ZARKO DOLINAR1920 2003
by Tim Boggan, USATT Historian
Dr. Zarko Dolinar who died Mar. 7, at 82, from prostrate cancer was often heard to say, in his definitive way, Everything s in the genes. If so, he must have had some good ones, for in the mid-1950 s he would be one of the world s best players in 1954, with Vilim Harangozo, he became the World Doubles Champion; in 1955 he was World Singles runner-up to Toshiaki Tanaka.
What a loss, lamented Marty Reisman, whose win over Zarko at the 49 World s didn t diminish for a moment his awe of the man. He had such an aura about him, said Marty. You felt an overwhelming presence there was table tennis magic in him.
I wish, like Marty, I d had the fun of seeing Zarko in action. But at least the English Table Tennis magazine gives us a late 40 s snapshot of him: & large youngYugoslav (op-ed, at that time Croatia was a Republic in Yugoslavia), wielding an enormous lop-sided wooden-clacker bat with deadly affect, attacking with penholder grip and chopping with orthodox grip! Incongruously clad in tiny shorts and a green celluloid cap, he looked& well, inimitable.
He was a gentleman, this 1955 Yugoslav Sportsman of the Year and yet one of a kind. On the non-playing side of his racket he had a skull and crossbones, accompanied by the signatures of his world-class victims, or, rather, as Reisman puts it, his heroes, for he revered the players. Revered humanity, really, as his near unmatchable collection of autographs of well-known personages from politicians to pop artists would attest. There is something intriguing about the way a famous person writes his (her) name Zarko s collection will surely last for all time.
In 1954 in Swaythling Cup play, Zarko had beaten World #3 Ivan Andreadis. So before he and Dick Miles went on court for Singles play, Dolinar, now playing with sponge, said drolly, You might as well sign now, Dickie. But Miles beat him, and after the match kidded back, Zarko, you want to sign my racket?
Both Miles and Reisman stressed Zarko s warmth, his humor. And I echo them, for, years later, when Dolinar was the ITTF s Sport Science Committee Chair, I had occasion to have some late night drinks with him and others who d gathered round. Then because I found Zarko so personable, and so persistent, I managed to stay awake long enough to edit his late night Committee Report due in the morning.
As we finally finished, I felt anew the imprint of his individuality, saw, on a page sure to be read by others, his name writ large an autograph, as it were, for the International World of Table Tennis to cherish.