by Wade Townsend
The gala is considered the most prestigious awards night on the calendar for Chinese athletes. The grand-slam champion was able to see off a tough field of athletes for the prize. The Best Male Athlete of the Year category was comprised of five athletes, all of whom were gold medallists at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Nominated but unsuccessful in 2015, Ma Long is the first table tennis player to be awarded Best Male Athlete of the Year in the fifteen years in which the event has been held. His win also marked an end to a seven year drought in which table tennis was unable to win at the annual awards night.
“Table tennis players have not won any kind of awards in this event for the last seven years. Today I am very honoured and very lucky to win it!” Ma Long
Ma Long was gracious accepting the award, thanking his fanbase and attributing his success to their support.
“Fans always say that I give them courage and power, but actually it is them who give me support and encouragement when I meet difficulties.” Ma Long
Also nominated were Ding Ning for Best Female Athlete of the Year, Liu Guoliang for Best Coach of the Year, and the Chinese National Team for Best Team of the Year, however all lost out to members of the national volleyball team. Volleyball dominated the awards night, taking home four of the eleven awards on offer.