Deep Inside Assar’s Universe
What makes the ball a ball? Is it the shape of its figure? Is it the way it moves with gravity? Or is it the reflection of its physical nature? Humans were fascinated by the sphere since the beginning of time, and almost all known civilizations had left something round behind them.
Many of today’s sports were invented and practiced by the Ancient Egyptians, who set the rules and regulations for them. Inscriptions on monuments indicate that they practiced wrestling, weightlifting, long jump, swimming, rowing, shooting, fishing and athletics, as well as various kinds of ball games.
Ancient Egyptian kings, princes, and statesmen were keen on attending sports competitions, which they encouraged and provided with the necessary equipment.
Table tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world. According to a report by the International Sports Federation, the population of table tennis participants has reached over 300 million worldwide (Zhang, 2017).
Playing table tennis is regarded as a pro-health sporting pastime, which is generally accepted by more and more people who engage in physical activity (Biernat, Buchholtz & Krzepota, 2018).
As a rational movement, the characteristics of table tennis play, which involve complex spatial movements of the body that include, acceleration, deceleration, direction change, moving quickly and balance all help players generate optimum stroke production (Girard & Millet, 2009).
According to Google, a ping-pong ball weighs 2.7 grams (0.00595248 pounds) and is 1.57 inches in diameter. Therefore, 1,000 pounds of ping-pong balls is equivalent to 167,997 total ping-pong balls. That’s why playing a ping pong game needs the most intense power of the mind and the most of your sharp senses. Also, the timing between the reaction to reflect the ball is almost momental which requires a great deal of accuracy in calculating the exact location where the ball would land. So maximum physical and mental justification must be attended at all times during a match.
Omar Assar is considered one of the most known Tennis celebrities in Egypt and worldwide. Omar is known for his unique style and skill. He formerly played for Al-Ahly Club, and is a third time participant in the Olympics, where he first participated in London’s qualifying tournament for the Olympics in 2012. Born on 22 July 1991, Omar started to practice table tennis at the age of 4 and ranked no.1 in the Swedish league when he was 16. He is ranked no. 21 worldwide. He is the first Arab and African athlete to win Dusseldorf Masters Tournament. His last significant achievement was to reach the quarter-final in Tokyo 2020 when he lost in favor of world no.1 Chinese champion, Ma Long, the winner of the 2016 Olympics gold medal and three-times world champion. Omar left the Olympics ranking fifth. Omar Assar is the first Egyptian in the history of the Olympics to reach the quarter-finals in table tennis.
We asked the champion several questions to get closer to his lifestyle and his philosophy in training for the sport.
Did you encounter any difficulties in training for the Olympics while the world is suffering from the pandemic?
“I didn’t face any difficulties during the training for the Olympics, despite the alerting situation in Europe after the pandemic. We were forced to take precautions while training like keeping a social distance and trying to make less contact with each other. Generally, I developed more dependence on self-training at home as it was the available option, and ended up practicing for more hours than the usual.”
How much time a player would take to master table tennis and to achieve the Olympic level?
“I can’t tell exactly how much time it takes for a table tennis athlete to approach the Olympic level of skillfulness; it differs depending on the talent and practice. Table tennis is one of the easiest sports to practice and a player will have to gradually improve his skill by participating first in local championships, then moving towards the world-level competition. I can say that within 3 or 4 years a ping pong player can achieve a professional level.”
Does being taller or heavier has anything to do with mastering table tennis?
“Being taller makes an athlete more fit for the game, but on the other hand, a taller player will need more effort in training and more physical treatment during sessions.”
What is the difference between playing a single or a double match?
“Single matches are definitely harder in all aspects than a double-teamed match, because the whole responsibility is on one player, and usually it is faster and needs more attention, while in a double match, you need to pay more attention to your mate’s movement and reactions.”
What is the most important characteristic that a table tennis athlete should possess?
“In fact, the ability to evolve and develop in the path they draw for themselves and see as the most likable. An athlete must discover his own style and charisma in order to become an exceptional professional.”
Do you follow a certain diet or a nutrition plan?
“Yes, I already have a German nutrition expert who organizes my meal program and diet. One habit I always do is to eat an apple before the match, as apples are a great source of energy before the competition.”
What was your hardest game so far?
“It was in 2009 in China. The World Junior Table Tennis Championship in China. There was not a single person to support us, despite succeeding in winning a gold medal and becoming the first Arab to win a gold in the heart of the Chinese ping pong school.”
Do you practice any other sports besides ping pong?
“I like to play squash from time to time to boost my physical performance, also, swimming outdoor— in lakes— is a very relaxing activity for me.”
Do you have any hobbies?
“Recently, I’ve been involving myself in mastering the making of the perfect cup of coffee. I already have a coffee-making machine which you can only find at famous coffee shops like Starbucks and so. So, coffee making has become a new hobby lately and I enjoy it.”
The infamous champion, Omar Assar, wishes that the sport becomes more popular in every area in Egypt, and he believes that table tennis could be a sport that develops our youth, and leads the new generations of athletes towards perfection.