It was the dawn of a new Millennium, the year that George W. Bush was elected US President, that Russell Crowe starred in “Gladiator” and that Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe (or “Thorpedo”) took home five medals at the Sydney Olympics.
What you may not have known is that the year 2000 was also the last time that Hou Yingchao won gold at the China National Table Tennis Championships. He was aged 20 back then.
Having spent 15 years with the China National Team, Hou decided to retire from the setup in January 2013 and started to take part in leagues around Europe. Poland, Russia, France and Austria all formed part of his almost nomadic table tennis itinerary.
From something of a wilderness in his career, the journeyman chopper began to re-emerge on the scene in 2018, when representing Canada, he beat Korea Republic’s Jeoung Youngsik at the Hong Kong Open.
Onto this year’s China National Championships in Tianjin, Hou stunned world no. 6 and tournament favourite Liang Jingkun, before defeating Liu Dingshuo, Zhou Qihao and overcoming Wang Chuqin – China’s highly regarded teenage talent, who beat Ma Long at the Australian Open just a fortnight ago.
Hou did not let the form book faze him for one moment, as he romped to a 4-0 victory in the final.
“Wang Chuqin felt some pain in his shoulder, which is part of the reason why I could win the match 4-0 today. Now I have two kids. I am more mature in my thoughts and mentality compared to 19 years ago when I first won the National Championships. I feel more relaxed on court now. I just want to enjoy myself out there.” Hou Yingchao
Hou’s story is certainly an inspirational one, which also follows the motto heralded by the ITTF World Veterans Tour “Better With Age”!
Who knows what is next for Hou Yingchao – China’s unlikely national champion.