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  1. Thomas Jeffcott is offline
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    #1

    What is the peak age for table tennis players?

    With 36 year old Timo Boll moving back up into the world top 5 in the latest ranking list and Samsonov at 41 still hovering around top ten, I was wondering what age table tennis players reach their peak and how long they can maintain it? It seems like non-Chinese players normally play at a very good level way into their 40's. Obviously Chinese players tend to retire early.

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    #2
    If memory serves (it often misleads) I was a pretty decent player at 16. On super days I'm half decent at 50. Not having played much inbetween, I have little experiences and insights to share about the degradation curve.

    Watched Kreanga's yesterday game. At 45, he has retained quite a bit of his quality. So does Jean-Mi, at 47. I don't think I could cause much trouble for Jörgen Persson (who is about my age) though he did decline eventually. As did JO (slightly older). Still, I think these are exceptional players, all of them. Countless masses burn brightly for a little while, and then fade away.

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    #3
    The physical peak is usually around 25 and most top players hit theirs at around 23-27, depending on how mentally strong they are. At around 30 the physical decline starts to show, their experience still allows for world class but usually not for #1.

    I think Waldner could still play Bundesliga if he would put the practise and diet into it.

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    #4
    It is not going to be the same for everyone. Some of it is genetics. Some of it is how well people took care of themselves while they were in their prime. Some of it is accumulation of injuries (which of course is related to the previous two, also related to style of play and simply being lucky or not). Some of it is style of play which has a big effect independent of injuries. For example, the way, say, Hezhi Wen plays is not going to require the same athleticism as, say, JSH or Ma Long or FZD. Some of it is simply motivation. Some people at a point just want to do something else and don't train as hard or as well and may not even be aware of it. Think Zhang Yining for example. She quit while ranked #1 in the world and could have played longer. (Deng Yaping also if I recall correctly).

    But you can kind of see that really good European players, who usually don't have to worry about losing their place on the national team, can be good into their 30s. But they can't play exactly the same was as they did at 22. Even some Chinese players could play pretty long, like WLQ and Ma Lin. I don't think they ever got hurt. But we see what is happening with ZJK.

    I don't think there is just one year where there is a physical peak, rather a period of around 5-7 years of plateaued prime athleticism. Then things change, wherein some people may be a little slower on their feet and less elastic but may actually get stronger in other areas.

    Think about this then. Harimoto is still just a kid. His "man strength" has not even kicked in very far yet. How good is he going to get when he is 25?

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    #5
    The average age of singles world champion is around 23~24 and the most common age is 21. There are hardly any champions over 30.

    As everyone have pointed out, it's largely affected by the fact Chinese players retiring early but it's still interesting to note that by 21 years old, you are ready to take over the world.

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    #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Baal
    It is not going to be the same for everyone. Some of it is genetics. Some of it is how well people took care of themselves while they were in their prime. Some of it is accumulation of injuries (which of course is related to the previous two, also related to style of play and simply being lucky or not). Some of it is style of play which has a big effect independent of injuries. For example, the way, say, Hezhi Wen plays is not going to require the same athleticism as, say, JSH or Ma Long or FZD. Some of it is simply motivation. Some people at a point just want to do something else and don't train as hard or as well and may not even be aware of it. Think Zhang Yining for example. She quit while ranked #1 in the world and could have played longer. (Deng Yaping also if I recall correctly).

    But you can kind of see that really good European players, who usually don't have to worry about losing their place on the national team, can be good into their 30s. But they can't play exactly the same was as they did at 22. Even some Chinese players could play pretty long, like WLQ and Ma Lin. I don't think they ever got hurt. But we see what is happening with ZJK.

    I don't think there is just one year where there is a physical peak, rather a period of around 5-7 years of plateaued prime athleticism. Then things change, wherein some people may be a little slower on their feet and less elastic but may actually get stronger in other areas.

    Think about this then. Harimoto is still just a kid. His "man strength" has not even kicked in very far yet. How good is he going to get when he is 25?
    I wonder if its actually possible for Harimoto to be near his peak soon? Bit like a gymnast as they start so early? Or will Harimoto keep improving?

    It seems like European players peak are different to Asian players.

    Another note, maybe Asian players wouldn't retire as early if they didn't have millions of teenagers trying to take their position

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    #7
    That's it of course. Who in Belarus is going to yake Vladi's place? Sadly there were no really good young Swedish players who could replace Waldner or Persson.
    China and Japan are a different situation. Always good young players coming up. Not quite as much in Korea. You will notice JSH is still playing. Oh Sang Eun played a long time too. You could put WLQ on any number of European national teams right now and he could be the best player.

    Harimoto is not a gymnast. He is a TT player. He will continue to improve as he gets stronger and more experienced.

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    Last edited by Baal; 10-10-2017 at 10:27 AM.

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    #8
    Quote Originally Posted by ttpshot
    The average age of singles world champion is around 23~24 and the most common age is 21. There are hardly any champions over 30.

    As everyone have pointed out, it's largely affected by the fact Chinese players retiring early but it's still interesting to note that by 21 years old, you are ready to take over the world.
    21? I don"t think many recent male WTTC champions have been that young.

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    #9
    I think that there is something wrong with the Chinese TT training policy.
    China has 5 players in top 10 and only six others to top 100. Korea has more from top 10 to top 100.
    Europe has almost 50% in top 100.
    If you get ML, ZD and XX out of the equation China would look very poor.

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    #10
    I checked a few recent champions (after 1970) on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...hips_medalists and from that, I get the succinct impression that the average age of world champions is about 25. Some players won more than once, typically 21-23 when winning first. Stellan Bengtsson and Kong Linghui were exceptionally young when winning (19 and 20), but then there's also Werner Schlager (winning when 31) and JO Waldner retaking the title at 32. Gatien, 25; Wang Hao 24; ZJK's first win happened at 23; Ma Long 26; Wang Liqin at 23. And all these were winners again when 25, 28, 27/29 years old.

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    Last edited by yoass; 10-10-2017 at 10:15 PM.

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    #11
    Quote Originally Posted by langel
    I think that there is something wrong with the Chinese TT training policy.
    China has 5 players in top 10 and only six others to top 100. Korea has more from top 10 to top 100.
    Europe has almost 50% in top 100.
    If you get ML, ZD and XX out of the equation China would look very poor.
    Thats because the others from China dont get the chance to compete that often.

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    #12
    pros , based on my observation should be around 25-28 and some of them can carry it forward and add more experience to the arsenal and keep sharpening their tools if they don't get injured or can manage their injuries .. unless you got your ass handed to you when you were young , as in the chinese system ... for amateurs its definitely "next year"
    Lets go Spinny Looping !

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    #13
    Larry Hodges gave a comprehensive answer on his blog. Pros or people who start young and play actively with intense training tend to peak in the 20s-early 30s. People who pick up the game later can peak whenever they decide to invest the resources and train intensively and some improve continuously into their 60s as they gain experience with the game.
    Cobra Kai TT Exponent - No mercy in this dojo, no matter your rating or the score. All spin, no power or footwork.

    "We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training" - Archilochus

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    #14
    Pros: 20-25. Can still be really great all the way to 30.

    Amateurs: That's the beauty of this game being skill based. Sure athleticism helps but it's a skill based game. You can be really good into your 70s. SO really not much of an age range.

    There's a top player in the KC area (in his 70s I believe) who travels to tournaments here and locally and largely cleans up every time.

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    #15
    WLQ and M Lin of course had numerous injuries. M Lin even had stress fracture on the back. No pro player is injury free. But they chose to retire not because they were too injured or old to play. Motivation, career path, severity of the injuries are major factors for CNT players to consider whether to retire. Many former male CNT players (like Hao Shuai, Zhang Chao, Li Ping) continue to play in super league or go abroad and the best ones (like WLQ, M Lin, WH, Chen Qi) switch to coach or administration career path as early as they can. However, as LGL and KLH's coach career came to a sudden stop, things will change.

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