There are many table tennis legends as such, but there is one name which the whole world recognizes well and whose fan is in every country. From kids to senior paddlers, we all have idolised Timo Boll in our childhood as a table tennis superstar and even as a hero. The legendary veteran paddler from Germany has defied age and even at 39, he is still playing in the top tier of the sport.
Timo Boll is a former World No. 1 and has been the world's ace paddler thrice in 2008, 2011 and 2018 besides being an Olympic silver medallist as well.
He boasts of a professional career lasting over 23 years. Prior to making his Olympic debut at Sydney in 2000, he performed in his first World Championships in 1997 where he reached the Round of 16.
He currently plays for the Borussia Dusseldorf, one of the best teams which competes in the top German league, Tischtennis-Bundesliga (TTBL).
in his legendary career, he also has many unique records. He is the only player from Germany to have beaten many top notch Chinese table tennis players like Ma long, Wang Liqin which gave him the sobriquet, 'The Man who could beat the Chinese'. In 2017, he was conferred with 'ITTF Male Player of the Year' award.
In an exclusive telephonic interview, Sportskeeda caught up with the former World No.1 Timo Boll directly from Germany who revealed a lot about his journey, struggles and secrets of success.
Excerpts from the interview with Timo Boll
Q: You are an Olympic medallist and a former World No.1 which first you became in 2003 then 2011, and then in 2018. You earned it again becoming the oldest ever in history. Can you take us through your ITTF journey so far? Please share the experience on being so successful.
Timo Boll: Haha, first of all, I don’t feel like a legend. I’m really happy to be still active and still in the world class. I was always surprised about my victories and grateful about them. Of course, during the years, I felt I’m one of the best players worldwide, but I always see myself very critically.
Q: How do you feel about yourself being one of the best table tennis players ever in the ITTF history and having huge fans not only in Germany, not only in India but around the whole world?
Timo Boll: I am not an extrovert, so I am not someone who enjoys the limelight too much. I am sometimes almost embarrassed to be the centre of attention, especially in public. But over the years you get used to it. At least I try not to change my character through all the praise and fame.
Q: How many golds did you win since you started your journey and won first ever gold at Jinan World Cup?
Timo Boll: I’m not good in statistics. I have no idea. The good thing is, I forget success and defeats quickly and stay motivated through all the years.
Q: You are 11 times German National champion. How do you manage to win for so long this long in your career? Any strategy or may be the secret behind this you would like to share?
Timo Boll: Most important thing is to keep your fun playing. Second is to stay fit and healthy and third is to be very disciplined.
Q: How's your journey in Champions League and also in Bundesliga? Specially, how do you feel so far playing for one of the best German clubs, Borussia Dusseldorf?
Timo Boll: I love to play for my club, enjoy the everyday life with your teammates, building some kind of spirit together. Borussia is a great club, very professional and the front office loves table tennis too. As I’m used to having a lot of pressure when I’m playing, it’s not a big thing for me to play for the most successful club, but I see it as an honour to be part of their history.
Q: How long has it been since you know our Indian legendary paddler Sharath Kamal? Are you both friends of each other? What would you like to say about his performance and skills? Also how do you feel to have him in the team?
Timo Boll: What Sharath Kamal achieved is maybe bigger than my achievements, if you compare his way of becoming a professional table tennis player. India had no table tennis structure in those days, he had no real idols he could look for, no appropriate partners to practice with. It’s unbelievable, that he could become such a world class table tennis player.
But if you know him, then you know why. He’s really smart, he has a beautiful touch and talent to hit the ball, he’s intuitive and his signature skill: he’s a fighter! I call him the Hulk. I’m happy to have him as a teammate, but more than that, I am glad to have him as a friend! He’s a wonderful person.
Q: What sort of struggles have you seen in life and how did you manage to come out of those hard times?
Timo Boll: Fortunately, I lead a life that I could not have dreamed of. Although I have had physical problems several times during my career, I have always been able to overcome them. Even at 40 I can still play professionally, what more could I want?
Q: You are also known as "The Man who could beat the Chinese" among fans as well as in the fraternity. What's the secret behind your technique/skills that helped you achieve it? How did you train or prepare yourself to be a champion who actually beat many top notch Chinese paddlers like Ma Long, Zhang Jike, to be a legend himself?
Timo Boll: I’m very analytic, especially with my own performance. I found ways over all the years, after each rule change, to keep my level or become even better. I tried to compete against the Chinese as often as possible, played many times in the Chinese league and practiced with them during these periods. That helped too.
Q: Your favorite table tennis player and most favorite Indian table tennis player and why?
Timo Boll: Jörg Rosskopf, when I was young. Later I loved the style of Wang Liqin, he was so athletic and a real machine. Kamal is, without a question, my favorite Indian player. I hope many can follow his example.
Q: Is technique more important or physical fitness/core strength, according to you?
Timo Boll: In younger age, technique is more important, but when you reach a higher level, the physical aspect becomes more and more important and has to be on par.
Q: Any motivational tips on how to be a champion like Timo Boll, for all the young ones out there who idolize you as their role model?
Timo Boll: Have fun, enjoy playing. When you get older you feel that more as you won’t be able to run around like crazy, so you appreciate it much more.