29/06/2004

Jean-Mi a porté la flamme...

ITTF
Table Tennis Star Lights The Way To Athens
The ITTF congratulates Jean-MIchel Saive who recently took part in the Olympic Torch Relay as it passed through Belgium.

Jean-Michel is a great ambassador of our sport and one of the most recognizable athletes in his native Belgium.
Jean-Michel Saive carries the Olympic Flame

Table Tennis Star Lights The Way To Athens

In 1984 Jean-Michel SAIVE of Belgium won the Cadet Boys’ Singles title at the European Youth Championship in Linz, Austria; twenty years later, on Monday 21 June 2004, he was given the honour of carrying the Olympic torch through the streets of Anvers in his native Belgium.

The honour reflects the stature of SAIVE in Belgian sport; his efforts combined with those of his younger brother, Philippe, have lifted Belgian table tennis to unprecedented heights; a country of only ten million people they compete with the very best in the World, a fact clearly illustrated when against the odds, they finished runners up to the might of China in the World Team Championships in Osaka in 2001, having defeated the defending champions, Sweden, at the penultimate stage.

SAIVE is the player with the big heart, a fighting spirit that seemingly lifts him to a higher level when the need arises; watching him compete you are immediately impressed by his quite incredible work-rate, his dedication and his sportsmanship. He is the player that the crowd wants to win whether he is the favourite or the underdog.

Few countries in the World can have such a wonderful emissary for their sport; runner up in the Men’s Singles at the World Championships in 1993, European champion and European Top 12 Champion in 1994 but ask what he considers to be his greatest achievement and he is quite clear: `Being ranked number one in the world for fifteen months, five hundred and fifteen days!’

It is a quite incredible record. Belgium and his club Royal Villette Charleroi owe a great debt of gratitude to SAIVE, crowds throng to watch table tennis in the small European country, they are enthusiastic about their table tennis, they enjoy the sport but above all else they come to watch Jean-Michel SAIVE.

An Olympic medal still eludes SAIVE but he is one of only six male players who has competed in every Olympic Games since table tennis was accepted in Seoul in 1988, winning one of the prestigious medals in Athens is a tough task for any player but Olympic recognition may come his way irrespective of his playing success in August 2004. He has been nominated for the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes Commission; four athletes will be elected and the result will be announced on Thursday 26th August 2004.

SAIVE is a deserving candidate and the fact that he has been nominated reflects the respect he has gained in the sport; rest assured whatever role he fulfils he will be giving his best and his family, his club, his country and table tennis can be justifiably proud of his achievements; he is a true sportsman and a wonderful ambassador not only for table tennis but for sport in general.

Ian marshall, TT Illustrated Editor

www.ittf.com


 


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