By Henry Chen
“You do not play for yourself anymore”, Xiao Zhan.
Zhang Jike now enjoys a much higher degree of popularity after the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, despite not completing a successful defence of his 2012 Olympic title.
He has aroused interest by appearing on television programmes and other forms of media; this has of course affected his play, having less time for competition and training.
Notably, his most recent competition was the 2016 ITTF World Tour SheSays China Open held September of this year. He reached the penultimate stage where he lost to the 2016 Olympic champion Ma Long in a full distance match.
Despite the loss, Xiao Zhan was pleased to see his player participating in the competition; for the coach, there is already a different reason why Zhang Jike is competing in the arena. It is all for table tennis.
“Zhang Jike’s battle nowadays is not anymore for his own achievement. It is also not for a Double Grand Slam. He will be playing for the overall development of the sport of table tennis. He wants to do something for the sport in China; this is the current value of anything that Zhang Jike is doing right now.” Xiao Zhan explained.
The recent developments of Zhang Jike’s athletic career led to some speculations that he maybe entering the entertainment business; this was clarified by Zhang Jike himself, saying that he will always be passionate towards table tennis.
Meanwhile, for the next Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo, Japan, Xiao Zhan wants to take things one at a time. He believes that adhering to another four years of tough competition and training could be a bit hard for Zhang Jike.
“We need to take it one year at a time. We still need to see how Zhang Jike will perform next year”, Xiao Zhan.