Fri | Dec 2, 2022

Is the world closing in on China in table tennis?

Published:Sunday | October 2, 2022 | 12:07 AMHubert Lawrence - Gleaner Writer
Ma Long
Ma Long

HOSTS CHINA started the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Chengdu in style with two big wins and are expected to continue their long-running dominance of the sport. However, with Sweden making inroads at the last two individual World...

HOSTS CHINA started the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Chengdu in style with two big wins and are expected to continue their long-running dominance of the sport. However, with Sweden making inroads at the last two individual World Championships, some observers think the rest of the world is catching up.

That group doesn’t include two-time Jamaica champion Peter Moo Young. “I think the Chinese team is as dominant as ever, perhaps even more so. There are probably eight Chinese who could probably make a world top 10 right now,” Moo Young said emphatically.

The China team is led by two-time Olympic champion Ma Long, world number-one Fan Zhendong and Liang JiangKun. With Ma and Fan on duty, China swept Puerto Rico 3-0.

Germany, perennial European champions, are resting eight-time continental champion Timo Boll, two-time Olympic bronze medallist Dimitrij Ovtcharov and backhand piledriver Patrick Franziska. The German squad does have 2022 European champion Qiu Dang, whose Chinese father was a fine player.

“I would have been salivating at the prospect of a German team with their three strong-on-paper players along with Franziska and perhaps the chopper Ruwen Filius,” Moo Young grumbled.

Franziska has a recent victory over Ma and Filius recently beat Olympic fourth-place finisher Lin Yun-Ju of Chinese Taipei.

Lin has beaten Ma and Fan in the past, but Moo Young cautioned, “He lost to Ovtcharov for the bronze medal and, since then, he hasn’t been as dominant or as threatening to the Chinese as he used to be.”

STRONG ON PAPER

Sweden is the last country other than China to win the event, and Moo Young says the 2000 World champions are strong on paper, with Mattias Falck and the enigmatic Truls Moregardh reaching the 2019 and 2021 World singles finals, respectively.

In addition, Karlsson won the World doubles title with Falch and beat Ovtcharov en route to the semis of the recent European Championships.

“The Sweden team is, on paper, strong,” he evaluated, “but I consider Truls unreliable and therefore I think it will be easy pickings for China.”

Ma overcame Falck in the 2019 final and Fan took Moregardh last year.

Though France has the promising Lebrun brothers, Alexis and Felix, 2019 World semi-finalist Simon Gauzy won’t be in Chengdu. “If Simon Gauzy is not playing, that makes France that much weaker”, Moo Young warned.

He believes China’s women are unassailable. “It will be a walk-through. China has 5 of the top 6 women in the world,” he surmised.

With both Olympic champion Chen Meng and world champion Wang Manyu on duty, the hosts cruised past Canada 3-0.

The only Caribbean team in Chengdu is Puerto Rico.

“Congrats to Puerto Rico for having invested in the game. I went to Puerto Rico 15 years ago and saw these little kids playing, only to hear that they are now world stars, Bryan Afanador and Adriana Diaz. Afanador is playing top-50 table tennis and Adriana is playing top-20 table tennis. So that’s great,” the Jamaican said praising.