INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK
Jean-Michel Saive, one of Belgium's top sportsmen for 20 years, has had an illustrious table-tennis career. He was runner-up in the World Championships in men's singles in 1993 losing 21-18 in the fifth and final game to Jean-Philippe Gatien of France. However, one year later, he had a breakthrough victory winning the European Championships in men's singles. He was the world's #1-ranked player going into the 1995 World Championships in Tianjin, China. In 2001, the last year where the World Championships had team and individual events together, he led Belgium to a second place finish in the team event, defeating Sweden in the semifinals. He has also won the European Top 12 tournament in 1994 and the Qatar Open in 2002 which had one of the strongest fields in Pro Tour history. Saive was chosen to be Belgium's flagbearer during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Opening Ceremonies. His club in Belgium, Charleroi, has one of the best spectator turn-outs for league matches out of all clubs in the world.
NorCal Table Tennis: What keeps you going after so many years of play?
Jean-Michel Saive: I am still motivated and have the patience and pleasure to play. I also want to try for the Olympics again and it is still fun for me to play.
NorCal Table Tennis: What result are you most proud of?
Jean-Michel Saive: To be ranked #1 in the world for 15 months in a row.
NorCal Table Tennis: What goals do you have for the Beijing Olympics?
Jean-Michel Saive: First, I want to qualify, and then step by step.
NorCal Table Tennis: Do you have any plans to retire any time soon?
Jean-Michel Saive: I want to play as long as I can. Jorgen Persson is 41 and is a good example to play as long as one can. Jan-Ove Waldner is over 40 and doesn't play for the Swedish Team anymore but still plays in the German Bundesliga. It's still fun playing.
NorCal Table Tennis: Everyone in Belgium knows you but we don't really hear of a lot of good young players in Belgium. Do you think Belgium's table-tennis association did not do more?
Jean-Michel Saive: The association was very passive for 15 years until about 2-4 years ago. Now in cadets, we have some good juniors ranked in Europe. (Note: Saive was European Cadet Boys Champion in 1984)
NorCal Table Tennis: What do you hope for in the Pro Tours?
Jean-Michel Saive: I want to try to win as many matches as I can and try to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
NorCal Table Tennis: How much do you train compared to when you were younger?
Jean-Michel Saive: When I was younger, I could train 4-5 hours/day. Now I play about 2 hours every day. It's important not to stop or your body won't be ready when you start playing again.