by Wade Townsend
China’s biggest social media celebrities stepped out of the digital world and in to the glitz and glamour of the evening, hoping to claim titles such as “Biggest Topics of the Year”, “Hottest Weibo Person of the Year’ and “Weibo King and Queen”.
Now in its thirteenth year, Sina’s Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging website, hosted the evening and broadcast the event live online.
China’s national table tennis team was well represented on the night.
The spotlight was on Zhang Jike as he was announced as one of the most influential people of the year on Weibo. This should come as no surprise as Zhang Jike’s followers boomed in 2016, more than tripling to three million in a matter of days as he became a trending topic during the Rio Olympic Games.
Talking to media during the awards night, the Chinese athletes were keenly focused on 2017 and beyond.
Zhang Jike is looking to put the injuries of 2016 behind him as this year’s tournament schedule commences.
“My recovery situation is good. It is not to say that I will recover 100 percent, I am trying to get back to the status before my injury. I am an athlete. My favourite place is the competition field. I plan to go back to the big game in May; the World Championships.” Zhang Jike
After completing his grand-slam in 2016, Ma Long knows that he is looking at a tough road ahead.
“Going to Tokyo Olympics will not be easy. Nowadays, all the players aim to beat me, and see that as an achievement. Therefore, I know the next four years is going to be more difficult than the previous four. Nonetheless, I hope to work hard to qualify to play in Tokyo.” Ma Long
The hot topic for national coach Liu Guoliang was about his two star players. Both Ma Long and Xu Xin have made clear their hope of representing China at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. The statistic for them to overcome is that no Chinese table tennis player has gone to the Olympics after the age of thirty.
But Liu Guoliang doesn’t seem to think age is an issue.
“They have to explore their own space, dig their potential. They have to make progress to be the best.” Liu Guoliang