International ties

Defeat of team China, victory for table tennis

By Guan Xiaomeng (
Updated: 2010-06-01 11:15
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To rub salt on its wound, China conceded its long-possessed women's table tennis team world title to Singapore two days after the ITTF passed a proposal reducing the number of paddlers from each country for the 2012 London Olympics.

The world table tennis governing body, against China's will, limited the competitors of each squad to two in an effort to damp China's hopes to sweep the podium, or worse, the chance to stand on the podium.

For a table tennis power like China, who is so accustomed to seeing the Chinese red draped on the podium and on the highest or most of the flag poles at international tournaments, such a blow is no different from a favorite toy robbed by a play mate. And China is like a crying child who has lost the toy.

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I don't think the "toy" is always to be loved.

First, the podium finish is not the only yardstick of the true strength of a country as a whole. China wants to send more players because it means a better guarantee for a medal, whatever the color it is. If one of them falls, others remain to fight. As the number was reduced to two now, China must cultivate a stronger talent pool, mentally and technically, to fill the coveted Olympics roaster and compete with more foreign rivals. Anyone on the roaster should be a real competitor, rather than a guarantee to each other.

Second, China dominance makes the sport less appealing. The prolonged stranglehold of China means the continuous failure of the rest of the world. The ITTF's move to cut the roasters is a signal to a possible removal of the sport from the Olympics if China's rein continues. China complained the cut snipped the Olympic dream of potential Chinese players. But the right of fulfilling the Olympic dream is equal to each foreign player. Participating and uncertainty are appeals of sport.

Third, competitive sport does not what "sport" means. Table tennis, regarded as the national game of China, should only not belong to the minority "elite" players. Let's picture what if one day the sport was erased from the Olympic family. What about professionalizing the domestic club league or popularizing the sport to more countrymen? One more Olympic or world title is just like an icing on the cake for a table tennis powerhouse like China, the mass participation is the way to carry out the tradition of the "national game".

Singapore's victory is a good start. The Chinese-born-and-trained Singaporean coach and players helped spread China's national game to another part of the world. Traitors? Don't take that so serious. That is the way to find mighty China a brighter mirror to reflect its weak points.

Table tennis, from this point, may usher into a new page. I hope it will be the start a stronger China and a stronger world as well.