With a racket at home on the driveway: For TV star Frank Elstner, table tennis is helpful Therapy against Parkinson's. (©private)



Frank Elstner: "My backhand is still good"

An interview with mytischtennis.de


Frank Elstner: "My backhand is still good"

He moderated "Wetten, dass...?" and shaped German television like no other. In 2019, Frank Elstner made his Parkinson's disease public. In the myTischtennis.de interview, the 80-year-old presenter legend talks about how his passion for table tennis came about, to what extent the fast ball sport slows down the course of his illness, what points of contact the former show host had with Hans Wilhelm Gäb and why he once put it on the cover of managed 'ping pong'.

myTischtennis.de: Mr. Elstner, 400.000 people in Germany suffer from the incurable nervous disease Parkinson's. So the most important question first, how are you today?

Frank Elstner: I'm doing quite well so far. I'm still relatively healthy and fit. Of course, I think about when I will need a walker or when I will no longer be able to walk. I try to make everything that's left of mine Mobility still holds together a bit.

myTischtennis.de: When did you first hear that table tennis helps against Parkinson's and who gave you the idea?

Frank Elstner: A few people wrote to me asking if I would like to come to the Parkinson's World Cup. I did a lot of research and made phone calls and was in contact with a number of self-help groups. In the meantime I have become an advisory board member of the German Parkinson Foundation. My neurologist Prof. Dr. Jens Volkmann [Chief Physician at the University Hospital of Würzburg, editor's note. Red.] has appeared with me on many television programs to encourage people not to let themselves go with Parkinson's. There are many things that help. Exercising does not mean curing Parkinson's, but rather slowing down its progression. And that's a big win.

myTischtennis.de: How does playing table tennis help you?

Frank Elstner: One of the fastest ball sports involves a fast thought process. You have to react to every shot and think about how to place the ball in a thousandth of a second when swinging the bat at your opponent. The movement - coupled with the constant occupation of the brain - is beneficial. Anything that stimulates body and mind at the same time is beneficial against Parkinson's. Nordic walking, boxing on a sandbag at different speeds, tango dancing, rowing and balance exercises combined with cognitive exercises are further options for prevention. 

myTischtennis.de: Did you already have contact with table tennis before the illness?

Frank Elstner: I played intensively between the ages of 13 and 30. I was the best youngster at the table tennis club in Baden-Baden. I had a Barna racquet. Red.] and later got an elastic balsa blade from my parents as a present. I was also unbeaten in the swimming pool in Baden-Baden. Then I went to boarding school. There was an ancient table in a room that was far too small, where you could neither really 'smash' nor swing. Then at some point I lost interest in table tennis. I've always been very athletic and when I was at my best, between the ages of 60 and 50, I ran 80 to XNUMX kilometers a week. A few years ago we built a slab in our finca on Mallorca. I played occasionally with my wife and children. My wife gave me a record for Christmas. At home in Baden-Baden I've been playing for an hour more or less every day since then. 

myTischtennis.de: You even made the cover of the table tennis magazine in the 1980s. How did that happen? 

Frank Elstner: At that time I was the mass sports officer for the German Sports Association. We have held game festivals in major cities, attended by up to 40.000 people. As a joke, we tried to build the world's largest sofa out of people. In Berlin we set a record. A few thousand people lined up in twos like marching. On command everyone made a quarter turn to the right and sat on the lap of the person behind. The pictures went around the world as popular sport advertisements. In order to do sports together, we have set up hundreds of table tennis tables. Someone took a picture of me there. And it almost looked like I could do it right (laughs). 

Addition: In fact, Frank Elstner was pictured on the cover of the “German Table Tennis Sports” in the December 1984 issue. The title picture and the double page “Visit to Showmaster No. 1: The silent love of Frank Elstner – minor matter television by Georg Haupt can be found here as a PDF file!

myTischtennis.de: How would you describe your playing style?

Frank Elstner: My backhand is still good. I've found that when someone has a good serve, I'm a total noob. That can make me mad. I recently lost to my wife. That's the maximum penalty. She is not very good, but sees much better than me and has a faster reaction. I'm passionate about playing and I dare to beat one or two 15-year-olds, but only if they play badly (laughs).

myTischtennis.de: On the talk show 'Maischberger' shortly after your 80th birthday in the spring, you campaigned for participation in the Parkinson's World Championship. Will your name be read at the third edition in Croatia in mid-October?

Frank Elstner: Unfortunately I won't be able to participate this year. If I have time I might watch it for a day and recite the atmosphere to see if I enjoy it. I will contact Pingpongparkinson. 

myTischtennis.de: You played against Conny Freundorfer during your TV career. Are there other table tennis personalities that you have met?

Frank Elstner: I used to have good relationships with the Düsseldorf table tennis players and once played against Hans Wilhelm Gäb. My best result in Luxembourg was 17:21 and 18:21. You cant complain. I played table tennis against some famous athletes. Jörg Roßkopf was also on the show with me. 

myTischtennis.de: Unfortunately, the television presence of table tennis is still low. As a media expert, what tip can you give to bring fringe sports even more into the public eye?

Frank Elstner: It's incredibly difficult to make predictions. During the summer of the European Women's Football Championship, stadiums were filled that the Bundesliga doesn't always fill up. My first experience of this kind was when I was in school when volleyball became an Olympic sport. We played in gymnastics class, all of Germany suddenly played volleyball. Nevertheless, this boom did not last. There are always intermediate highs that have to do with the interest of the viewers and are often associated with names. Suddenly people liked to watch tennis with Steffi Graf and Boris Becker. Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov are also fantastic athletes and transporters in their sport. I follow their bets and keep my fingers crossed for them. 

Further information can be found under www.pingpongparkinson.de
Courtesy of mytischtennis.de

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