Seemiller – The American: The 1977 Rise to Division 1
Seemiller: The American
(by Steve Hopkins)
One of the most storied players in American table tennis history, Dan Seemiller. He first qualified for the US Team in 1972, was the top ranked player in the country by 1974, won five US National Championships, and logged an amazing international record that at one point included completing two consecutive World Team Championships without losing a match. Later in his career, he became a highly decorated and successful coach, a tournament promoter and director, an author, and he also served as President of USTTA.
The signature grip and style that bears his name is still referred to by many internationally as “the American grip”. Seemiller is the quintessential “American” player – with emotion and grit and heart.
In February, as Dan was training for the Olympic Trials, he began posting memories to his Facebook page. Over the next few weeks, we are going to share some of those photos and quotes in this series “Seemiller – The American”:
Every team wants to be in the elite division at the world championships.
There are 16 teams in each division. In 1973, USA lost to Romania to advance up from Division 2 to Division 1. In 1975, we lost to Poland 5-4 and we did not advance. Each time it takes 4 years to move up. The world championships were every 2 years back then.
In 1977, we were playing Italy to achieve our dream. It was not going so well. We were down 4-2 and I was down 1-0 and 5-2 to their No.1 Stefano Bosi. I changed my tactics and started to return the serve with an anti roll that worked and I came back 2-1 (still 4-3 Italy). Stefano was my only loss in 1975 and it almost happened again.
Ray Guillen was now up versus their No.3. Ray had not won a match but Houshang Bozorgzadeh, our coach, chose him because Ray liked the pressure.
Ray won the 8th match with masterful play and Rick was then up in the 9th versus Italy’s #2 Massimo Costantini.
Rick played perfect table tennis and using his serve well won easily. A 5-4 win for the USA.
Rick had lost to their No. 3 and Ray had lost to their No. 2 but when it counted they both won.
Sports can be so brutal and the losses are tough to take, but moments like this are what the training was for.
We believed it -we achieved it. There were at least 75 Americans there cheering us on in Birmingham, England and when we won we made a lot of noise.
The next worlds were scheduled for 1979 in Pyongyang, North Korea.
*The winning team against Italy: Rick, Ray, Me and this young up start, Eric Boggan. Notice how he holds the paddle- and coach Houshang.
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