Talented ‘Team Thomas’ take on table tennis

Germans in pole position for World Championship medals 15 Aug 2018
male Para table tennis players Thomas Bruechle and Thomas Schmidberger in action

Thomas Bruechle (L) and Thomas Schmidberger will be going for team and individual gold at the 2018 Worlds

ⒸMorten Olsen
By Connor Craig-Jackson and IPC

“You always get better when competing with the best players and you always need a goal. My goal is to beat the best - or annoy them at least!”

They share the same name, were born in the same German state and have conquered the Para table tennis world as a team for the past seven years. But Thomas Bruechle and Thomas Schmidberger will have to put their friendship aside if they are to claim individual success at this year’s World Championships.

Both are ranked in the world’s top three in the men’s class 3, and exactly three months from now, they could meet face-to-face at the Worlds, which run from 15-21 October in Lasko-Celje, Slovenia.

“I have learnt a lot from Tom (Schmidberger),” said Bruechle, who is world No. 3. “You try to compete with such a good player and thus improve yourself significantly, so training with such excellent players is very very important.”

“You always get better when competing with the best players and you always need a goal. My goal is to beat the best - or annoy them at least!”

Team Thomas

The two Germans formed a lethal partnership in 2010, defeating China at home to win the team world title in 2014 before following it up with European gold in 2017.

While they have high hopes of defending their team title, it is the individual gold which may prove their toughest ambition.

Schmidberger has reached more singles finals than Bruechle, capturing the European title last year. Bruechle had to settle for bronze. But for both men, there is one athlete standing in the way of their quest for gold.

Favourite Feng

China’s two-time singles world champion Feng Pangfeng has been unstoppable for over two years, and both Germans have suffered painful losses to the world No. 1.

“(Pangfeng) is the best wheelchair table tennis player in the world,” Schmidberger admitted. “So it is not easy (to compete with him). But we work hard every day to beat him in a big final and I am sure one day we will get him.”

At the Rio 2016 Paralympics, Bruechle lost to Feng in the semi-finals but found solace with the bronze medal.

Schmidberger went one better, but had to settle for silver as Feng proved too good in the final. While the 26-year-old would like redemption at the 2020 Games, his focus is on October’s competition.

“Tokyo is far away,” said Schmidberger. “But (the World Championships) is a first big step on our way to Tokyo, so we will see how close we are away from the Chinese players.”