Tuesday, August 31, 2010

China took S'pore's challenge 'too lightly'

Aug 31, 2010

By Lin Xinyi

CHINA underestimated the threat Singapore posed at the World Table Tennis Championships in Moscow last May.

The admission came from no less than the head of its table tennis association, Cai Zhenhua.
'I think there was an element of underestimation,' he told The Straits Times last week on the sidelines of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG), where he was China's chef de mission.

'But the loss might not be a bad result for future tournaments like the 2012 Olympics. It'll help to prevent the events of Moscow from happening again.'

The Singapore women's team led by Feng Tianwei stunned China 3-1 in the Russian capital - a result that denied the 17-time world champions a ninth consecutive title.

Cai, who planned to contain China's dominance after being elected as the Asian Table Tennis Union president last year because it was hurting the sport, admitted that he was still shocked by the result.

'I can't deny that it was a surprise,' said the former world champion. 'But Singapore did not become sudden champions either. Both teams have been at it the past few years.

'Even though China won 3-0 in the final of the Beijing Olympics, there were nervous moments.'
Despite drawing some flak from the Chinese media for helping to develop the sport globally - an aim that has been dubbed the 'wolf-rearing plan' - Cai said the Chinese Table Tennis Association will continue to promote the sport globally.

[Interesting that he considers the sport more important that national pride. Good for him!]

'Our aim is two-fold,' he said of the invitation for teams to train and compete in China. 'We want to popularise the sport so the whole world can enjoy it, and we hope to raise the standard so that the matches are more attractive.'

Having watched the YOG paddlers in action, Cai added that the new generation will provide China, who won the girls' singles gold and a mixed team bronze in the inaugural Games, with competition.

He singled out Japan as a team that have what it takes to be a world powerhouse. Japan's Koki Niwa, 15, was the star of the YOG table tennis competition - he was undefeated in the boys' singles and mixed-team events.

Cai also praised Singapore's Isabelle Li, the girls' singles silver medallist, although he cautioned that all youth paddlers are far from the finished product.

'Even if you're good at a young age, it doesn't mean you'll be successful at the senior level,' he said.

'The road ahead is still very long.'

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