For the first time the International Table Tennis Federation Athletes’ Commission will have two chairs – one woman and one man – elected to lead the body today, in Amman, Jordan ahead of the ITTF Summit.
Sharath Kamal Achanta and Liu Shiwen were elected as joint Athletes’ Commission chairs, a shift into how the commission is run, as part of the ITTF’s drive for gender parity at more levels in the federation.
“I am thrilled to welcome Sharath Kamal Achanta and Liu Shiwen as the new joint chairs of the ITTF Athletes’ Commission,” Petra Sörling, ITTF President, said. “Having strong, diverse voices for our athletes is so important in keeping our federation in the lead in keeping athletes at the heart of the sport movement. I really look forward to working with them in this pivotal time for the future of table tennis.”
Sharath Kamal Achanta, 40, is the first Indian table tennis player to become a nine-time senior national champion. He made his mark on the international stage when he won the men’s singles title at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, the quadrennial multi-sport gathering the event by which he is best known. Overall, he has seven gold, three silver and three bronze medals to his name, a record no other male player can match. A recipient of the Arjuna Award for Outstanding Performance in Sports and Games in 2004, Sharath Kamal Achanta is heralded as an all-time great in his home country.
China’s Liu Shiwen, 31, first came to note at only 13 years old, at the Kobe 2004 World Junior Championships, winning three gold and one silver. A member of the Chinese gold medal winning team at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games; she took silver in Mixed Doubles in Tokyo 2020. Liu Shiwen also won the women’s singles title at the Budapest 2019 World Championships, 13 women’s singles title on the ITTF World Tour and the Women’s World Cup five times, more than any other player.
As part of being elected chairs of the commission, both Sharath Kamal Achanta and Liu Shiwen will become members of the ITTF Executive Committee. They join Ryu Seung-Min – First Vice-Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission – in representing the voice of athletes.
A day after being elected the two chairs will attend their first Executive Committee meeting where they will be immediately integrated into the ITTF leadership, while all members of the Athletes’ Commission will take part in the first-ever ITTF Summit here in Amman, Jordan.
The Summit is the first time in two years that many ITTF stakeholders can meet in person and will be packed with panels and presentations that will lead to key decisions for the future of the federation.
In addition to Sharath Kamal Achanta and Liu Shiwen’s election, the Athletes’ Commission elected two deputy chairs Stefan Fegerl and Elizabeta Samara. Like the two chairs, one male athlete and one female athlete was elected to ensure gender parity at the highest levels of the commission.
The other members of the Athletes’ Commission are Omar Assar, Ingela Lundback, Jon Persson, Daniely Rios, Melissa Tapper, and Kelly Van Zon.
The Athletes’ Commission is the voice of table tennis athletes in the federation, allowing an avenue for them to advocate for themselves directly to the ITTF leadership. To further reinforce the voice of athletes and provide overall support, the ITTF also established an Entourage working group.