by Simon Daish
Zhang Jike endured a year full of mixed emotions in 2016 with his title win at the 2016 Kuwait Open and a gold medal win in the Men’s Team event at Rio 2016 being two of the big standout moments for the Chinese competitor.
However, Zhang Jike was also left disappointed at times last year as he was restricted to a silver medal finish in the Men’s Singles at the 2016 Olympic Games following his straight games loss to fellow compatriot Ma Long in the final and, towards the back end of the year, Zhang Jike was forced to withdraw from the Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals due to injury problems.
Now coach Liu Guoliang has spoken about the 28-year-old player and, as Sina Sports reports, it looks as though Zhang Jike is back in training once again.
“He just had an injection before the Chinese New Year, and now he’s having normal training together with the rest of the team”, Liu Guoliang.
The 2016 Qatar Open doesn’t carry too many positive memories for Zhang Jike, after he suffered a surprise defeat to Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov to exit the Men’s Singles competition at the quarter-finals stage.
One year on and Zhang Jike will be hoping to enjoy a stronger performance at the 2017 Qatar Open, but Liu Guoliang has urged the player’s fans to keep their expectations under wraps and insists that the recovery process is still ongoing.
“He will be competing at the Qatar Open, firstly to find the feeling of competing, secondly for his world ranking to reappear. But I think we shouldn’t have too many expectations, he hasn’t competed for half a year, and his training was not systematic as well. Especially because his foot injury has not fully recovered yet”, Liu Guoliang.
The upcoming Qatar Open will be Zhang Jike and Ma Long’s first ITTF World Tour event of 2017. Neither one of the two players were involved in China’s recent national qualification event for the Liebherr 2017 World Championships, and Liu Guoliang believes that both of the Rio 2016 Men’s Singles finalists should concentrate on maintaining high fitness levels throughout the year ahead.
“… This time it’s ‘best of two games’, firstly to give the main team members more pressure, as there’s more unpredictability in the games in shorter matches. Secondly I was taking Ma Long and Zhang Jike’s injury risks into consideration as they grow older and last year’s qualifications event was really intense and pressurising. The main goal this year is for them to find back that feeling of playing in competitions”, Liu Guoliang.