Interview with Annett Kaufmann: “I play for pleasure, not for success”

Jens FellkeNews, PortraitLeave a Comment

— For German version – click here —

“I don’t play table tennis for success. I play because I enjoy it. Success comes and goes, but the joy is always there.”

Annett Kaufmann is only 15 years old, but expresses herself very maturely. She has already thought things through. Annett had an amazing 2021 with three gold medals and a bronze medal at the European Youth Championships, a gold medal in the singles at the European Under-21 Championships (the youngest ever winner of the tournament) and as a member of the national team that won gold at the European Team Championships.

“Good people around me,” she answers immediately when I ask what made it possible. “It’s family, friends, my personal coach Evelyn Simon: it’s Melanie (Heilemann, personal trainer), Sönke (Geil, sports director of the TTBW) and Lara (Broich) and Tamara (Boros) at the DTTB. They help me not only at the table, but also in other ways. When I don’t play well, they are there and support me. If something doesn’t work right away, they are there to make me understand that I’m not patient enough.”

It sounds like an extended family, an association with a mixture of skills, experiences and humanity, in which Annett develops and unfolds as a person and as a table tennis player. And somehow it is also an extended family that usually meets in Böblingen just outside Stuttgart, the place where the table tennis action takes place. Annett is also part of the Bundesliga team of SV Böblingen, which finished fifth this season.

“I feel comfortable in this group. They are open and I can be honest. I don’t have to change my personality. Confidence like that is important to improve.”

Was there anything in particular you coached last season that led to the exceptional performances you achieved?

“No, not really. It was a combination of a lot of little things. I felt confident when I did the counter runner serve like Timo Boll; also the tomahawk of Ding Ning, which a lot of my opponents had big problems with when they hit back. I practised a lot on the small footwork in different combinations, e.g. on a short ball at the net and the next one quickly on the elbow – and then far out to the forehand. Switching from forehand to backhand, standing lower with the knees, working more with the wrist, bringing more power of the body into the ball. Things like that.”

Annett in Action at a training camp in Böblingen. Foto: compass

And your expectations for 2022?

“I had no expectations for 2021 and I don’t have any for 2022. I don’t like expectations. I don’t want to be disappointed if I don’t meet them. Expectations mean that I want to achieve this or that. And that creates pressure. That’s why I prefer to look at the victories as a bonus. I focus on myself and on improving my game. I don’t compare myself.”

You were in Japan in autumn 2019 and trained there. What was your experience there?

“That they have a lot of very good players. They train a lot, some days eight hours, while I usually train two to three hours. They are extremely structured and systematised – I do more of what I think is best. In general, the Japanese don’t make many mistakes at the table. But they are also kind of predictable. So my feeling was that anything is possible. I have my game and try to impose it and dominate the rallies. If that doesn’t work, I try to break their game, to destroy it. Like Truls Moregardh. He doesn’t play like most players. He thinks creatively in the game to win the points.”

A passionate role model. Ding Ning after winning the gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games. Photo: WTT

Do you have a role model?

Yes, Ding Ning. Normally I don’t know many Chinese players who show emotions, especially negative ones. You can’t always outwardly understand what they feel. But Ding Ning did. She showed her joy, she showed her fighting spirit, her passion for the game. How much she wanted to win. And besides, she’s a left-hander like me. And quite tall.

More information about Annett on her Instagram channel

— 2nd part of the interview to be found here —

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