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The future of racket sports in focus at the research conference

The conference held at Halmstad University April 25–27 was a rewarding event for the 120 researchers, athletes and associations from all over the world who participated in lecturing, discussing and networking.

”We have had a couple of very good days where we met new and old colleagues, exchanged views and created new networks between different fields of research”, say Lars Kristén and Urban Johnson, who were in charge of the conference.

In conjunction with the World Cup in Table Tennis at Halmstad Arena (April 29 to May 6), Halmstad University through the Hallands Sports Academy, organized a research conference on the future of racket sports with a focus on sports and health.

Lars Kristén, conference manager, and Urban Johnson, scientifically responsible, sum up the conference:

”The ambition was to discuss sports, health and racket sports from a multidisciplinary perspective and we think we succeeded. It has been a rewarding few days, we have received positive feedback from both conference participants and our partners”, says Lars Kristén.

Stephen Hwang, Vice-Chancellor of Halmstad University.

Participants from 26 countries and four continents

Halmstad University Vice-Chancellor Stephen Hwang said in his opening speech that he was pleased to see so many nationalities represented – 26 countries from four continents! He also stated that Halmstad University has been successful in profiling in sports and health, which has led, among other things, to the University now being a National Sports University.

For Stephen Hwang, who plays squash every week, the link between sports and science is important and relevant:

”There are so many people all over the world who are either active in a sport or following different athletes and teams. It is becoming more and more evident that being active in sports is beneficial for your health. It keeps the brain running!”

Lars Kristén, conference manager.

The broad spectrum of sports science research reflected in three themes: high performance, health and innovation, as well as sports science. The conference's partners were Halmstad University, the International Table Tennis Association, the Swedish Table Tennis Association, the International Badminton Association, the Ping Pong Power/WTTC 2018, the Hallands Sports Association and SISU Idrottsutbildarna (sports coaches).

Lars Kristén and Urban Johnson welcomed the participants by telling about the conference's extensive and exciting scientific program. In addition to networking, the conference days offered four key note speakers, two invited speakers, more than 40 scientific presentations, seven workshops and a knowledge market.

”Our preparations for the conference have been going on for several years, including everything from contacts with racket sports experts to study visits to the Shanghai University of Sport, as well as the pleasing fact that table tennis star Jörgen Persson (from Halmstad!) has been appointed honorary doctor at Halmstad University. Now, we hope for interesting and exciting days where cooperation and interaction between people, organizations and countries are keywords!”, said Lars Kristén.

Maria Ahlsén, biochemist, about what we need to become healthier.

Science busting health myths

The conference's four key note speakers held each lecture on the theme racket sports science and practice for improved performance and health.

Maria Ahlsén, who is a biochemist holding a PhD in physiology and whose main interest is knowledge transfer about what we need to become healthier, started her opening talk busting some health myths. Have you for example heard that juice detox is good for your body, or that sugar is poison?

”Sorry, no scientific evidence supports that juice detox is good for our bodies. We already are clean on the inside, we have organs to keep us clean, so don’t spend your money on juice detox. And the myth that carbohydrates are bad, that sugar is a poison – have you heard that? I would say sugar is not a poison, it’s not good for your health but it’s not a poison. Also, if you are working with sports and exercise, you know that carbohydrates are actually really, really good”, said Maria Ahlsén, and continued her interesting lecture about exercise and health.

The other three key note speakers were Mads Brink Hansen, who gave a talk about performance optimization in badminton, Tsung Min Hund, about the relationship between participation in table tennis and cognitive function, and Irene Faber, about identifying and develop high potential in youth racket sport players.

About the conference

Partners: The International Table Tennis Association, the Swedish Table Tennis Association, the International Badminton Association, the Ping Pong Power-WTTC 2018, the Halland’s Sports Association and SISU Idrottsutbildarna (sports coaches). Homepage for the conference: link, opens in new window


The table tennis ball is rolling – collaboration to promote table tennis

How do we best handle the legacy of the World Cup in table tennis to promote regional, national and international development of table tennis? Halmstad University and different organizations that, in various ways, were part of the table tennis world cup (WTTC 2018) met to reflect and discuss together.

”It's great to have so many influential people from the table tennis world in place”, says Urban Johnson, Professor at Halmstad University and one of the initiators of the meeting.

In addition to researchers from the University, representatives from the Swedish Table Tennis Federation, the International Table Tennis Federation, Ping Pong Power/WTTC 2018 and Halmstad municipality participated in discussions on how to build bridges between the academic world and the sports world and how the Halland region can be involved.

”The hope is that we, as a National sports university (together with Malmö University), can become more involved in partnerships with sports organizations, specifically in racket sports. We want the link between education, research and sports to become clear and exchanges to take place in both directions”, says Urban Johnson.

”Representatives from the Shanghai University of Sports and China Table Tennis College also participated at the meeting, to discuss student exchanges between universities – which would be an incredible opportunity for the regional table tennis development”, says Urban Johnson.

The future of table tennis is still to be seen, but Urban Johnson finds that important contacts for collaborations now have been linked.

”We agree on what challenges and opportunities we have and now we got the ball rolling”, says Urban Johnson.


Halmstad University at Halmstad Arena during the WTTC 2018

Halmstad University was academic partner at the team World Cup in table tennis at Halmstad Arena April 29 to May 6. Students and staff were in place to tell the visitors about Halmstad University and to create valuable contacts.

”We want to develop racket sport research and we want to be part of developing the regional sports arena”, says Krister Hertting, who was responsible for the University's stand in the arena.

Krister Hertting is programme manager for the University of Halmstad's unique program Professional career in sport and work (PIKA program, 180 ECTS credits), in which athletes who play a sport at elite level or have an ambition to do so, can combine studies with training and competition. They also prepare themselves for life after their sports career. During the World Championships, Krister Hertting and staff has promoted the University and the PIKA program. They have also got valuable national and international contacts, to further develop and work on the University’s profile in sports.

Krister Hertting, program manager for the PIKA program at Halmstad University.

There has been a varied number of audience in the arena during the week. Who has visited the University’s stand?

”It has been all from children who wanted to try our table tennis activity (Swing Ping Pong ball) to technically interested people who were curious at the University's robot and athletes who wanted to hear more about our PIKA program. We have also had visits from various actors from the municipality and trade and industry”, says Krister Hertting.

The visitors could, among other things, try out the Swing Ping Pong at the University’s booth.

Want to develop racket sport research

To create new networks and cooperation Krister Hertting has had meetings with several organizations and people who want to cooperate with the University in different ways – both at educational and academic levels.

”It is important to make sure that the contacts we get during this championship last, even after the event ends. The university has a vision of further developing research in racket sports, and the discussions with stakeholders are important to us. We want to be part of developing the regional sports arena, and we can achieve this by working strategically with national and international players”, says Krister Hertting.

Part of the PIKA program is available for international students

Michaela Karlsson, table tennis player and PIKA student, has represented the University at the arena during the week. She thinks it is clear that Halmstad University, by the PIKA program, offers a unique combination of studies and sports.

”Many people are inspired and curious about this, and they think about how to take the idea to their hometown or country. For me, studies at the PIKA program have not only prepared me for working life but also helped me developing in my sport. In many of our school projects, we start by analyzing ourselves in a sport situation, which gives us important things to take with us into our sport practice”, says Michaela Karlsson.

”In the autumn of 2018 we will launch The International PIKA Year in English, which makes it possible for foreign students to participate”, says Krister Hertting.

Read more about the PIKA program: link, opens in new window

Updated 2018-05-09