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'Give kids a chance,' say Chinese ping-pong fans

By Pan Qi | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-04-16 21:10

To the surprise of most Chinese table tennis fans, Olympic champions Ma Long and Ding Ning made early exits in the men's and women's singles at the ITTF Asian Championships in Wuxi on April 14.

With 17-year-old Japanese Miu Hirano even becoming the first non-Chinese winner of the women's singles title at the tournament since 1996, speculation about whether Japan could go on to end China's dominance of table tennis has been rife at the Wuxi Sports Center this weekend.

But for veteran fan Rowan Wang, a professor at Singapore Management University who has been following the sport closely for decades, Ma and Ding's shock defeats could in fact turn out to be positive for Chinese ping-pong.

"Though I was shocked by the unusual result, I do believe it is not a bad thing for China. It will bring more chances to the younger Chinese players to play in big events," Wang told China Daily on April 15.

Many people have analyzed that China's women's team captain Ding Ning was not overwhelmed by Miu's skill, but because the injury-plagued star could not match the sheer strength of her young Japanese opponent.

For Wang, this is a sign that China should also give its younger players a chance to play on the biggest stages.

"The shocking result doesn't mean Japanese players will get more chances to win against Chinese players in such big events—they may meet more competitive younger Chinese players in the future instead, and our younger players will be the largest beneficiary!" Wang reasoned.

For Wang, the emergence of Miu and her other young teammates is not a sign of Japan's growing strength, but rather the scarcity of senior talent in the country's ranks.

"Japan's elder players have quit the stage and it needs to push the post-2000s players [players born after 2000] ahead. However, China has still got many grand slam players playing the leading role in the national team," Wang explained.

But according to Wang, China has got many talented post-2000s players. Indeed, he said he believed that the table tennis skills of Chinese players are far better than players from any other country. It's just that the younger players have not had as many chances to play as their Japanese peers.

If China sends out its 16- or 17-year-old rising stars to play against Miu and her colleagues, China is likely to win as well, the Singapore resident concluded.

However, Wang's mother-in-law Chen Qi, who is worked as vice-chairman of the Table Tennis Association of Wuhu Municipality in Jiangxi province, disagreed with him on why Ding had lost. For her, the Chinese star may have lacked focus at the tournament, which she won in 2009.

"Ding Ning wouldn't lose a game on strength. I think the Chinese coaches need to pay more attention to the psychological adjustment of the players," said Chen Qi.

One thing the fans all agreed on was that China should rethink its team selection to give more room for junior players to get high-level game time.

Considering the Chinese team has absolute predominance in the game, they think the coaches should let the lower-ranked players play in the team events, as China is almost guaranteed to win these events.

"It needs the coaches to estimate what's the best arrangement from their experience. And it is very difficult to get the right estimation," Wang's wife Liu Yichen said.

The family stated that they have confidence that Chinese players will achieve good results in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. They flew from Singapore to watch the games in Wuxi and will fly back to Singapore after the ITTF Asian Championships end on Sunday.

'Give kids a chance,' say Chinese ping-pong fans

Wang Yu (center), his wife Liu Yichen (right) and his mother-in-law Chen Qi (left) pose for a photo at the entrance of Wuxi Sports Center on April 15. [Photo by Pan Qi/chinadaily.com.cn]

Edited by Dominic Morgan

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