After seven Olympic Games, and an international career that started back in 1983 as a 13 year old, former world number one Jean-Michel SAIVE has retired from international table tennis.
The 46-year-old table tennis legend made the announcement at a specially organised press conference held at the National Olympic Committee Headquarters in Brussels on Thursday 3rd December.
"Before the European Games in June in Baku I thought that I could combine the committee work that I've been doing with playing", said the Belgium hero, who amongst several such roles is the President of the Athletes Commission for European National Olympic Committees.
"Trying to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games was very much in my mind, but after Baku and then following my performances on the ITTF World Tour, I started to think again", added SAIVE. "If you are going to play in events like the Olympic Games you must be 200 per cent committed, it can't be part time."
It was a dilemma for Jean-Michel SAIVE; playing in an eighth consecutive Olympic Games would have put him in a category that would have been special in the whole Olympic movement not just the table tennis events.
"What if I played well and qualified, I could well be taking the place of a younger player. During the summer I kept thinking about retirement from international play, it kept tossing and turning in my mind. Now after several months of thought, I'm sure, really I have peace of mind with the decision."
An international career closes, it is a career that is not just one of a plethora of titles, it is much more.
In 1983, only 13 years old at the time, he was very much the fourth player in a Belgian team at the World Championships in Tokyo. Just under two decades later at the World Championships in Osaka in 2001, led by SAIVE, Belgium finished in second place behind the mighty China.
In the intervening years, Jean-Michel SAIVE enjoyed a host of successes, notably being the Men's Singles runner up at the World Championships in Gothenburg in 1993, and then the following year winning the Europe Top 12 in Arezzo and in Birmingham crowned European champion.
During this golden period for SAIVE, in 1994 and 1995 he spent 515 days in the no.1 spot on the World Rankings and regained the position in 1996 after winning his first Men's Singles Qatar Open title.
"The announcement that Jean-Michel Saive will retire from active competition in table tennis did surprise me a bit but I was not shocked. I thought that Jean-Michel would compete until his last day in this world", was the reaction of Adham SHARARA, Chair and Honorary President of the International Table Tennis Federation who is one of many who holds Jean-Michel SAIVE in high esteem.
"I believe that Jean-Michel has a great opportunity for a career in sports management and, as he has successfully started, in sports leadership", added Adham SHARARA. "The world table tennis community is very proud of 'our' Jean-Michel SAIVE and we will support him in all his endeavours."
One record that SAIVE holds that will not be broken anytime soon is his remarkable 24 World Championships appearances. Also the fact that he has played in every Olympic Games since table tennis was included in Seoul in 1988.
There are few players who in the past 30 years have entertained the crowds more than Jean-Michel SAIVE! He is highly respected not only for his achievements but for his dedication to sport, always he has upheld the highest values, play hard, play fairly, be gracious whether in victory or defeat.
THANK YOU FOR THE MEMORIES JEAN-MI!
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