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Table tennis stars apologize for skipping round of match

By Sun Xiaochen | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-26 07:01

Table tennis stars apologize for skipping round of match

Ma Long, top, in action during the 2017 ITTF World Platinum China Open men's singles match in Chengdu, Sichuan province, on June 22, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]

Three of China's top table tennis stars apologized to fans on Sunday after going AWOL at an international tournament and sports authorities have vowed to investigate.

Ma Long, Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin were criticized for tarnishing the national team's image by skipping singles matches on Friday at the ongoing China Open in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

The national team released a statement saying their behavior had disappointed fans and exposed team management problems. The General Administration of Sport of China said the behavior was a breach of professional ethics.

"The Chinese Table Tennis Association should investigate the matter and deal with it seriously," the administration said.

On Sunday morning, Ma, Fan and Xu and coaches Qin Zhijian and Ma Lin posted apologies on their personal Sina Weibo accounts for the incident in the tournament's second round. Their opponents were awarded wins.

It came after China's world No 4 player Zhang Jike quit his first-round match midway through the opening set on Thursday, citing the recurrence of a lower-back injury.

The International Table Tennis Federation has said all potential sanctions are on the table for further punishment after a full investigation because the three players' behavior "damaged the image and integrity of the game".

Before the scheduled matches on Friday, the three players and two coaches posted on Sina Weibo "We have no desire to fight ... all because we miss you, Liu Guoliang", sparking speculation their withdrawals had to do with the decision to remove Liu as national team head coach.

Liu, a former Olympic and world champion table tennis player, was named CTTA vice-president on Tuesday after four years as head coach. That decision, which also did away with the head coach position and set up separate coaching staffs for the men's and women's teams, was made to optimize management, the CTTA said.

The national team said on Saturday that the players had behaved recklessly and did not fully understand the CTTA's purpose in revamping the coaching staff.

"To put Liu on a higher platform is to continue using his expertise in athlete management, athletic training and promotion to better contribute to the sport. We discussed the new job with him before making the decision," the CTTA statement said.

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