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BUTTERFLY 2021 YEAR IN REVIEW

(by Steve Hopkins)

As 2021 draws to a close, ButterflyOnline.com is taking a look back at the top stories, headlines and highlights from the year in table tennis. Here’s our  list of BUTTERFLY TOP MOMENTS of 2021:

 

Boll Perfect as Dusseldorf takes German Cup

Boll and Dusseldorf Perfect:  As January 2021 started, the German team of Borussia Dusseldorf was dominant against the other teams in the German League and against the rest of Europe in the Europe Cup.  The article last January noted that at the midway point of the German League, the top four had competed in the German Cup and Dusseldorf won.  Their most famous player, Timo Boll, led the way and was undefeated.

The article turned out to be predictive for the rest of the year – with Dusseldorf ultimately winning both the German League and the European Championship.  In fact, Timo Boll won the Euro Championship Singles Title, took home a Teams Silver at the Olympics and had a top 4 finish at the World Championships in Men’s Singles (and Dusseldorf teammate Kristian Karlsson teamed with Mattias Falck to win the World Championship in Men’s Doubles).

WTT’s Doha Event Rosters Suffer Due to COVID-19

In February, we were still talking about COVID, as World Table Tennis events saw rosters shrink as top players and teams became very careful ahead of the Olympics.  China withdrew, and Hong Kong withdrew.  However, many of the other top players in the world still competed – including Ovtcharov, Yun-Ju, Harimoto, Pitchford, Gauzy, Falck, and Franziska.

ITTF Rankings: WTT Winners Move Up

In March, the ITTF Rankings saw movement based upon WTT events.  Ovtcharov and Harimoto (each winners of a WTT event) each moved up and Simon Gauzy, Darko Jorgic, and Ruwen Filus each jumped up in the rankings off of solid performances in the very limited set of events.

Dusseldorf Masters 2021: Kallberg and Ovtcharov Win First Two Events

In 2020 as the Pandemic slowed all competitive play, Dusseldorf ran a series of events.  In April of this year, they again ran a limited series of “Dusseldorf Masters” events.  The first two of those events were held in April and Anton Kallberg and Dimitrij Ovtcharov won the events.

China’s Olympic “Trials”: Surprises in Xingtong

Olympic coverage started in earnest in May, with one of the more interested pieces about China’s Olympic Trials.  Both Ma Long and Xu Xin lost early – perhaps the first hint that China would shake-up their normal pattern (after the Olympics) and send a younger team to the World Championships.

Euro Championships: Boll Repeats – Timo’s Eighth Euro Title

In June, the Euro Championships saw a Final Four of Falck, Ovtcharov, Boll, and Freitas.  Boll went on to defeat Ovtcharov giving Boll his Eighth European Championship Singles Title.  Germany was dominant in both Men’s and Women’s Singles – with Germany peaking at just the right time for their Olympic runs.

TeamUSA Tokyo Recap

July (and August) was all about the Olympics.  For TeamUSA, there was real progress with early waves made by Liu Juan and Nikhil Kumar.  Lily Zhang and Kanak Jha both had mixed results.  Huijing Wang and Zhou Xin each has valuable experience.  Jha may have scored the biggest American story with a win of World No. 9 Mattias Falck in the Teams.

Revisiting Tokyo: By the Numbers

As the Olympics came to a close, China’s results spoke for themselves and was clearly the top storyline of the Olympics.  Of five events, China took Gold in 4 (and Silver in the 5th), and the maximum number of medals China could have won was 7 (yes, they won 7 medals). The other 8 medals were as follows:  Dimitrij Ovtcharov won Bronze in Men’s Singles, Mima Ito won Bronze in Women’s Singles, Mizutani and Ito won Gold in Mixed Doubles and Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching won Bronze in Mixed Doubles, Germany took the Silver and Japan took Bronze in Men’s Teams, and Japan took Silver and Hong Kong took Bronze in Women’s Teams.  By Country, that is Japan with 3 medals (Gold, Silver, Bronze) and Germany with 2 medals (Silver and Bronze), Taipei with one medal (Bronze), and Hong Kong with one medal (Bronze).

TeamUSA Para: Gold for Seidenfeld, Bronze for Van Emburgh

There was some great success for TeamUSA in the Paralympics in August.  Ian Seidenfeld won three tight games in a row to top Denmark’s Peter Rosenmeier 3-0 in the Final of the Paralympic Class 6 Singles.  Seidenfeld’s Gold and Van Emburgh’s Bronze are highlights of TeamUSA’s performance this week.  These accomplishments are also very promising for TeamUSA’s Para Future as Seidenfeld is 20 years old and Van Emburgh is 21.

Youth Pan Am Update: TeamUSA Wins 3 of 4 Team Events

In September, TeamUSA showed off their promising future with strong results at the Youth Pan Am event.  Of the four team events, TeamUSA won Girls U19, Girls U15, and Boys U15.  In the U19 Boys event, the Americans fell to eventual champions Brazil in the Semifinal.

Euro Teams: No Timo, No Dima, No Problem

The European Teams event headlined in October.  Germany entered a team without their top two players – and they won anyway.  Germany over Russia in the Men’s Team Final with Franziska, Duda, and Qiu leading the way.

2021 World Table Tennis Championships: Champions Named in Houston

In November, the US hosted the World Championships for the first time.  Fan Zhendong was dominant, Truls Moregard surprised, China dominated Women’s Singles, Sweden won Men’s Doubles, Lily Zhang medaled in Mixed Doubles with Lin Gaoyuan, and Kanak Jha wowed local fans as he narrowly missed a medal. An amazing event.

When Was the Last Time?: A Few More Notes From Houston

In December, we looked back on the World Championships and asked some fun questions to highlight some of the bigger stories.  When was the last time…?

 

Visit ButterflyOnline.com for the latest table tennis news and results.

 

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