a week?


I do my best to have definitely two good (table tennis) units plus one fitness unit per day. You can do a lot if you pervade this concentrated and intensively.


*) How often are you practising your service?


I think that service and return training is "the Alpha and Omega" in the game. I think there are many good players who are very strong in open rallies, but they will not find to their game against players with a good service.


*) What would you consider as your best stroke?


I believe that I have a very good backhand. However, I also have very good serves and a very aggressive receiving, especially with the backhand.


*) What would you consider as your biggest success so far?


Fortunately I’ve already celebrated some good results – some were topped by other ones. The first Olympic medal in Beijing (note: team event). It was outshined by the first Olympic medal in singles (Note: London 2012). Even when the feelings perhaps were the same. The clear victory at the European Championships (Note: Schwechat 2013) of course was a very big highlight.


*) Did you ever dream of such a career?


I have sought a great career. Otherwise I would not have trained at a young age as much, if it would have been my goal to be No. 50 in the world. It would be too much "invest" for too little "return". It is not easy to achieve that. You need a bit of luck and of course hard work and discipline.


*) How do you see the difference between China and the rest of the world?


China really is extremely strong, but it's not just by chance. They have very good know-how and are engaging the former best players as coaches. They have an advantage from their big population. Every good player has almost his personal coach. There are very good sparring partners with the level of top 10, top 20 players in the world. The financial options for table tennis in China are actually "endless" - similar to the possibilities of the national soccer team in Germany. The sport system in Europe, maybe even in all sports, is not good enough to compete with them.


*) On what does it depend in modern table tennis?


Table tennis develops from my point of view more and more in the athletic field. The players are extremely fit and fast on the table, can play the ball with high quality and are able to force their opponents into their game.


*) What are your short-term goals for the future?


There are short-term goals "somewhere" each week. The club (Note: Fakel Gazproma Orenburg) is expecting me to win and victories of our team. This is very important. A short-term goal is of course the German Open. And a major highlight is of course the World Team Championship in Tokyo. I am also planning to play in the Chinese league again and I hope that I am able to prevail as good as last year.


*) What are your long-term goals for the future?


The World Championship in China in 2015 and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. I still have to improve if I want to have better results than in London (Note: third place Men’s Singles). My current level is not sufficient to achieve something that is better than I already have. I have to go “two steps” forward.


*) In which else sports are you interested in?


I am very interested in tennis. Apart from that I follow the German soccer league, the Champions League and the NBA.


*) What is your personal motto?


Diligence is the best talent factor.

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