Sweden’s Petra Sörling is set to replace incumbent president Thomas Weikert as the new head of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) in November.
Following a vetting process by the ITTF Nominations Committee, Sörling is the sole candidate nominated for the position.
Sörling’s nomination comes in the wake of the censuring of the powers of incumbent president Thomas Weikert by the executive committee that had announced its loss of confidence in the German’s leadership earlier this year.
Sörling, the ITTF Executive Vice President of Finance is now set to be the first female president in the federation’s history.
Holding a position on the executive committee since 2009, Sörling was later elected to the office of Executive Vice President in 2013. The very same year she was appointed acting President of the Swedish Table Tennis Association (STTA).
Sörling’s campaign for the presidency has been endorsed by the STTA and the Swedish Sports Confederation (RF).
In May, she was elected to serve on the Swedish National Olympic Committee (NOC) executive board overwhelmingly by its members. Her candidature received total support, claiming all of the 42 votes on offer, and sees table tennis represented for the first time on a board often dominated by winter sports.
Her rise up the ranks in the ITTF also saw the decline of Weikert. He was elected president in 2017 but has served in the role since 2014 after replacing the previous president Adham Sharara mid-term in 2014.
Weikert’s leadership was questioned after he unitarily removed Deputy President Khalil Al-Mohannadi of Qatar.
Earlier this year the Deutscher Tischtennis-Bund (German Table Tennis Association – DTTB) supported by a small number of other member associations had questioned the propriety of the newly established World Table Tennis (WTT), of which Al-Mohanaddi is also a board member.
They had claimed that Al-Mohannadi was using his own private company to do business with leading table tennis manufacturer Joola.
They had highlighted that under the ITTF Constitution, a person “connected in any way with the manufacture, sale or endorsement of table tennis equipment or with consultation on such equipment” shall not be eligible to stand as a member of the executive committee.
Based on the allegations, Weikert removed his deputy Qatar from the position unilaterally, only to see it reversed by the executive committee.
The legal representatives of Al-Mohannadi had then accused the Weikert of making “baseless” allegations against the Qatari official and demanded a “full, complete and public apology”.
Weikert on his part had also announced legal action before the respective sports courts against the decision of the executive committee, calling it an “unauthorized interference with his rights and a blatant violation of the ITTF Constitution”.
In May, both Sörling and Al-Mohannadi had also raised several concerns with Weikert’s leadership and expressed their hope that he was not re-elected.
The duo had claimed to offer a “new direction for the ITTF membership under the leadership of a new President” in a letter, sent to members of the ITTF by the STTA.
The duo had criticised Weikert’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and had claimed that he German had placed his own interests ahead of those of the Federation.
They alleged that Weikert made “several moves and contacting national association representatives around the world, clearly with the aim to strengthen his own election platform, instead of following the decision making and meeting protocol of the ITTF Executive Committee”.
While the election for the post of president is unopposed, there will be elections for the eight vice-president’s posts.
Nestor Tenva (Arg), Graham Symons (Aus), Alaor Azevedo (Bra), Liu Guoliang (Chn), Alaa Meshref (Egy), Michel Gadal (Fra), Tony Yue (Hkg), Roland Natran (Hun), Behnam Habibzadehmomen (Iri), Masahiro Maehara (Jpn), Teddy Matthews (Lca), Wahid Oshodi (Ngr), Paul Kyle (Nzl), Khalil Al-Mohannadi (Qat), Igor Levitin (Rus), Dawoud Alhajri (UAE) and Virginia Sung (USA) are bidding for the post.
The ITTF Annual General Meeting is slated for 24 November 2021 in Houston . Elected office bearers will serve a four-year mandate. Thee elected members will join the Athletes Commission Chair Zoran Primorac (Cro) and IOC Member Ryu Seungmin (Kor) to form the complete Executive Committee