Europe’s highest-ranking table tennis player only turned 20 in February. Things are just going well for Truls Möregårdh right now! The Swede has taken the table tennis world by storm. At the 2021 World Championships, the then teenager made it to the final and won silver there after giving absolutely everything against the Chinese fan Zhendong. In an exclusive interview, we talked to Möregårdh about his idols, his temperament, his goals and why he does everything differently from the rest of the field.
Born in Sweden, he started playing table tennis at the age of six. He used to be trained by his father, today his coach is none other than his older brother Malte, who was also part of the national team. “It’s always a lot of fun. You feel very safe with him [Malte]. I’ve known him all my life.” As siblings, they know each other’s personalities incredibly well. And that worked “very well for a long time.”
EARLY SCHOOL LEAVING FOR TABLE TENNIS
And in fact, this is almost an understatement. Möregårdh was the youngest ever to compete in the Champions League. At the 2019 European Championships, he won bronze, not to mention the list of junior and team titles and achievements. “It’s fun to have had such a great career so far. It was a very successful junior and cadet time for me.”
He grew out of the junior phase faster than his peers and started playing against older athletes early on and got used to it. Today, he no longer minds when he is younger than his opponent. His focus is elsewhere: “I am very satisfied with my career so far, but I still want more.”
For a while, his academic goals collided with his sporting ambitions: “It was a difficult time at school because I was traveling so much. You have to devote a lot of time to table tennis if you really want to be good.” In order to realize his dreams, the athlete dropped out of school after the ninth grade and only completed compulsory schooling in Sweden. It was a daring step, but the support of his parents has never subsided. “I became a professional at a very young age. And I am very happy about this decision today.”
Nevertheless, sport should not take up all your life, says the athlete from Hovmantorp. I think it’s very important to have other things in mind. And to have other things that are important to you, not just table tennis.” Möregårdh prefers to listen to old-school music on his turntable, which he just wrote from his friends for his 20th birthday. got a birthday.
HERCULES: A STAR IS BORN
The young athlete is very close to his family and friends, and this is reflected in everything he does, even in his patented Hercules pose. When he entered the quarterfinals at the 2017 Junior World Championships, his eyes fell on his father and he posted. “It just happened at that moment.” It’s an old insider joke with his brother and father who always teased his sons with this pose when he defeated the two in table tennis. Truls has since maintained the pose and made it his trademark.
Today, the young Swedish demigod found new reasons for the pose. Winning the silver medal at the last World Championships was one such moments: “That was very unexpected for me.” For him, “a dream come true was to win a medal at the World Championships.”
However, this was not his only childhood dream. “Since I was little, I have always said that I want to win a medal at the World Championships and be among the top 10 in the world.” After achieving one of his goals at the end of 2021, he achieved his second goal at the beginning of 2022: He made the leap into the top 5 of the world rankings and to the top of the European ranking.
TRAINING, DEVELOPMENT AND CONCENTRATION
However, success did not come without hardship, patience and the unstoppable will to work hard. “Many players simply come to the training hall and don’t really focus on every point and how to perform it perfectly. That’s why it was very important for me to always be focused.”Möregårdh’s attitude is similar to that of Adam Ondra in sport climbing, because the surprise effects in her sports force her to concentrate most.”There are many things to develop in table tennis, that’s why I like it because it’s so difficult.”
The Swede enjoys the challenge of having to react quickly and make decisions. “You always try to read the game as well as possible,” he explains. His strengths are his forehand, which he tries to use whenever possible, and his creative play. “I have a lot of variation in the first strokes, and can deceive the opponent better than many others.” Nevertheless, he obviously has weaknesses, namely his backhand and the steps to the forehand, because they do not leave a gentle break from an old knee injury on which he was operated on.
SURPASSING HIS ROLE MODELS
Overall, the 20-year-old tries to play a bit like the Swedish two-time world champion and Olympic champion Jan-Ove Waldner. Waldner’s influence is reflected in his game, which the former professional has already confirmed to the young Swede. Above all, the clever and creative way of playing, but also the backhand stroke are tactics that Möregårdh has adopted.
He has been inspired by more than one player over the year. “I had a few role models, and I think this is very important for table tennis players. […] Because you can learn a lot when you watch them.” Above all, there is an active European athlete who influenced him: “I have always admired Timo Boll.” But at the last World Cup, Möregårdh was able to defeat the German star. It’s a “nice feeling” to win against your idol, but “when you play against him, you don’t think that you’ve been watching him for a long time. […] You just want to win the game,” explains Möregårdh. Nevertheless, it is “a bit strange if you have always looked up to a person and always wanted to train with him, and suddenly you play against them in such big games.”
HOME ADVANTAGE FOR GERMAN STARS
At the last European Championship, Möregårdh played only according to feeling and always focused only on the next game. In 2022, the 20-year-old proceeds differently. “I see nothing more than aiming at the medals.”
His idol Boll is only one of the athletes who have the home advantage on their side. The Germans will play even better, it will be very difficult for all European players. And it’s very hard to play against them anyway.” This top-class pool of athletes includes not only Boll, but also the Olympic medalists Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Patrick Franziska, with whom Germany defends four out of five titles in Munich in 2022. Möregårdh is already full of anticipation. “Many people will watch us because they [the German players] are so good at table tennis. So I’m really looking forward to the tournament.”
Table tennis will be just one of nine sports that hold their continental championships in the Bavarian state capital. “I saw the Instagram account and that there will be many sports together in a big event, and I think that sounds like fun. When I saw athletics and other sports, I was very excited.” He will try to pursue a very special sport: “I think gymnastics is so cool. I saw it at the Youth Olympic Games, and wow, these are such crazy athletes. And what they can do is simply incredible for me.” Athletics is also on his notepad. Pole vaulter Armand Duplantis is the personified (Swedish) highlight he does not want to miss.
FULL OF EMOTIONS: OUTBREAKS AND BAT THROWS
Möregårdh will have to concentrate above all on his own tournament, which will be not only a physical but also a mental challenge. “You have to believe in what you can do. And what you train day in, day out.”
On some days, the emotional tribute becomes too great. “I sometimes throw my racket and show a little temperament when I play,” he admits. “When I do these things, I feel like I get the temperament out of my body.” After that, he can concentrate on the game again. Others have already told him to be calmer, but he does not intend to listen to this advice: “That’s how I am, and that’s why I win big games.”
The 20-year-old knows what he wants in life and learned to listen to his heart early on. When his best friend fell ill with cancer, he wanted to help in some way. So he turned to the non-profit organization UNG Cancer, which helps young cancer patients, and became an ambassador.
UNLIKE EVERYONE ELSE
All in all, Möregårdh likes to do things in his own way. “I hold the racket in a strange way when compared to the other players. I keep him very loose.” He remembers that he had a too small racket as a child and suspects that he started holding the racket loose to compensate for it and simply kept the handle when he got a more suitable racket. “Many coaches and players have said that I can’t be one of the best players in the world if I hold the racket like that. Well, I have proven the opposite to them.”Speed climber Alexandra Mirosław had exactly the same experience with her beta. In an exclusive interview, the Polish athlete explained to us why she kept itand how good it was to teach all doubters otherwise with their world record.
Möregårdh even has a completely different racket shape, which is not round, but rather has an octagonal shape. “That certainly makes a difference. It is a bit bigger, so you have a greater chance of hitting the good areas of the racket. And through the edge you can penetrate deeper into the table.”
The young Hercules seems to do everything a little differently. “It’s not my intention, but it just happened,” admits the Swede with a laugh. However, he has so far proven that he is going the right way with the other way.