World table tennis player of the year, ranked No. 1 in the world: KUKA brand ambassador Timo Boll is the most successful German table tennis player. For exactly 15 years now, the 37-year-old has been competing for major titles at top tournaments. We spoke to him about the most memorable moments of his career – and about his next aim in sport.
At the end of 2017, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) voted you World Table Tennis Player of the Year. Were you expecting this award?
2017 was of course a fantastic year for me. But others would have deserved the award just as much as I did. I was of course very pleased and regard it as a reward for my hard work.
In March, you’ve held the top spot in the world rankings for the fourth time in your career. How did you find out that you’d regained the No. 1 spot, and what was your first thought?
The main reason was a change in the ranking system, which now calculates exactly the results of the past 365 days. Many colleagues dropped points during February 2017, when I didn’t get any points at all. But, basically – and referring back to my response to the previous question – it’s also proof of the really good results I’ve been achieving quite recently.
This year, you’re celebrating an anniversary: 15 years ago, in 2003, you clinched the No. 1 spot in the world rankings for the first time, the first German to do so. In China, a country that has produced many world champion table tennis players, you’re one of the most popular Germans, even outside of sports. How does that manifest itself when you’re in China?
In China I experience what representatives of leading German sports, for instance soccer, encounter here in Germany: a high level of recognition, hordes of fans, and constant attention. I enjoy all that whenever I visit China, but I’m always happy about leading a quiet life in Germany.
There have been many great moments during your career, like, for example, when you were the flag bearer leading the German athletes into the stadium at the 2016 Olympic Games. What do you regard as the greatest moment of your career and why?
There are indeed many. The moment you’ve just mentioned was certainly one of them. But, in sporting terms, most certainly my first victory at the 2002 Men’s World Cup in Jinan, when I beat two top Chinamen, and then repeating that feat in Lüttich in 2005, when I defeated no fewer than three world-class Chinese players in succession.
What are your aims and hopes for the future?
First and foremost, I sincerely hope that my family, my friends and I remain in the best of health. I would really like to appear in good shape at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. I’ll be doing my utmost. But it’s only possible with the support of my partners, such as KUKA, for which I’m very grateful.