Jorgen Persson has not been able to beat any Chinese table tennis players over the past few years but the 43-year-old former world and European champion from Sweden has not lost belief in European players, who dominated the sport in the early 1990s.
"Some people think China is unbeatable but that will not last forever and we will never give up," Persson told China Daily after losing 3-0 to Chuang Chih Yuan of Chinese Taipei at the Sanyuan 2009 Europe-Asia All Stars Table Tennis Challenge (Asia). Europe ultimately fell to the Asian team 3-2.
"Every team has its ups and downs. We were strong at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s."
Persson helped Sweden win three straight gold medals in the men's team event at World Championships from 1989 to 1993 and was crowned the men's singles champion in 1991 at the Japan Worlds, where European men's teams occupied the first five places.
However, the Asian countries, spearheaded by China, regained their dominance a few years later and Asian players have swept all the Olympic gold medals since 1996, one by a South Korean and all the others by Chinese, and no European players advanced to any of the title games at the Yokohama World Championships in May.
The Swedish veteran admitted a lack of good young players had caused Europe's decline over the past decade.
"We have (Timo) Boll, we have (Dimitrij) Ovtcharov, we have (Michael) Maze but apparently we need more excellent young players like China or Japan," Persson said.
Just as China is eager to send more young basketball players to the US to nurture their talents, Europe is desperate to learn from China in the sport of table tennis.
Earlier this month, more than 20 young European players traveled to China to train with some of the national players, hoping to hone their skills against the best.
"I came to China for training and that really helped a lot," said Persson, in praise of the move. "So I hope more and more players can come, playing in the league or just training. It will be very beneficial."
Meanwhile, Persson pointed out more attention should be paid to the promotion of table tennis.
"There is fierce competition between different sports out there.
"Kids are going for soccer and basketball, that's the reality in Europe, I think also in China. We need more promotions like this event."
The next leg of the 2009 Europe-Asia All Stars Table Tennis Challenge will take place on Nov 10 and 11 in Istanbul, Turkey, which symbolically connects Asia and Europe.
(China Daily August 28, 2009)