Why China’s Dominance in Table Tennis is Unmatched at the Olympics | Land of Legends


(CHINA TOPPED EVERY TABLE
TENNIS MEDAL TALLY (AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES
SINCE THE SPORT (MADE ITS OLYMPIC DEBUT
IN SEOUL, 1988) (TEAM CHINA HAS SINCE WON 28
OUT OF THE 32 (OLYMPIC TABLE TENNIS GOLD
MEDALS ON OFFER) (THEIR CLOSES RIVAL,
SOUTH KOREA, HAS WON (A TOTAL OF 18 OLYMPIC MEDALS
IN TABLE TENNIS) (WHILE CHINA HAS 53) (28 GOLD) (17 SILVER) (8 BRONZE) There are 300 million people
playing table tennis, and in China,
80 million people playing table tennis
at the moment. Nearly one-third of the table
tennis population worldwide is from China. I believe that in the
case of table tennis, the talent pool in China
is massive. There is also a sophisticated
talent identification system in place to spot top talent
at a very young age. Let me give you an example. In Beijing alone, there is a year-long
table tennis tournament called the Harmony Cup. This tournament begins
in January every year. A total of 2.8 million players
take part in this tournament. The tournament organisers
even applied for a Guinness World Record
five years ago. Mass participation
provides the sport with an excellent
infrastructure to organically unearth
top talent. The highly competitive
environment also further offers a natural selection of
the finest players. At the moment, there are 20,000 competitive
young players in China. (CHINA TABLE TENNIS COLLEGE,
SHANGHAI) (THE ONLY COLLEGE WORLDWIDE
DEDICATED SOLELY TO (THE PURSUIT AND STUDY OF
TABLE TENNIS) To be great at table tennis,
one has to start young, at about five or six years old My mother had asked me what
I was interested in learning. My first response was
table tennis. When I was three, my grandma gave me a
very small table tennis racket. She held my hand and taught me
to hold the racket. By first grade, I knew I wanted
to be a table tennis player. I have a coach who
is from my hometown. My hometown is in Changshu,
Jiangsu province. Once when he was
visiting home, he saw me playing table tennis
and saw the potential in me. So he transferred me to
this training centre. I am currently training at the
China Table Tennis College. My dream is to become
a world champion and an Olympic champion
as well. (THE SYSTEM FOR SELECTING YOUNG
TALENT (IS THE WHOLE NATION SPORT
SYSTEM, (A MULTI-TIERED GOVERNMENT
BUREAUCRACY (THAT EXTENDS FROM CHINA’S
MAJOR CITIES (DOWN TO THE MOST REMOTE
VILLAGES. (ITS PRIMARY GOAL IS TO
IDENTIFY YOUNG TALENT (LIKE YIN TIANYUE AND PRODUCE
WORLD CHAMPIONS) Table tennis has
benefited the most from the state sports system. The Chinese table tennis team has three levels of
training system. The first level is
the sports school. The second level is
the provincial team. The last level is
the national team. A table tennis phenom does
not appear out of nowhere. It takes a step-by-step
nurturing process to gradually shape them
for their success. A unique characteristic of the
Chinese table tennis system is the multitude of athletes
the association oversees. From amateur sports schools, to provincial teams,
to national teams and the national A-team and
those who eventually qualify for the Olympic Games and
World Championships. It is a highly integrated
pathway to success for anyone capable of
progressing from the amateur to elite level. This is a wonderful system. From the International
Table Tennis Federation, to table tennis enthusiasts
around the world, China remains the innovation
hub for the sport. The amount of innovation
capital is the highest. From equipment innovation, to inventing new
techniques and tactics, we are at the forefront. So for us to be able to reach
the top of this sport and to have remained
as a leader of the sport for so many years, the spirit of innovation is
our ultimate secret weapon. Near 2000, we have
statistics that show 61% of the worldwide
table tennis innovation, techniques and tactics
are from China. We have never stopped
innovating. And we are constantly
pushing boundaries, and to avoid staying
in our comfort zones. The spirit of innovation is
core to our training culture, we are always thinking and
advocating innovation. Many years ago, the main table
tennis techniques in the world were the pen-hold technique
or chopping technique. Those were once special
techniques and remained dominant
for a while. The champions would play
with those techniques, and players who picked up
those techniques were simply superior.
However, in men’s singles, the pen-hold technique
actually evolved. Chinese players like
Wang Hao and Ma Lin had actively reinvented
the technique. They may have never achieved
what they have without evolving. But because of their relentless
spirit of innovation, they are able to remain
at the top of the sport. In recent times, the most common technique
is the pen-hold technique. I was the first player to use the reverse pen-hold
backhand technique at international table
tennis tournaments. Still, that was
just a beginning. Later on, Ma Lin and Wang Hao, especially Wang Hao,
perfected it into an advanced technique. In the early days, players like Jiang Jialiang,
who couldn’t execute the pen-hold backhand
attack technique, would have a relatively passive
approach in their game. I was a pioneer when the
technique was invented, and Wang Hao’s
generation perfected it. Our continual success relies on the generational efforts
in innovation. Regarding the future of
Chinese table tennis, I’m not concerned
about the results. I’m more concerned about its popularity
amongst the youth, as well as the worldwide
promotion of the game. This is a more pressing
problem. We have already
recognised this crisis, and so we have been
actively promoting table tennis throughout the country,
as well as other continents including Africa, North
and South America. We also send
athletes and coaches for sparring and training. Our hope is that table tennis
can captivate and appeal to the younger
generations. What is the most important
for such country with the superiority
in one sport? We have to have an open
mind to this sport. We cannot close the door into our home, to covet players to do ourselves and then you control the world. That is bad. We would like produce
a kind of a world centre of the table tennis in China. We would like to
attract more and more the world elite players
coming to China. I very much prefer this spirit of a National
Basketball Association, to attract most of the
elite basketball players into the United States. After experiencing this
association activity at NBA, they will improve automatically and then they will return, like Spanish basketball
players, like Brazilian
basketball players, like Argentine
basketball players, back to their countries, representing their country,
their association to play in Olympic Games. In order for China
to be genuinely integrated with the world, China needs to bring its
outstanding players, coaches, and the successful table
tennis culture and other ingredients of success and share them with the world. Otherwise, the rest
of the world will continue to lag behind
in the resources needed to successfully
compete against China.

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