Brussels, May 10 : Three years after retiring from international competition, Jean-Michel Saive, the greatest ever Belgian table tennis player, officially put an end to his playing career Thursday night in Brussels, on the occasion of his last championship match for local club Auderghem.
In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Saive thanked his coach Wang Dayong, who was his mentor and a father-like figure throughout his illustrious career, and spoke about his observations about China's impressive economic development.
"I would like to thank Mr. Wang, who was my coach for more than 20 years, a bit like a father to me, and helped me win the 1993 China Open, which is one of my greatest achievements," Saive said.
"I have a really very special relationship with China. I have many memories and have been there at least 40 times in my career. I have seen how much China has changed over the last thirty years."
Despite his decision to end his career as a player, Saive still wants to remain involved in the sport. "I will stay in the table tennis world and sport, and play a role in my federation or with the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF)."
Born in November 17, 1969 in Liege, Belgium in a family of passionate table tennis players, Jean-Michel Saive started playing table tennis at a very young age. In 1994, he became the world number one and had stayed on top of the world rankings for a total of 515 days (from 9 February 1994 to 8 June 1995 and from 26 March 1996 to 24 April 1996).
He won the title of world club champion with the Villette de Charleroi in 2001. On December 3, 2015, he announced his decision to withdraw from international competitions, after his ranking has dropped to the 164th. His career is also marked by his complicated love affair with the Olympic Games. He participated for the first time at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, and in 2012, took part in his seventh and final Olympics in London.
In recent years, Jean-Michel Saive has been involved with leading sporting bodies, notably the Belgian Olympic and Interfederal Committee (BOIC), where he is currently vice-president.