28 May 2017

Two years ago in Suzhou, Fang Bo emerged the player to raise the eyebrows; very much contrary to expectations he reached the final of the Men’s Singles, eventually losing to Ma Long, a player with a very similarly style, powerful forehand top spin rallies from the two right handers enthralled the crowds and those watching on television screens.

Now, at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships, which commence in Düsseldorf on Monday 29th May, is there a player on duty who could emulate the performance of Fang Bo and conclude matters with a place on the podium?

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Note the name Lin Gaoyuan; he could well prove the star of the whole tournament, nobody is safe against the 22 year old.

Left handed, quicksilver, he is very different from Fang Bo; of the members of the Chinese national team who have gone before, I would suggest the nearest in style is that of Chen Qi but is Lin Gaoyuan capable of even more than his illustrious forerunner achieved?

Chen Qi and Ma Lin formed a Men’s Doubles partnership of the very highest order; Olympic and World champions but if you watch closely the hand skills of Lin Gaoyuan is he not better in that department than his predecessor?

A most talented young man and perhaps having tasted the bitter pill of defeat in a world final on three occasions; there is an extra motivation?

We first saw Lin Gaoyuan as a 14 year old at the 2009 World Junior Championships in Cartagena de Indias; he was beaten at the semi-final stage of the Boys’ Singles event by the champion elect, Fang Bo. In each of the following three years he reached the title deciding match but had to settle for runners up spot.

In 2010 in Bratislava he was beaten by colleague, Song Hongyuan, the following year in Bahrain by Japan’s Koki Niwa before in 2012 in Hyderabad he lost to Fan Zhendong.

Three defeats at the final hurdle but there was one win in that period; at the KAL Cup 2010 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, he won the Under 21 Men’s Singles event overcoming Korea’s Seo Hyondeok in the title decider.

However, more relevant is his form this year after what has been somewhat of an absence from the international scene; his lot being to help prepare colleagues for such prestigious events at the Olympic Games.

At the Seamaster 2017 Hungarian Open, notably he beat Frenchman Simon Gauzy and Korea’s Joo Saehyuk prior to losing to colleague, Shang Kun. Later at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF-Asian Championships in Wuxi he impressed; in the fourth round he accounted for Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting before being beaten narrowly in the quarter-finals when opposing Zhang Jike.

Most certainly, he was the equal of Zhang Jike; whatever the seeding or World ranking may read, that is his level.

Also, we can throw one other factor into the boiling pot; quite simply pride.

No member of the Chinese team will want to lose to an adversary from foreign shores; Lin Gaoyuan will be determined he maintains his country’s honour and if he beats one of his highly rated colleagues, don’t be surprised.

A place on the Men’s Singles medal podium; equally don’t be surprised.

Liebherr 2017 World Championships Lin Gaoyuan

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