Igor Solopov, the stalwart defender

Igor Solopov at the 1996 Estonia Memorial tournament (Photo: Tomas Aring)

by Ian Marshall (Editor)

It is with great sadness that the death of Estonia’s Igor Solopov is announced.

He passed away on Wednesday 12th June, he was 58 years old.

Born on Monday 17th April 1961 in Magnitogorsk, a Russian city located in the foothills of the Ural Mountains, his table tennis career started in the country of his birth in 1971, before eventually moving to Tallinn in Estonia.

Right handed he became one of Europe’s leading defensive players, progressing to win a host of domestic titles; however it was on the international stage where he made his mark and gained the respect of all.

Overall, he competed in seven World Championships, in addition to being present in the colours of Estonia at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. In a competition where only first place in the initial phase group guaranteed progress to the main draw he drew the short straw; he finished in third place ahead of Tunisia’s Mourad Sta but behind Sweden’s Jan-Ove Waldner and Korea Republic’s Kang Hee Chan. Jan-Ove Waldner progressed to win the gold medal.

Earlier at three consecutive editions of the European Youth Championships, in Mödling in 1976, then in Vichy and in Barcelona he was a member of the gold winning Soviet Union outfit in the junior boys’ team event. Moreover in Barcelona he was the junior boys’ singles silver medallist, losing to the Czech Republic’s Jindrich Pansky in the final.

In addition when only 17 years old, representing the Soviet Union, alongside Sarkis Sarkoyan, Anatoli Strokatov and Valery Shevchenko, he secured bronze in the men’s team event at the 1978 European Championships in Duisburg.

An automatic selection, he represented Estonia on more than 50 occasions gaining several national awards for his services to sport; later he assumed a coaching role in Sweden.

However, for me there is one lasting memory above all others; at the 1994 European Championships in Birmingham, France won the men’s team title, in the ensuing men’s singles event, Igor Solopov ended the progress of their national hero, one of the favourites for gold.

In the third round he beat Jean-Philippe Gatien, at the time the reigning world champion; such was the quality of Igor Solopov.

He is sadly missed.