Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Deng Yaping

I am to sport what Amy Winehouse is to post-structuralism, but I did make a living from it for some years (sport, not the other thing) and in the course of my work had the opportunity of meeting a number of top sportsmen and sportswomen. I got the impression that some of them had difficulty with joined-up writing, leading me to the conclusion that academic and sporting prowess do not always go together. When they do, in spades, it is worth saluting.

I never actually spoke to Deng Yaping but I watched her win two of her four Olympic gold medals and several of her other gold or silver medals at World Championships and World Cups. When she retired at the age of 24, she had won more titles than any other player in the sport and was voted Chinese female athlete of the century.

After her retirement Deng gained a bachelor's degree from Tsinghua University, a master's degree from the University of Nottingham, and in 2006 studied for a PhD. in Land Economy at Jesus College Cambridge. She was professionally involved in marketing, management and development of the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a member of the Beijing Organizing Committee.

It is pleasant to reflect that Ivor Montagu, the Communist youngest son of a Jewish peer, was also at Cambridge (though not at Jesus) when he first played pingpong. It was he who made Deng's sporting career possible, for he had a leading role in popularizing the sport by establishing and financing the first world championships in London in 1926 and initiating the creation of the International Table Tennis Federation, serving as its first president for 41 years until 1967.


ruth said...

Tony, can you tell me if Ivor Montagu (an actor representing him, that is), made a brief appearance in the film "Chariots of Fire", giving his name to a porter, at the end of a scene where Harold Abrahamson had been at the receiving end of a bit of antisemitic chat (as I dimly recall it).
I have been meaning to check this bit of trivia for years.

Froog said...

My best friend here in Beijing, a rather sporty and roguishly charming young Irishman, managed to break both his wrists on the eve of his birthday this year. Don't practise capoeira when drunk is the lesson we learn from this. Although this was a moderately amusing story, he was naturally rather shamefaced about telling it, and his friends all soon grew bored of hearing it. So, for a while, we developed a little competition of suggesting more exotic explanations for his incapacity. Our favourite (since this was just after the Olympics) was that he had been Ireland's surprise hope of a gold medal in the men's table tennis, but that the Chinese team - desperate to protect its domination of the competition - had sent the heavies round to sort him out. "Ma Lin says hello."

I know this is scarcely on topic, but this blog seems to have a refreshingly relaxed attitude to relevance.

Tony said...

Ruth: Could be, the period was about right. Please buy the video and let me know.

Froog: Perfectly relevant. and a nice story. Thank you! Also, you've taught me a new word; I shan't take it up.

Froog said...

I haven't seen Chariots in over 25 years, so my memory of it is very rusty.

IMDB - usually pretty reliable and exhaustive in these matters - doesn't mention Ivor in its extended cast list, although there are a lot of unspecified extras.

There is, however, a character called Aubrey Montague, so that may be who Ruth is thinking of. Ivor would have been still an undergraduate and barely out of his teens at the time (although it was only a couple of years later that he organised the first Table Tennis World Championships).

Tony said...

That sounds very likely. Although the old boy had been making films all his life there wouldn't have been any reason to use his name for this bit part unless he had been involved in some way with Liddell and Abrahams, and there is nothing about this in his writing or his biography.
I knew him at the time the film was made; although he was 77 he was still very lively and I guess he would a have kicked up a fuss if they had used his name but not put it in the credits:
holders of the Order of Lenin are not to be lightly made use of.
When he came on the telephone, before announcing himself he would always open the conversation with, "If you please...", which struck me as an charming conceit.