by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin and Zhang Jike, the top four names on the current Men’s World Rankings, form the vanguard of the outfit for the Men’s Team event; Cui Qinglei, the runner up in the Boys’ Singles event at the 2007 Asian Junior Championships, completes the selection.
He is the player with the task of proving that he is worthy of lining up alongside such exalted names; his best to date on the ITTF World Tour being a second round Men’s Singles exit in 2013 in Russia, when beaten by Japan’s Masato Shiono.
However, his name does not appear in the Men’s Singles entries. Lin Gaoyuan joins the famous four. Likewise Lin Gaoyuan is on Men’s Doubles duty, he partners Fan Zhendong; Fang Bo allies with Zhou Yu.
Similarly, the selection for the Women’s Team and Women’s Singles events could hardly be stronger. The same names appear on both entry lists: Ding Ning, Liu Shiwen, Zhu Yuling, Chen Meng and Wu Yang.
However, there additional names for the Women’s Doubles; Chen Ke and Wang Manyu combine, Chen Meng and Zhu Yuling form the one further partnership. Fang Bo and Wang Manyu, alongside Zhou Yu and Chen Xingtong comprise the Mixed Doubles combinations.
Repeating the success of two years ago in Pattaya is one goal. On that occasion, Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin and Zhang Jike formed the Chinese Men’s Team; Ding Ning, Zhu Yuling, Chen Meng and Mu Zi were the players from which the Women’s Team selected.
Furthermore, maintaining the long tradition of success is high on the menu; since the first Asian Championships, under the auspices of the Asian Table Tennis Union were staged in Beijing in 1972, the record is quite awesome. The Chinese Men’s Team has emerged successful at no less than 20 of those meetings; for the Chinese Women’s Team it is rather less, 16 titles.
The lowest step for the Chinese Men’s Team is the second step; in 1972, Xi Enting, Liang Geliang, Tiao Wen Yuan, Wang Wen Jung and Yu Yitse had to settle for runners up spot. Later in 1996 in Kallang, it was the same outcome a squad that possessed some rather illustrious names. Kong Linghui, Liu Guoliang and Ma Lin, alongside Li Jing and Guo Keli had to settle for the silver medal.
Meanwhile, for the Chinese Women’s Team, the low points were in 1988 in Niigata, 1990 in Kuala Lumpur and more recently in 2005 in Jeju when bronze was the colour of the medal.
In 1988 the third step of the podium was the lot of Dai Lili, Jiao Zhimin and He Zhili; two years later the same fate befell Hu Hiaozin, Jing Jun Hong, Liu Wei and Qiao Hong. In 2005, it was a likewise outcome for Guo Yan, Guo Yue, Li Xiaoxia, Liu Shiwen and Niu Jianfeng.
Overall, at the Asian Championships, China’s record reads 115 gold, 71 silver and 98.5 bronze; the reason for the half bronze medal is that in 1998 in Osaka, Wang Hui partnered Hong Kong’s Wong Ching, the duo reached the semi-finals.
Quite staggeringly, the fact that the most disappointing result for China in the history of the Asian Championships is third place, underlines their incredible quality.
Will it be third place again in Wuxi? No! China is taking no chances. I give you odds of 500 to 1.