THOMAS Weikert, a lawyer by profession, hopes to retain his post as the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) president in Wednesday’s election, to be held at its Annual General Meeting in Dusseldorf, Germany, on the sidelines of World Championships.
The 46-year-old German, who is well-versed in sports law, has received majority of support from five continental federations — Africa, Asia, Europe, Americas and Oceania.
Weikert, who also got a strong backing from the Qatar Table Tennis Association (QTTA), told Doha Stadium Plus in a recent interview that he would work tirelessly to ensure the game continues to grow and prosper across the globe.
You’ve the support of majority of national federations, including the QTTA. How do you feel?
I’m happy to receive the backing of QTTA President Khalil Ahmed Al Mohannadi. It’s great to have his direct support. I’m honoured that he has chosen to endorse me in the election. Khalil and I are good friends. We’ve worked closely and have developed a good relationship to further strengthen the sport.
If re-elected, what’ll be your immediate goals?
I’ve different sets of plans to develop the sport in all countries. China, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea are strong teams in Asia while France, Germany and Sweden are also formidable sides in Europe. Firstly, I want other countries also to become stronger.
Right now, China dominate the sport. There’s a lot we can do in other countries where it isn’t developed. I want weaker nations from Africa to play more games with China and thus develop themselves. Of course, money is important, but we also need training courses, coaches, matches and equipment.
My second goal will be to focus on advertising and target audience. I want to show that the sport has a wider presence in other parts of the world.
The ITTF has divided the World Tour into two tiers. Do you think it has really helped the sport?
We’ve divided the World Tour into six Platinum and as many Super Series events. I think it was a positive move as we can highlight them in different categories. We’ve also engaged more continents, but we need more places to develop Platinum tournaments. Australia is new on our calendar and will host the event in July. They’ve to make efforts to develop the sport and make it strong. If re-elected, I’ll continue to work in partnership with all leaders and ensure the sport grows and thrives.
What’s your opinion on Doha as the region’s table tennis hub?
Doha is a modern city with good infrastructure. It hosted the first of six Platinum events (World Tour Qatar Open) this February. It was a successful one as Qatar always excels on the organisational front. The venue, Ali bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena, was fantastic. DSP