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Jan-Ove Waldner. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
Jan-Ove Waldner. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT Credit: Christine Olsson/TT

Table tennis player J-O Waldner retires

"His variation in table tennis is very unique"
5:25 min

One of Sweden's biggest sporting stars, table tennis player Jan-Ove Waldner, has announced that he will retire later this week, ending a 38-year-long career.

When newspaper Dagens Nyheter a few years ago listed the 150 best sportsmen and women in history, J-O Waldner came in third, after tennis player Björn Borg and football player Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

His long career started when he, as a 12-year-old kid, started playing with the elite in the Spårvägen club in Stockholm. Now, almost four decades later, with one Olympic gold medal and a world champion six times over, he is regarded as one of the world's greatest table tennis players of all time.

Due to his feats in the sport, he has a substantial following of fans in China, where he is known by the Chinese nickname 老瓦 or Lǎo Wā, which means 'Old Wa(ldner)'.

Radio Sweden spoke to Waldner's friend and sparring partner Mikael Appelgren about what he and their generation of table tennis players meant for the sport in Sweden.

"What stands out is that he has a very good and fine playing style, for spectators to watch. Nobody knows exactly what is going to happen, so his variation in table tennis is very unique I think," said Appelgren, who himself won the world champion title several times over.

Appelgren and Waldner have known each other for more than 40 years and have played many matches against each other.

"I think we were sparring each other very well. If I didn't play so much with him, and he didn't play so much with me, I don't think he would have had this good career, because we practiced so much together and we pushed each other up all the time," Appelgren told Radio Sweden.

"We practiced every day, many hours. We both like to win and hate to lose, so we have many, many good games. And maybe that was a little bit of a secret of it also, that we practiced so much together," he said.

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