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July 21, 2021

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China unhappy with small TT playing areas

China’s table tennis chief yesterday said the “smaller than usual” size of the playing areas may affect players’ performance and safety, in his latest complaints about the Tokyo Olympics.

China has won 28 of the 32 table tennis titles awarded at the Olympics, dominating a sport in a way that has rarely been matched.

But the lead-up to the pandemic-delayed Games has thrown up several challenges, from inconsistent form among China’s top players to new rules to stop the coronavirus spreading.

“The whole playing space is smaller than usual... world competitions normally have areas measuring seven by 14 meters... I just measured it at six by 11 meters,” Chinese Table Tennis Association president Liu Guoliang told state broadcaster CCTV. “I’m a little worried about the athletes’ running and safety. It’s quite different from before.”

Players on the team also voiced concerns.

“We have been noticing the size of the playing area throughout. Several side serves hit the screen board (at the side of the court) and we were slightly affected,” men’s player Xu Xin told CCTV.

The trending hashtag “Liu Guoliang uses his foot length to measure the Olympic venue” gained 250 million views on social media site Weibo.

Liu previously complained about what he viewed as the Tokyo Olympics’ excessive virus prevention measures which made the team’s preparations “extremely difficult.”

“We didn’t expect some epidemic rules like not wiping the game table with your hand, or blowing (on the ball),” he told CCTV last week.

Last week, the Chinese sailing team also complained of poor pandemic prevention measures at their hotel, saying competitors were forced to mix with other guests.

China’s six-member table tennis squad this year includes reigning Olympic champion Ma Long and world No. 1 Fan Zhendong in the men’s singles, while world champion Liu Shiwen will play the mixed doubles and women’s team events.

Fierce rival Japan is counting on home advantage and some notably strong players — raising fears that the Chinese team might not have it all its way in Tokyo.

Elsewhere, China’s women’s volleyball coach Jenny Lang Ping is not banking on a repeat performance of their gold medal win in 2016 as she attempts to lead her country to back-to-back Olympic success in Tokyo. Lang steered the Chinese to their first Olympic title in 12 years in Rio.

“We are not going to defend the title, we are here to fight hard for the title,” she told Xinhua news agency. “Things have changed a lot since the 2016 Rio Games and our opponents have improved a lot. We can take nothing for granted.”

China will also face Turkey, the United States, Russia, Italy and Argentina, with the top four teams in the group advancing to the quarterfinals.

“All the teams are going to do their best at the Olympic Games, we have to be fully prepared for all kinds of difficulties,” she said.


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