Anger at table tennis trio's no-show

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, June 26, 2017
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The world governing body of table tennis said yesterday that "all potential sanctions are on the table" in relation to three Chinese players who forfeited their matches at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Platinum China Open on Friday.

The International Table Tennis Federation said it was "taking this matter extremely seriously."

"Right now, all potential sanctions are on the table, and the ITTF will continue its investigation before any decisions are made," it said.

Ma Long, Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin, the world's top-three players, failed to turn up on Friday night in the southwestern city of Chengdu. World No. 4 Zhang Jike quit the competition the day before due to a waist injury.

The ITTF said it had received a preliminary statement from the Chinese Table Tennis Association and a public apology from the Chinese team and was waiting for a detailed report from the Chinese body and from ITTF officials on site outlining in more detail why the three players failed to turn up.

In a public apology issued on Saturday, the national team said the players forfeited their matches "on impulse without fully understanding the details of the modifications that will be made to the management of the team.

"We have deeply realized the seriousness of this fault, resulting in ... damaging the team's positive social image of upholding patriotism, collectivism, and striving to fight for the glory of the country."

Their no-show prompted China's top sports authority to order an investigation and reprimand the players, saying they had "ignored national honor and interests" and "disrespected the public."

Ahead of Friday's competition, the three players and their coaches Qin Zhijian and Ma Lin posted identical messages on social media accounts saying they "don't feel like playing" because they missed their former coach Liu Guoliang. Last Tuesday, Grand Slam champion-turned coach Liu was named vice president of the CTTA and was no longer chief coach.

In a plan unveiled the same day, the CTTA abolished the positions of chief coach and head coaches in the Chinese team, and will instead set up two coaching teams for men and women players.

Last month, Kong Linghui was replaced as head of the women's table tennis team following a gambling debt scandal.

The CTTA released a statement defending the changes, saying they aimed to "strengthen the team structure, reduce the level of management hierarchy, and improve the efficiency of the preparation for the Olympic Games."

A CTTA spokesman said: "These reforms will better prepare the Chinese team for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo."

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