21 Oct 2016

Initiated in the Tiszaújváros, an industrial town in northern Hungary in 2003; China’s Zhang Jike and Cao Zhen won the respective Boys’ Singles and Girls’ Singles titles at the inaugural ITTF World Cadet Challenge.

Both progressed to succeed at the very highest levels; arguably Zhang Jike is the more famous having won both Olympic and World titles but also Cao Zhen has more than a claim to fame; she won the Mixed Doubles title at the consecutive World Championships.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

She won in 2009 in Yokohama before retaining the title in 2011 in Rotterdam when in harness with Zhang Chao.

However, that is not necessarily the reason why she has a special place in the annals of table tennis.

Notably, in 2003 in Johor Baru at the Malaysian Open, she won the first of her five ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles title; the significance of the achievement was not only was it the same year as she won the ITTF World Cadet Challenge, it was that she became the first player to win an ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles title and start proceedings in the group qualification stage.

It was not until 2010, when Korea’s Lee Sangsu won in Slovenia that a male player matched the feat.

Players at this year’s ITTF World Cadet Challenge may dream of matching Zhang Jike and Cao Zhen; who knows there may be a player who will progress to secure Olympic and World medals but there is no player who before the end of December will win an ITTF World Tour title.

Expert coaches are present; the chance to learn is present in abundance.

“We are very fortunate to have Chen Bin, the coach of Ding Ning, the Olympic Champion as the head coach here.” Glenn Tepper, ITTF Deputy Chief Executive Officer

Everybody wants to win and the intelligent want to learn. It is the very essence of the occasion in Shanghai but there is more to the ITTF World Cadet Challenge than it being just another sporting occasion.

It is an educational experience; it brings together young people from the four corners of the world; from different cultures, from different ethnic backgrounds. It endorses the fact people are people, whether from north, south, east, west or somewhere in between.

At the ITTF World Cadet Challenge, Peace and sport, founded in 2007 by Joël Bouzou, a Modern Pentathlon Olympic Medallist and World Champion, is in action; it upholds the best Olympic principles without being an Olympic event.

“The World Cadet Challenge is one of the ITTF staff’s favourite events because it combines education, training and competition as well as teaching young players how to work together and co-oporate with people of different cultures and languages. The training camp that started today is one of the most important parts of that, and not only do the players have to learn to cooperate with players from their own continent with different languages and culture, during the training camp, every team will practise one session with every other team, so this is a great chance to mix with many different other players’ cultures.” Glenn Tepper, ITTF Deputy Chief Executive Officer

Young people gain an understanding of the common good; also they learn a self-discipline; that of striving to do something and do that something well. It all combines to make a better person; someone who is of value to society.

In Shanghai, is there a Zhang Jike or Cao Zhen present? Maybe not but one fact is certain there are young people present who are better for the experience, better for the ITTF World Cadet Challenge.


World Cadet Challenge