Turning the clock back 60 years, it was a time to reflect on the 26th World Championships that had taken place in Beijing from Wednesday 5th to Friday 14th April 1961.
The general view was that table tennis was most certainly entering a new era with the Asian penhold grip players reigning supreme. The “loop drive” had become a feature of the game and its use was increasing worldwide.
The player reckoned to have the best “loop drive” of all was Japan’s Koji Kimura.
Koji Kimura, in 1961 the best forehand top spin in the world
It was a fact endorsed in the men’s team event. Three teams, an all-play-all contest decided the podium places.
China with Zhuang Zedong, Rong Guotan and Xu Yinsheng on duty, posted a 7-2 win against the Hungarian trio comprising Miklos Peterfy, Zoltan Berczik and Ference Sido.
One fixture later Japan represented by Teruo Murakami, Nobuya Hoshino and Ichiro Ogumira, secured a 5-2 success in opposition to Hungary, who replaced Zoltan Berczik with Peter Rozsas.
Thus, in effect, the contest between China and Japan was the final.
There was no change to the Chinese line up but Japan preferred Koji Kimura to Teruo Murakami.
China posted a 5-3 win; most significantly two of the three wins for the Land of the Rising Sun were secured by Koji Kimura. He beat Xu Yinsheng (21-14, 24-22) and Rong Guotan (21-11, 15-21, 21-17). In fact, he remained unbeaten, had the overall score in the fixture been level at four-all he would have faced Zhuang Zedong in the final match, a mouth-watering concept.
Success for a stroke now executed in various forms by all the world’s leading players, attackers and defenders alike, it was noticeable that the Chinese, who dominated the men’s singles event in Beijing did not make great use of the stroke.
Likewise pen-holders, they stood much more to the centre of the table and displayed outstanding blocking and fast attacking skills; the Japanese stood very much to the backhand, the forehand executed whenever possible. The Chinese technique prevailed; their performance impressed one very notable name.
We must remember the era, before 1961 China had won only one gold at a World Championships, that being the men’s singles secured two years earlier in Dortmund by Rong Guotan.
Far seeing Victor Barna made the prophetic statement in the May 1961 issue of “Table Tennis”.
He wrote. “What of the future ? I reckon China will l keep their supremacy for quite a while.”
Editor: Ian Marshall