Liu Shiwen Olympic Injury Withdrawal Prompts Speculation

Liu Shiwen has withdrawn from the team event of the Tokyo Olympics due to her lingering elbow injury and will be replaced by Wang Manyu. The timing, right after a mixed doubles loss, has prompted speculation among the top comments on WTT’s Instagram post that the withdrawal was due to either China or Liu’s lack of confidence in Liu, and that the injury was merely an excuse.

An informal Instagram poll (consisting of almost 200 people) overwhelmingly supported the idea that Liu’s withdrawal was not related to her elbow injury.

However, while the timing is suspicious, there is no rigorous evidence that the withdrawal was not due to the stated reason of an elbow injury, which indeed has been bothering Liu for roughly a year now. Certain netizens were quick to point this out:

This is not the only table tennis “conspiracy theory” involving Liu to emerge during the Olympics. Another comment further on the WTT post was a Chinese fan complaining about perceived cheating or poor sportsmanship by the Japanese mixed doubles team when they won gold.

The allegation of cheating or poor sportsmanship that Chinese fans are making appears to be largely based on two ideas. One is that the small court size was intentionally done by Japan to hamper Xu Xin’s playing style. The second is that Mima Ito blew on the ball before the point (with the implication that she was trying to cheat), and that umpires intentionally ignored it to benefit Japan.

The second allegation appears to be quite shaky as it fails to mention several things. First of all, Xu and Liu did not appear to even complain about Ito blowing on the ball to the umpire. Second, blowing on the ball was made illegal due to COVID restrictions, not due to unfair competitive advantage, and is quite common during a match during non-COVID times. Even during COVID, Timo Boll was seen blowing all over a ball during the European Championships earlier this summer, and Anton Källberg did not mind at all:

An earlier Instagram poll (roughly a couple hundred participants) also voted along similar margins that they do not believe the allegations of Japan “rigging” the Olympics.

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