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After 30 years as a professional table tennis player and the holder of a great many titles, Jörgen Persson now has a new title to add to his collection: Honorary Doctor in Health and Lifestyle at Halmstad University.
– I am both happy and honoured! Becoming a doctor was nothing I could imagine as a child – I was always going to be a table tennis player. However, I must admit, it feels cool to be able to call myself an honorary doctor!
Collaboration with the surrounding community is a top priority when it comes to education and research at Halmstad University; therefore, awarding Jörgen Persson an honorary doctorate goes hand in hand with the University's profile of health and lifestyle. The University collaborates with the Halland's Sports Academy, Halland's Sports Federation and the Swedish Table Tennis Association, where Jörgen Persson is a key figure.
Over the years, Jörgen Persson has shown great commitment to both his sport and his hometown i.e. Halmstad. In fact, he has had a major role in helping Halmstad get the possibility to host next year's World Team Championships in table tennis.
During the World Cup, which runs from April 29 to May 6, 2018, Jörgen Persson has the role of ambassador. 72 countries will participate and the fact that the competition is being held in such a small city as Halmstad is unique.
– I really feel at home when it comes to table tennis, so it feels very special to be a part of and arrange such a big competition here in Halmstad, says Jörgen Persson.
Halmstad University is participating in the event as an "academic partner" and will arrange, a few days prior to the start of the competition, a research conference with a special focus on table tennis (The Science and Practice of Racket Sports for Improved Performance and Health). The conference will take place on the April 25–27, and Jörgen Persson will be a representative of the sport.
– Over the years, I've learned how important it is for collaboration and 'teamwork' for things to happen. We need more people who work towards the same goal and I am looking forward to work together even more with Halmstad University in the future.
Jörgen Persson started playing table tennis as a five-year-old at home in his living room in Halmstad. As a nine-year-old, he participated in his first Swedish Championships for youngsters, which was the start of a long and successful career. In his over 30-year sporting career, Jörgen Persson has won a gold medal in the World Championships, both in the singles and team events as well as several European Championship gold medals. Furthermore, Jörgen has represented Sweden in seven Olympic Games.
After the 2012 Olympics, Jörgen Persson chose to end his professional career, but he still plays the game.
– I go to the sports hall at Halmstad Arena a few times a week. Sometimes I just sit there with my bag for a while, something my friends can laugh at. I like the atmosphere, and I can give tips or do some sparring when needed.
That is not to say that Jörgen Persson has decided to rest on his laurels. After his sports career, he has now entered another branch – in the Chinese dairy industry. At present, he is launching, together with his companion Bengt Darhult, milk powder known as "Milk for Champions" in China.
– When I lived in China, I noticed that there was no Swedish milk powder on the market – and we, i.e. Sweden, are so good at milk! After four years of hard work, we finally got there and now the first cartons are ready to be sent out. It feels incredibly exciting!
There are not only many trips to China, but also to Malaysia at present for Jörgen Persson. In the autumn, he is coaching table tennis players in a television show there. He will be the coach of a team of six players, which include a couple of Swedes who will play time controlled matches in live broadcasts.
Jörgen Persson has previously lived in China, Japan, Germany, Norway and Qatar.
– Halmstad has always felt like my real home, even when I have lived abroad. However, if I am in Halmstad for too long, I become restless – I've been on the move so much since I was a teenager, so getting out and about is something I am both used to and enjoy, he says.
Internationalisation is something Jörgen Persson feels strongly about, and he is very pleased with Halmstad University's collaborations in other parts of the world. He has participated in a couple of the University's international exchange events, including a visit from Shanghai Dianji University, where the visiting Vice-Chancellor challenged the table tennis legend to a match.
Jörgen Persson is also connected to Halmstad University's Professional Sports Career and Working Life education programme, where table tennis is one of two profile sports. The programme is aimed at people who want to take part in a sport while, at the same time, getting a university education. Jörgen Persson has great knowledge and advice to offer such programmes thanks to his vast experiences.
– I think it's good to give the opportunity to combine sports with studies. Not everyone wants to, or can, pursue their full-time sport, and it is good to have something else to concentrate on.
He sees great value in having a university in Halmstad and the surrounding region.
– Having a university in town means there's an influx of ambitious people and the town gets a more international vibe. Furthermore, I really like Fresher's week; it seems fun and a good way to create team spirit. It actually makes me feel like becoming a student again, says Jörgen Persson.
Text: IDA LÖVSTÅL
Translation: NICHOLAS LLOYD-PUGH
Jörgen Persson is one of five honorary doctors at Halmstad University. The others are:
Nicolas Hassbjer (Information Technology, 2011)
Jan Einar Blomquist (Innovation Science, 2011)
(Health and Welfare, 2013)
(Health and Welfare, 2017)
The honorary doctorates are awarded by Halmstad University's Research and Education Board, as an appreciation for outstanding efforts related to the University's field of activities.