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Table Tennis Most Popular Sport

By Josef Stein

ONE of the most extensively practised sports in Czechoslovakia is table tennis. The playing of this game in an organised way began in Czechoslovakia in 1924. At that time the first student club for table-tennis was established in the capital city of Prague. This sport which requires no significant financial expenditure found more and more supporters among young people. Its popularity spread rapidly and in the course of less than one year numerous clubs were being established all over Czechoslovakia.

At the beginning of 1926 the international federation of table-tennis - ITTF - was founded. Among the foundation members was also Czechoslovakia. The first world championship was played in London in the same year. Czechoslovak table-tennis players participated in it and were placed sixth out of seven competing nations. The standard of play of Czechoslovak table-tennis players began to improve, however, year by year and at the sixth world championship, held in Prague in 1932, they gained their first outstanding success by defeating Hungary in the finals of the Swaythling Cup and thus winning the world championship in the team competition. This unexpected but well-deserved success was welcomed by all supporters of this sport in Czechoslovakia and contributed in no small measure to the further development of table-tennis in this country. In the course of several months scores of new clubs were organised in towns as well as in the countryside, and no tournament passed at that time without the discovery of an outstanding young and hither-to unknown player.

In 1932 a small twelve-year-old boy appeared at a tournament in Prague. He defeated easily all of his opponents by his fast offensive play. This talented boy was no other than Bohumil Vana who in the following three years fought his way among the best table-tennis players of the world. 

In the years 1934 to 1936 young Czechoslovak table-tennis players made a successful attack against the leading position of the Hungarians who up to that time held first place in the world. 

At the seventh world championships in Paris the women single title was won by the Czechoslovak player Marie Kettnerova who succeeded in defending her world title at the next championships held this time in London. 

At the tenth world championships, held in Prague in 1936, Czechoslovak players won four world championship titles and thus ranked among the best table-tennis players in the world. In addition to the experienced representatives Kolar, Hamer, Smidova and Kettnerova the national team was joined by the young players Bohumil Vana, Slar, Tereba, Votrubcova and Depetrisova.

[[caption]] ELISKA KREJCOVA, many times champion of Czechoslovakia. [[/caption]]

Czechoslovak Sport


[[caption]] LADISLAY STIPEK - World Men's Double champion 1947-48, 1954-55, 1956-57. [[/caption]]

Since 1936 hardly a world championship passed without Czechoslovak players winning at least two world titles. 

The Second World War prevented however, Czechoslovak table-tennis players from gaining even more striking world successes. It was in these years that the young offensive players Vana, Slar, Tereba, Votrubcova and Deptrisova reached their peak form and would hardly have found an opponent strong enough to defeat them during the years 1940 to 1945. 

After the end of the war the Czechoslovak men again ranked among the world's best players but the women players did not reach their pre-war standard and were sure passed by Hungarian, English and Rumanian players, and during the last four years also by Japanese women. 

At the first post-war world championship held in Paris the Czechoslovak representatives won three world titles, and in London in the following years they won the world title in the men's team competition and in the men's doubles. 

In the post-war years the pillar of our national team has been apart from the spirited and offensively playing Bohumil Vana the technically highly skilled Ivan Andreadis who at the age of fifteen years had won the senior singles title at the championship of Czechoslovakia. The skill and consistency of play of the foremost Czechoslovak table-tennis players has been reflected in recent years particularly in the team competitions as demonstrated by the results achieved at world championships. At the nine post-war world championships our men won the team's competition four times and were placed second also four times after having been defeated by Hungary once after a good performance by 4 : 5.

Czechoslovak players have won a total of 28 world titles at world championships so far. Only the Hungarians can boast of a greater number of victories.

Outstanding successes were, however, not only gained at world championships but also in international tournaments and in international matches.

During the past thirty years Czechoslovak table tennis players won many international matches and their offensive enterprising style of play was admired in many countries. Although table tennis is in Czechoslovakia one of the most successful sports, its mass participation only started after 1948 when physical training and sport were organised in a single united body in Czechoslovakia. Table tennis ceased to be the neglected and overlooked sport and moved into healthy gymnasiums.

Exceptional care is now devoted in Czechoslovakia to the selection and training of young and talented players who are training under the guidance of such experienced internationals as Kolar, Andreadis, Slar Vana and other well-known coaches. The most talented young table tennis players from various parts of the country meet every year for joint training. Their training course is carried out according to individual training schedules which do not only contain the training of various strokes but also aim at the acquiring of endurance, speed, elasticity and at exercises which increase the powers of observation. Instructive films and specialised literature are also effective aids in training young players.

The high standard of Czechoslovak table-tennis is also due in no small measure to local competitions. In these competitions for senior as well as junior players more than 100,000 players participate each year. Up to last year men and women used to play together in the competition of teams. A team would normally consist of four men and two women.

[[caption]] BOHUMIL VANA - World Singles champion 1937-38, 1946-47, Men's Double's champion 1946-47, 1947-48, 1950-51 and world's Mixed Doubles champion, 1936-37, 1938-39, 1950-51. [[/caption]]

However, since 1957 the competitions of men are being played separately from those of women. The men's teams now consist of four players who play a total of sixteen matches in one contest. The women compete in three-member teams.

Young people up to the age of sixteen years have their own competitions of individuals and teams. At the present time Czechoslovak table-tennis is faced with the problem of rejuvenating its national team. Vyananovsky is a very talented player and has already reached the standard of performance of Andreadis, Tereba and Stipek. Promising performances are also being given by such young players as Posejpal, Kebza, Dresler, Schwarzova, and Grafkova.

Czechoslovak table-tennis players are now training hard for the coming world championships in Stockholm where they want to demonstrate that by their style of play and performance they still belong among the best table-tennis players of the world.