Medal hopes for rivals of table tennis powerhouse China

World number one Zhang Jike leads China's table tennis juggernaut at the London Olympics but a medals clean sweep is out of reach due to new rules that give rivals a share of the glory.

The Chinese achieved table tennis perfection at the 2008 Games in Beijing, sweeping both singles podiums and winning the team titles -- fuelling fears that their iron grip was damaging interest in the sport.

Since table tennis joined the Olympic programme in 1988, China have taken 20 of the 24 available golds, including all four at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.

And the sport's top administrator said this week in London that the "devastating" Chinese had widened the gap still further since Beijing.

"The current situation is actually worse than in Beijing -- worse in the sense that the difference in technical level between the Chinese and the rest of the world has grown even further," said International Table Tennis Federation president Adham Sharara.

"This is good for the Chinese, but devastating for the rest," he added. "The Chinese are expected to win everything, so even within China the public is crying for a meaningful foreign challenge. This is not on the immediate horizon."

His comments follow a warning from veteran Hungarian player Krisztina Toth that the Olympic tournament risked being a "boring" spectacle because of Asian dominance.

China's power -- demonstrated yet again by their men's and women's titles at the world team championships in Germany this year -- has long led to concerns over the sport's public appeal.

But in London there will be at least two non-Chinese paddlers on the singles podiums, after each country was limited to just two entrants. There are also men's and women's team events at the ExCel venue in London's Docklands.

China boasts the world's top four men and top four women. Aside from Zhang, Wang Hao took silver in the men's singles in 2008 and in Athens in 2004 and gold in the Beijing team event.

China's strength in depth is so impressive that three-time Olympic gold medallist Ma Lin, the reigning singles champion, misses out.

Zhang is chasing his own milestone -- a "grand slam" of titles after winning the world cup and world championship crowns last year -- with team-mate Wang his main rival.

Among the players most likely to challenge the Chinese men are Japan's Jun Mizutani, Germany's Timo Boll and Michael Maze of Denmark. Mizutani, seeded third, has risen to a career high of number five in the world rankings.

European champion Boll, 31, has competed at every Olympics since Sydney 2000 and is the only non-Asian in the men's or women's world top 10s.

In the women's tournament, Ding Ning, who like Zhang won last year's world championships and world cup, almost missed out on the Games when she failed to gain one of two automatic qualification places available.

But the withdrawal of Guo Yan through injury opened the door to London.

The main challengers to Ding and her team-mate Li Xiaoxia will be South Korea's Kim Kyung-Ah and Kazumi Ishikawa of Japan.

In the team competition, Singapore and Japan will be eyeing an upset.

Since 1988 there have been only four non-Chinese golds -- three for South Korea and one for Sweden's Jan-Ove Waldner, who won the men's singles in 1992 and remains the only non-Asian gold medallist.

There will be other nations on the podium in the the singles competitions in London -- but red will be the dominant colour.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • United States seeks access to Philippine bases as part of Asia pivot
    United States seeks access to Philippine bases as part of Asia pivot

    The United States has asked for access to Philippine military bases in eight locations to rotate troops, aircraft, and ships as Washington shifts its forces to Asia and as China expands its military presence in the South China Sea. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a speech in Arizona, has outlined Washington's next phase in its Asia "pivot", deploying its most sophisticated destroyers, bombers and fighters to the region. The Asia "pivot" has already seen U.S. Marines rotating through the …

  • China's island-building to loom large at SE Asia summit
    China's island-building to loom large at SE Asia summit

    China's creation of new island footholds in contested seas will hover over a Southeast Asian summit that has become an annual test of the region's nerve in standing up to its massive neighbour. The South China Sea hot potato drops this year into Malaysia's lap as the rotating chair of the 10 member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and host of Monday's meeting. ASEAN states Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the strategic South China Sea, but Beijing …

  • Philippines, China trade accusations over sea threats

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines accused China of aggressive maneuvers against its reconnaissance plane and fishermen in disputed seas where Beijing has stepped up construction of artificial islands, but China reiterated its claim on the strategic waterways. …

  • Indonesia orders execution of Mary Jane, 9 others
    Indonesia orders execution of Mary Jane, 9 others

    Indonesia has ordered preparations for the execution of 10 drug convicts, including Filipina Mary Jane Veloso, as the Philippine government filed yesterday a second appeal for judicial review of the case to save the maid from death by firing squad. The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) of Indonesia released an official letter dated April 23, instructing prosecutors to prepare for the execution of 10 convicts, the Jakarta Post reported yesterday. The execution would be conducted after the …

  • Noy to visit Canada, Japan
    Noy to visit Canada, Japan

    President Aquino will embark on a state visit to Canada in May and Japan in June to meet with his counterparts and promote Philippine interests. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino accepted the invitation from Canadian Governor General David Johnston to make a state visit to Canada from May 7 to 9. Tied to this trip is the President’s one-day working visit to the United States to meet with potential investors and with the local Filipino community in Chicago, Valte …

  • Business groups back K to 12 program
    Business groups back K to 12 program

    The government’s K to 12 program adding two more years to basic education received support from various business groups yesterday. However, they urged relevant government agencies to deal with issues regarding the implementation of Republic Act 10533, the Enhanced Basic Education Act or K-12 Law. In a statement, business groups led by the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) said RA 10533 is a milestone piece of legislation that intends to bring the Philippines up to par with the rest of …

  • Happiest nations: Phl ranks 90th
    Happiest nations: Phl ranks 90th

    Switzerland is the happiest country in the world, while the Philippines placed 90th, according to a global ranking of happiness unveiled in New York on Thursday. Switzerland was followed closely by Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada. The 2015 World Happiness Report is the third annual report seeking to quantify happiness as a means of influencing government policy. The United Nations published the first study in 2012. …

  • Asean leaders want binding sea code with China
    Asean leaders want binding sea code with China

    Southeast Asian leaders will seek to speed up plans for a binding code of conduct with China governing behavior in the disputed South China Sea at a summit next week, Malaysia’s foreign minister said Friday. Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said a massive flow of Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to neighboring countries will also be discussed at the two-day summit of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which starts Monday. Anifah said leaders are expected to raise concerns …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options