Ni Xialian ready for the challenge
Photo By: Adel Hakouz
2012 Olympic Games
World Championships gold medallist five years before table tennis made its first appearance in the Olympic Games, Luxembourg’s Ni Xialian is very much the voice of experience in the Women’s Singles event at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
She enters proceedings in round two of proceedings and faces the winner of the contest between Mexico’s Yadira Silva and Ariel Hsing of the United States.
It will be for either of the Pan Americans a tough task against the player who lined up alongside Cao Yanhua, Geng Lijuan and Tong Ling to secure the top prize in the Women’s Team event at the 1983 Tokyo World Championships.
Still High Level
Incredibly, 30 years later, Ni Xialian is still a player of world quality.
She possessed a style of play that is no longer favoured amongst coaches; pen-hold grip, close to the table, blocking, creating angles and mesmerising her opponent by using short pimples on one side of the racket and long pimples on the other.
It was a style that saw her crowned European champion in 1998 in Eindhoven and four years later in 2002 in Zagreb.
However recently she changed the short pimples to reversed rubber.
"Changing is a big challenge but it is fun for me”, said Ni Xialian. "My aim is to make it difficult for my opponents, I want to make it difficult; if If they feel it is difficult then I succeed."
A change in playing style and a change in lifestyle.
Mum’s the Word
"I'm a happy mum!", smiled Ni Xialian. “I have two children and my husband fully supports me, my Luxembourg National Olympic Committee, the Luxembourg Table Tennis Federation and the whole country supports me."
Husband and Coach
Good support and there is good support from home; her husband is Tommy Danielsson. Not only is he husband, he is also coach and like his wife, highly knowledgeable.
He represented Sweden at the World Championships in Pyongyang in 1979 and in Novi Sad in 1981 before moving to Australia who he represented six years later in New Delhi.
“We co-operate very well, it is convenient, it is a very good combination", continued Ni Xialian. “Our Federation sees the advantage and we are serious. I think it is the best combination we can have."
An opening contest against either Ariel Hsing or Yadira Silva ; with the winner facing China’s Li Xiaoxia, the no.2 seed, in the third round.
It is a challenge that Ni Xialian relishes.
"I am happy, I have this opportunity, it is a great opportunity; I want to see how far I can go and she is also not certain to beat me I respect her", continued Ni Xialian. "Last year at the Austrian Open, I beat Wu Yang, at the time she was no.9 on the World Ranking ; that was only one month after I changed from the short pimples to the reversed rubber on my forehand."
A fine win but matters must be put into perspective.
Wu Yang is a defender, a very good defender; Li Xiaoxia is an attacking player ; Ni Xialian is very potent against defence and she has more time to play.
Unless the magnitude of the occasion affect Li Xiaoxia, I fear there is only one result.
No Hint of Retirement
Nevertheless, Ni Xialian is positive and such an approach is vital if you are to succeed ; equally retirement does not seem an option.
"I never put myself in such a position to decide when to stop playing ; I am very happy, for me it is most important to take part, enjoy and promote table tennis and see my friends", said Ni Xialian. "To be part of the Olympics is a wonderful thing, I am very lucky."
Wonderful and it seems we may also see her four years hence in Rio de Janeiro?
"It is still very important for me to improve myself, I can always learn and still have space to grow; that makes it interesting, fun and a challenge", added Ni Xialian. "I have the motivation and the head; the technique is always there because I had very hard training in China when I was young."
However, the preparation for the London 2012 Olympic Games has not been as smooth
"I was injured for five months, with my knee but now I'm fine", concluded Ni Xialian. "Now this knee strapping is only for protection and so I don't get injured anymore ; it makes me feel more secure."
Ni Xialian may feel secure but for her adversaries not so; her security may be make them feel very insecure, very insecure indeed.