England's Euro Champs hopes ended with Matthew Syed exit
England No.1 and Commonwealth Champion Matthew Syed (Richmond, Syed) has returned to England after going out 18-21, 23-25, 21-13, 16-21 to the Polish No.2 Macim Kusinski, in the second round of the men's singles at the European Championships, Bremen, Germany. Syed, who had easily beaten Swiss champion Thierry Miller 21-15, 21-11, 21-10, in the first round, played magnificently and spectacularly but could not stop the attacking onslaught of a hyped-up opponent in full flight. Although Syed has struggled at the top level since the tools of his defensive trade, long pimples, were reduced in length, he was making no excuses: "I made a good match of it but should have gone at him more. But I am not too downcast. I won 6 consecutive singles in the team matches against Belgium, Holland and Russia, including beating in the latter match Maksim Shmyryev, the man who has knocked out world No.1 Vladimir Samsonov (Belarus) in the men's singles. Now I am going to concentrate of preparing for the Olympics." Syed, with former Chinese Qianhong Gotsch (Germany), had also reached the mixed doubles 3rd round before being vanquished by doubles specialist Ilija (Yugoslavia) and Marie Svensson (Sweden) 14-21, 21-16, 21-9. England's other last singles survivors, Alex Perry (Devon) in the men's, and Helen Lower (Staffs) and Linda Radford (Essex) in the women's, all went out in the second round. A frustrating paradox has been evident at the European Championships: just when the national media is showing greater interest - and there is a stirring of greater grass roots participation - the English players have been relatively unsuccessful! However, the England squad is in a time of transition, with the new generation of senior players not expected to reach peak performance for another 3-4 years. Shock waves went throughout the table tennis world when Professor Jean-Francois Kahn, Chairman of the ITTF's Sports Science Committee revealed at Bremen that reigning Olympic and World Champion, Liu Guoliang (China) had tested positive for higher than allowed levels of epitestosterone immediately after winning the world singles title in Eindhoven last August. However, the IOC's laboratory in Cologne, after carrying out analysis based on Isotopic Ratio Measurements, concluded that these "showed no evidence for an external source of epitestosterone and therefore no proof of doping." There is no history of taking performance enhancing drugs in table tennis. Indeed there are such a wide range of differing skills and qualities required in table tennis - from fine and disguised touches, spins and subtleties requiring flexibility, perception and tactics; to heavy power and great speed requiring reflexes, rapid movement and footwork, strength and stamina - that most experts, including Oxford University educated Matthew Syed, believe that it would be difficult to identify drugs that could enhance performance in one area without damaging performance in another. Syed believes that table tennis will remain a largely drugs free sport. However, table tennis is a huge international (Olympic) sport - there are currently 186 national associations affiliated to the ITTF - and although prize money is nowhere near tennis levels, most international tournaments offer 5 figure (sterling) sums and several countries (notably Germany & France) operate professional leagues. With increasing money coming into the sport there are a growing number of table tennis millionaires. The sport is vigilant of the temptation to use drugs to attempt to achieve success, money and status. The two top clubs in the British League Premior Division, London Progress (the holders) and Darlington, meet tomorrow at the Dolphin Centre, Darlington, start 2pm, in a top of the table clash that will decide this seasons champions. For further information contact Ken Muhr, ETTA Information Officer, Tel. 01424 722525 Fax. 01424 422103.