At the European Championships 2015, Romanian Player and Butterfly Star Eliza Samara finally crowned herself with her first title in Women’s Singles division, fulfilling a life-long dream and rewarding her hard work. We took the chance to ask Eliza about her recent success, her work in table tennis and her love for the sport.
An interview by Alex Lomaev
Elizabeta, first of all, ButterflyMag congratulates you on your marvellous show on the past European Table Tennis Championships-2015 and on winning 3 medals, including gold in singles!
Thank you so much for congratulating me. It’s so nice to see everybody is appreciating my accomplishment, and especially my sponsor Tamasu Butterfly.
You are a very experienced player, and lately you’ve been concidered as one of the main contenders to win the main title..
I worked very hard to be able to aspire to this title, I used all of my resources, both physical and mental ones to achieve a goal which seemed realistic and possible with every game I won.
At what moment did you first realize you could be the strongest in Europe?
Well, I waited so much for this moment. I think I began thinking seriously about winning my first medal in EC, after Qatar Pro Tour. There I overcame many good players and this made me more confident in myself and my game. A EC medal seemed to be a reasonable and achievable goal to me, at that point of my sport career.
To whom did you dedicate your victory in Ekaterinburg?
Of course I dedicated all three EC medals to my family, my coach, my team, my friends, to everybody who believes in me. A medal is never obtained by a single individual, every player at this level has a technical team around him or her, family, friends and fans providing emotional support.
Today you are the undisputed Romanian national team’s leader and the team captain. How does it influence you?
To be a national team’s leader is making me more responsible, my mates and myself have the same goal and we work together to achieve it. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I have a great team, I believe together we can accomplish everything.
The final’s match against Germany was close, despite the score being 0:3. What can You say about line-ups? Did you have a chance to win?
We lost 3-0, but I can say it was not so simple. I had my chance against Shan leading first 2sets, Daniela Dodean was down 0-2, yet she almost win. So we had a chance.
Which match in singles was the most difficult for you?
I took all of the matches seriously. I learned not to underestimate any of my opponents.
After the golden point in final you cried on the shoulder of your coach Viorel Filimon, who cried as well. What did he say to you after the final? How would you estimate his contribution to your victory?
Both of us were so happy. Few days later, we made an analysis of the match and we saw where I played well and where I made many mistakes. He contributes a lot to my results, teaching me the best strategy for my game and taking time out at the right time.
How popular is table tennis in Romania?
Unfortunately, table tennis is not so popular in Romania. We wish table tennis to become more and more popular but it’s difficult when you don’t have all the conditions required to perform like other countries.
What did people in your motherland think of your victory? How much attention was given to your success in social media?
I have to say the entire media spoke about my success. This title was a big accomplishment for me and for my country as well, after all it had been 13 years since a Romanian player won the European title. That was an important opportunity to draw attention to table tennis and our tradition in this sport.
Say a couple of words about your family.
I have a wonderful family. Both my parents are in sports themselves, judo and handball. My brother was the first who started to play table tennis. In a family like mine, it was natural to make sport myself.
How did you start to play table tennis?
I was 5 years old when I started. It’s all about my brother. A coach came to my school to make a selection and he chose him. After that, I was coming with my mom in the hall to pick him up and I was so happy to see so many kids playing. I simply started to play. Nobody tought me at first how to hold the racket in the hand and how to keep the ball on the racket, I copied my brother. I wanted to show him I could do just like him and even more. I can say I’m a lucky girl.
What is your main interest in life despite table tennis?
There is a single answer to this question: for the moment, table tennis is everything to me, it is my top priority.
What is your hobby?
I love to travel, to discover new places and people. I also love music, which I listen very often, since I travel to competitions a lot.
What are your eating habbits? Do you have some taboo food?
I started to eat healthy a year and a half ago. Healthy eating definitely makes the difference in sport and I know I reached a balance between nutrients needed and effort I make during my table tennis and physical training sessions.
What’s your favourite dish?
I don’t really have a favorite dish, I generally eat classic food.
Your favourite singer/band/music?
My favourite band is U2.
Do you have a car? If so, which one?
I don’t own a car, I don’t have a driver’s license yet.
Your favourite city in the world where you would like to live?
When I was 19 years old, I played for two years in Milan. Milan has a special place in my heart, I’ll always remember friendly people and the language which became familiar shortly.
How much time do you spent for a physical training and fitness and how important is it for a modern tennis player?
In table tennis, physical training is very important. You may have to play 2-3 games on a single day, and the next day you may have to start all over again. During EC, I had 23 matches, which was really exhausting, but I found energy resources. You need to have endurance, speed and a good reaction speed.
Do you do cross-run? What distances do you usually run?
Before my meniscus injury, I was running about 10 km every three days. Now I run less, but faster. I focus more on biking and skipping rope.
Did you have some idol when you were a child? And do you have it still?
When I was a child, my idol was Mihaela Steff. Lefty as I am, she made it to 4th place in world ranking. Even if she is no longer active as player, any advice coming from her will be appreciated.
How much time per day is spent training ?
I spend two hours and 30 minutes in the morning at the training hall, one hour at fitness and another 2 hours in the afternoon at the training hall.
Service is an essential part of any table tennis training, so yes, I practice services 30 minutes almost every day. It was important to me understanding the effect theory, force and hitting point, learned from coach Viorel Filimon.
Who are your main sparring partners?
Mainly I play with Andrei Filimon, Cristina Hirici. I also play with all the other mates from our Constantza club.
Do you train a lot against defence?
Defence is something that needs a lot of practice, for every player. I often play multi ball with my coach, in absence of some good Romanian defensive players.
What is your equipment? Blade and rubbers? Why did you choose them?
I use Korbel SK7 blade, and Tenergy 05 on forehand rubber and Tenergy 05FX on backhand rubber. I like this combination, is the most suitable for my style and it gives me a comfortable feeling and a secure one as well.
Is there anything in the rules of table tennis that you would like to change?
Maybe a limitation of rubber types, because it is difficult to play against any unknown equipment and it’s hard to adapt unless you play against those opponents.
What has to happen for Europe to catch up with Asia?
Well done, responsible training and competition, in order to become the first player at any level – club, national team, continent and last, but not least, the passion for table tennis.
Do you have some funny stories from your career to share with our readers?
The funniest memory I have is from junior stage, I was at my first World Juniors Championship. We were playing quarterfinal match against France, and we were informed about playing this match at 5.00 P.M. We were at the hotel after practice, we watched a video match, we studyed our opponents, when suddenly our coach got a phone call, the quarterfinal match was supposed to begin in 30 minutes. At that moment, none of us knew how to rush faster in our rooms, to get ready. We got there 5 minutes before match time and we won that match.
Could You give an advice from Eliza Samara to the young girls, who just begin their lives in the world of table tennis.
They should work a lot, but first of all you they must be inloved with this sport and things become more easy to be done.
After victory in the European Championship, what goals do you have now?
After EC success, I wish to repeat the performance next European championship, and of course I want a medal at World Championship, even if I am aware this is a challenging goal.