(By Ayan Bagchi)
Interview with Iva Laginja, 2018 Maryland State Women’s Singles Champion
Ms. Iva Laginja is a 25-year-old Croatian born Austrian who moved to Baltimore, MD eight months ago to work at the Space Telescope Science Institute. She has recently completed her Master’s degree in Astronomy and Instrumentation from Leiden University (Netherlands) and two undergraduate degrees in Astronomy and Physics from the University of Vienna (Austria).
She is a former Austrian player that played in the highest intra-country semi-professional league in Austria and played her first tournament in the United States at the Butterfly sponsored Maryland Table Tennis Center in Gaithersburg, MD. She had not picked up a paddle in almost ten months.
How and when did you get interested in table tennis?
When I was in middle school (age 13), a friend of mine would often play in the recreational area and I would play with him. After a while, one of our athletic coaches noticed us playing and asked us to join a more competitive team.
What equipment do you use and why?
Butterfly Zhang Jike blade with Tenergy 05-FX on both sides. I use it because it’s not too fast and gives good control for an intermediate player like myself.
Who are some of your favorite professional players and why?
On the Men’s side, I grew up a fan of Zoran Primorac. I’m of Croatian background and was a fan of him. I love watching Michael Maze. He is such a unique player and plays with lots of emotion. I was really sad when he left the game but I am glad he’s returned to the international circuit. On the Women’s Side, I like Sabine Winter of Germany. I like how much she shares about herself on social media and find that interesting.
What did you notice about the American playing style at the tournament you just played in?
With the caveat of only playing four lower rated events, U1000, U1200, U1800, and the women’s event, I noticed very ‘clean’ players. Not a lot of pips, either long or short, or odd and eccentric games. In Austria, I played against a lot of pips, anti, or different playing styles.
Do you plan on playing more in the United States and more tournaments?
I’m quite busy with work, but I plan on playing socially in nearby clubs in Baltimore or Washington, D.C. It’s a great way to meet people and play a sport that I grew up playing. I used to play at a professional level which required a lot physically and emotionally, so playing now brings back some good and bad memories. For me, playing at a social level is where I am at. Recently, I have picked up playing Ice Hockey due to a friend in Chicago and I love it. It’s a new physical challenge and am getting better each day with hockey and skating. It helps that the Washington Capitals have done so well in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
How did you find Maryland Table Tennis Center?
Even when I lived in Austria and the Netherlands, I followed a few table tennis clubs in the United States. One of them was Maryland Table Tennis Center, and when I saw they were having a tournament in June, I thought “Why not?”
What have you noticed about America vs. Europe? Anything in particular?
The friendliness between total strangers is different. People have more casual conversations with total strangers at the grocery store or in general situations than I’m used to in Europe. It is quite friendly over here.
Thank you for your time Iva, glad you joined playing at MDTTC and doing this interview for Butterfly Online!
My pleasure and look forward to playing again!