Iulia Necula – The Importance Of Role Models

In Romania, women's table tennis has traditionally been stronger than men's table tennis so there was no shortage of players to inspire Iulia, who says she has no 'one idol' but that she looked up to the 'older generation in table tennis and worked with world champions'. Now, in her work at the ITTF, Iulia is hoping to help create and showcase role models who can motivate the younger generation.

Iulia sees this as an important point in encouraging young players, and particularly women, to stay with the game and pursue it beyond the usual drop out stage at the end of formal education. The financial and time commitment of high level sport can be off-putting to anyone but Iulia notes that the 'mental attitude to the role of women in society and the roles that women undertake' is also a key factor in women not pursuing a professional career. Female role models can therefore play a huge part in both changing the attitudes of society and also giving more options and a clearer career path to women.

Table tennis is one of the biggest sports in terms of participation numbers with an estimated 300 million people playing. However, the professional women's side of the sport is much smaller. Iulia explains: 'the ITTF set an example as one of the few federations to pay the same prize money, but at club and regional level men win significantly more and there is more sponsorship for men.' Women's events at regional level can indeed be much smaller, Iulia adds, 'regional level events can be mixed, they try to combine it if there are not enough women'.

Women playing against men is not uncommon in table tennis, 'the beauty of table tennis is that everyone plays against everyone, men and women, older and younger. At professional level some say it is a different game and that men are more powerful, but this does not guarantee men would...

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