The happy guy from Funen with a passion for the world’s fastest ball game

The joy of seeing each other is mutual, when a few weeks ago I met Allan Bentsen at his office in the House of Sports: the “epicenter” of sports in the cathedral city of Roskilde. The face has become more furrowed and the hair has become shorter on the 55-year-old sports director, but the Funen dialect, the twinkle in the eye and the well-trained body are the same as when I met the lanky teenager Allan at the sports center in the early 1980s in Odense, where the table tennis club Triton formed the framework for Allan’s most important leisure interest: Table tennis – the world’s fastest ball game.

Always with the family at the stands

Table tennis was also the common denominator for Allan’s family: the parents Musse and Torben, who were volunteers in the club and the two younger sisters Gitte and Inge, who were also talented youth players in Triton, but not with Allan’s training diligence and passion for the game. A passion that still today motivates and engages Allan’s daily work in Roskilde Table Tennis – BTK 61, where since 2008 – as a player, coach, board member and sports director – he has left his unmistakable mark on the club and Roskilde’s status as cooperation partner of the elite sport organization Team Denmark.

No Danish championships as a youth player – but 59 titles as a senior player

Allan first started playing table tennis when he was 11 years old and he did not manage to win any Danish championships as a youth player. On the other hand, in the period from 1988 until today, he has won no fewer than 59 Danish championships as a senior player: 8 in men’s singles, 22 in men’s doubles with 5 different players, 13 in mixed doubles with 4 different players – most recently with his wife Eldijana a few days ago – and 16 team championships with 4 different clubs: Sisu/MBK, Esbjerg, Hoerning and BTK 61. In addition, there have been 8 national team championships in Sweden and Croatia. I do not think that Allan’s record list in national senior championships will ever be surpassed by others in Danish elite sports.

European champion, World champion and the 2012 Olympics in London

From his debut as an 18-year-old in 1986 until 2010, the likeable Bentsen was a natural captain for the Danish senior national team at 14 World Championships and 13 European Championships. Allan’s value to national team mates such as Martin Monrad, Finn Tugwell and Michael Maze both in the table tennis court and as a mental and social mentor at training camps and at international championships has been absolutely invaluable for Danish table tennis.

One of the highlights of Allan’s career – together with Tugwell and Maze – is undoubtedly the European Champion team title in 2005, where he won the all-important match against one of the world’s best defensive players – Chen Wei Xing from Austria – at a score of 2-2 in the EC final in Aarhus – and thus Denmark secured the EC title for the first and so far only time.

Allan Bentsen has also succeeded in becoming World champion in the age group 40-49 years, when in 2010, after a close final victory of 3-2, he won over the Chinese Wang Yan Sheng.

It was also very well deserved that Bentsen, aged 44, qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London. It was fantastic to experience Allan’s joy and commitment at the world’s biggest sporting event, both in ExCel by the Thames and in the social relations with the other Danish Olympic athletes.

Energy for other people

Allan is one of the Danish elite athletes who has always shown great kindness to other people, both in and outside of the sport. It was also expressed when, a few years ago, Allan and his Croatian wife Eldijana chose to adopt Eldijana’s sister’s two children – a 9-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy – when the sister committed suicide. The two children were first looked after by their grandmother in Croatia, but today the whole family – Eldijana and Allan’s 13-year-old daughter Sara and 19-year-old son Nicki, the sister’s two children and Allan’s mother-in-law – is gathered in Roskilde. Allan tells me about a very busy everyday life with lots of leisure activities for all four children: “It is a great privilege that I have always been able to work with table tennis – I love it. We have all settled in very well here in Roskilde. Together with a lot of good people here in the city, I have developed a good table tennis club where there is – and must be – room for everyone. We have a strong elite and talent environment and we have achieved several good results in the Champions League. But for me it is just as important that we organize school tournaments for children and that the city’s pensioners enjoy coming to the club. We have also started a project for Parkinson’s patients and people who have been affected by dementia. After all, table tennis is a fantastic game where the brain and motor skills are constantly challenged: You can remember that – Michael”.

Passion … forever

In the middle of the conversation with Allan, which is part of my evaluation report of a collaboration contract between Team Denmark and Roskilde Municipality on talent development, we are interrupted by an older legend, whom both Allan and I greatly appreciate: 81-year-old Ole Rasmussen, who in 1961 was a co-founder of BTK 61 and a board member for 28 years, including 19 years as chairman. Ole is still extremely active in Roskilde’s cultural and sports life and he has, among other things, was the initiator of Roskilde Elderly Sports Club, which is one of Denmark’s largest elderly sports clubs. Ole continues to follow Roskilde Table Tennis, BTK 61 very enthusiastically: “Is the 1st team ready to play on Friday in Hilleroed – Allan?” asks one legend. “I’m a little unsure about a couple of the youngsters, but I’m ready”, replies the other legend. The passion is completely intact with both the two legends.

In a few weeks, the city council in Roskilde will discuss my evaluation report, which contains the following conclusion about Roskilde Table Tennis, BTK 61: “The club has an optimal training center, strong professional coaching skills and very good cooperation with both the Roskilde Elite and Talent Council, elementary schools and secondary schools in Roskilde Municipality, other clubs such as Table Tennis Denmark”. Many thanks for the talk – Allan.