It all began…

… when I was 12. In the summer of 1977 my family drove to a tiny village called Tamsweg in Austria. My parents liked to hike, I didn’t. I believe the village was even smaller than my own. They had no playground, no football field, nothing, but here was a table tennis table outdoors that we could play on at any time. My brother and the others in the village liked to play, so I tried it too. I held the paddle in both arms and whacked the ball. It seldom reached the other player and after a few balls I barely had the strength to hold the paddle anymore. My arms were just too short. So I quit playing and helped keep score.

One day, Mr Lutz, a fellow resident in our guesthouse was watching. He asked me: “Don’t you want to join in?” “I’d really like to play too. I’ve tried already but I can’t hold the bat,“ I answered. He scratched his head. „I’ll figure something out,” he promised me. He returned the next day to the table with foam and string in hand. He put a layer of foam around my arm, then came the bat before he wrapped another layer of foam around the bat. He tied the entire construction together with the string, like a parcel. The children let me try. The bat wobbled a bit but I was able to reach the balls much more easily and could really make a match of it. He tinkered a long time until the bat sat snug on my arm, the strings didn’t cut into my flesh anymore and the construction didn’t fall apart every time I put the bat down. That was the beginning of my love for table tennis (despite losing all the time).