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China chooses 'Mini Olympics' over Asian table tennis championships — Know why?

Without any qualms, Chinese paddlers have opted for the National Games instead of the biennial continental championships in Doha.

Ma Long at the Tokyo Olympics

Ma Long at the Tokyo Olympics (Source: Getty)


Sohinee Basu

Updated: 22 Sep 2021 8:44 AM GMT

If you are a table tennis player in China, there is hardly a moment of quiet as the calendar remains chock-a-block with events lined up for the nation that wholly and solely dominates the game of ping-pong. Being the best does not come easy and sometimes you have no option but to choose the cards to play and the Chinese team has decided to do just that by withdrawing their names from the upcoming Asian Table Tennis Championships. Scheduled to take place in Doha from September 28th to October 5th, the biennial continental championships is undoubtedly a prestigious event and inevitably one where China leads the medal board by miles.

Instead of taking part in the continental event, the Chinese paddlers have opted to participate in the 14th National Games of China, which is more popularly known as the 'Mini Olympics', owing to its usual quadrennial nature and the level of dangerous competition that plays out. Having begun on September 15th at Xi'an in the Shaanxi province of China, the National Games will conclude only on September 27, making it difficult for the Chinese paddlers to travel to Doha, given quarantine restrictions.

Things to know about the mini-Olympics (Source: Global Times)

Qin Zhijian, the secretary-general of the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA) as well as the head coach of the men's team does not think it necessary for the paddlers to compete at the Asian tournament as it would be quite the hassle. After returning from their overly successful Tokyo sojourn, the Chinese table tennis team have returned to their provincial teams to participate in the National Games and save their energies for the important World Championships and China Table Tennis Super League (CTTSL), instead.

"As the table tennis competition of the National Games will be held between Sept 17 and 26, and the Asian Championships will start on Sept 28, there is limited intermission between the two tournaments. Taking international flights into consideration, it's quite difficult for the team to arrive in Qatar on schedule to participate," explained Qin in August when the announcement was made by the CTTA.

The Chinese men's team after winning the 2019 Asian TT Championships (Source: Xinhua/Du Yu)

China has won 128 gold medals at the Asian Championships since 1972, while second on the list, Japan has only won 14 golds. Having dominated the Asian TT circuit very comprehensively, Chinese paddlers do not regret missing out on this. "There is much risk in international travel during the pandemic, and all participants will have to undergo quarantine after the Asian Championships, which will affect our plan for the upcoming tournaments, especially the World Championships," added Qin. "It will not benefit our young players' development, and both men's and women's coaching groups have made decision to withdraw from the Asian Championships for the overall benefit of the team," Qin assessed.

While controversies are rife in India regarding the squad for Asian Table Tennis Championships after Manika Batra got excluded from it, things look totally different in China who are not bothered with the Doha event and is instead focussing on the mini-Olympics at home.

Chinese women team won gold at the 2019 Asian TT Championships (Source: CGTN)

Li Sun, the head coach for the women's side is all the more relaxed and she pointed out, "This serves as the qualification for the World Team Championships in Chengdu next year. We are already guaranteed one spot as hosts of the tournament," Li noted, justifying their absence from the Asian Championships.

The Chinese are hard taskmasters when it comes to table tennis and taking wise calls is a part of the mix. Qin mentioned, "The first thing for players after finishing their Olympic duties is to adjust their physical shape to gear up for the National Games and the World Championships. Therefore, it's the best choice for us to withdraw from the Asian Championships," he said.

There are high expectations from the Chinese National Games as it is the breeding house of fresh and raw talent. For a country that produced Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Liu Shiwen and Ding Ning - the hope for a new crop of table tennis talent remains as the quest for more medalling candidates is carried out at the Games in Xi'an.

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