Chinese National Team coaches Li Sun and Qin Zhijian recently outlined their plans for the second half of 2021 as they keep an eye out for the 2024 Paris Olympics. In particular, they are looking for young players to fill the void that will be left by Xu Xin and Ma Long when they likely retire or decline before the next Olympics. Although the women’s team is relatively younger, Li still hopes there will be new younger players to push and challenge them during the China National Games and Super League this year. The coaches also explained their decision to withdraw from the Asian Championships as a result of a combination of the pandemic, the weak competition, and the lack of stakes involved.
A translation of a full media report is provided below.
The Chinese Table Tennis Association recently announced that it will not participate in the Asian Championships to be started in Qatar at the end of September. Both the men’s and women’s team coaches Qin Zhijian and Li Yan said that the team’s key tasks in the second half of the year are the National Games, the Super League and the World Championships, with the World Championships being the top priority. They hope that more outstanding young players will emerge through the games and lay a solid foundation for preparing for the Paris Olympic cycle.
Xu Xin won three gold medals in the 2019 Asian Championships. Image source: ITTF official Weibo
The Asian Championships do more harm than good
From September 28th to October 5th, the 2021 Asian Championships will be held in Qatar. The coaching staff of the national table tennis team decided that the “catch the field” competition would do more harm than good, so they decided not to go as a team.
According to the national table tennis arrangement, the Tokyo Olympic Games players will return to the provincial team after the isolation period. After a short period of preparation, they will participate in the National Games table tennis competition in Xi’an from September 17th to 26th. The Asian Championships opened on September 28, and the time between the two matches was very short, and it was difficult for the national table tennis to arrive at the venue as scheduled.
At the same time, according to our national defense policy, if players participate in the Asian Championships, they will have to be quarantined for 21 to 28 days after returning home. This is very detrimental to the players’ maintenance, especially the progress and growth of young players. Qin Zhijian said that usually athletes need one or two months to recover after a long period of isolation. In addition, the level and antagonism of the Asian Championships are not as strong as those of the National Games.
In addition, the global epidemic situation is also an important reason why National Table Tennis decided to abandon the Asian Championships. Li Sun said frankly that the current risk of infection in international travel is still very high, and “safety first” should be ensured. Moreover, the main role of the Asian Championships is to win the “tickets” for the World Table Tennis Championships next year. As the host, China has already been shortlisted, so the impact of not participating in the competition is not significant.
Liu Shiwen won the women’s singles championship at the 2019 World Championships. Image source: ITTF official Weibo
The World Championship is the “ultimate goal”
According to Qin Zhijian, in addition to the National Games, the National Ping Pong will also participate in the Ping Pong Super League and individual World Championships in the second half of the year, and the latter is regarded as the “ultimate goal” of the team in the second half of the year. Abandoning the Asian Championships is also a decision made by the National Table Tennis Team after considering the overall rhythm of the second half of the year.
This year’s World Table Tennis Championships is scheduled to be held in Houston, USA from November 23 to 29. It is the most important task for the national table tennis team in the second half of the year. The World Table Tennis Championships are usually held in the spring of each year, and the current competition is postponed until the end of the year due to the epidemic, which poses a new challenge for the preparation of national table tennis. “After playing a big game like the Olympics, the athletes and coaches need to adjust their minds and bodies, and the entire team also needs to alternate between the old and the new. After the previous Olympics, there will be no major competitions in the second half of the year, so this kind of rhythmic team has never experienced it. “Qin Zhijian said.
Before the World Championships, China National Table Tennis is also facing two major domestic events, the National Games and the Table Tennis Super League. Qin Zhijian said that the 4-year National Games is the highest level event in the country, and all local teams attach great importance to it. The October league also carries the role of discovering rookies and laying the foundation for the new cycle. The two competitions are about to enter the closed preparations for the World Table Tennis Championships. Time is still very tight, so the arrangements need to be targeted.”
Li Sun also said that Guoping should focus on me and maintain its own rhythm. “You can’t play in every game. You must be focused.”
In the men’s singles final of the Tokyo Olympics, Ma Long defeated Fan Zhendong to defend his title. Image source: “Ping Pong World” magazine
I hope young people will show up
At the Tokyo Olympics, the Chinese women’s table tennis team realized a “reign change”. The three players who won gold medals in their first Olympic games are expected to play again in Paris; the men’s team has not yet completed the transition between the new and the old, and the two Rio Olympic cycle veterans who helped the team win the championship are still in battle. In the middle, Fan Zhendong still failed to pass the “big mountain” of Malone in the singles arena.
When talking about expectations for the second half of the year, Qin Zhijian said that he hopes that the men’s team will better complete the transition from new to old and lay a solid foundation for the next two Olympic cycles. “The Paris Olympic cycle is also very special, one year less than the previous one. So. I hope that through the National Games and the Table Tennis Super League, including preparations and competitions for the World Championships, more outstanding young players will emerge.”
Li Sun is not satisfied with the existing “golden lineup”. He said that healthy competition has always been the magic weapon for China’s ping pong ball. “The women’s team now has four Olympic champions, but I hope that in the second half of the year, Everyone can compete again, and more young athletes will challenge the four of them.”