In 2022, the China table tennis team spent the first full season of the Paris Olympic cycle, won many laurels including the team world table tennis championships, and still stood at the top of the world table tennis world with the momentum of breaking bamboo. However, although the "teacher of the king" has made outstanding achievements, it is an indisputable fact that strong enemies are surrounded, especially the men’s table tennis crisis. While Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen, two veterans, are gradually fading out, the internal competition pattern of table tennis is also changing quietly.
The third man of the men’s team surfaced.
Wang Chuqin is the player who shines in table tennis this season. In the six high-level events that the main team played, the 22-year-old Beijing team won the singles four times.
After winning the first men’s singles championship in international competitions in 2019, Wang Chuqin once encountered a bottleneck in singles events. This season, he broke through himself, winning the WTT (World Table Tennis Professional League) Macau Competition at the beginning of the year, and winning the WTT Budapest Star Challenge in July. After helping the team dominate the Chengdu Team World Table Tennis Championships by "full attendance" in the knockout round, Wang Chuqin "sublimated" from technique and tactics to ideology, and then won the WTT Macau Championship and WTT World Cup again, and the world ranking rose to the third highest in his career.
Although there was no gain in the subsequent national championships and the Asian Cup in Bangkok, there is no doubt that Wang Chu Qin has made a leap this season and has gradually secured the position of the "third man" in men’s table tennis. In the singles competition, he defeated Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin, Lin Gaoyuan and many other major opponents of foreign associations throughout the year, and scored 3 wins and 1 loss against Malone. As a left-handed player, the former World Table Tennis Championship men’s doubles champion also won three mixed doubles championships and one men’s doubles championship with different players. If it can make a difference in next year’s individual World Table Tennis Championships, there should be no doubt that it will be included in the Paris Olympic lineup.
In addition to Wang Chuqin, two other non-Olympic champions in the main team of the men’s team, who are both "Mesozoic", have also won many foreign competition opportunities this season, but their performance is inferior. They not only won less than the main team of table tennis, but also lost foreign wars several times. Among them, Liang Jingkun, who will be 26 years old, once ranked third in the world, but only one WTT routine challenge singles champion was recorded, and he was banned by the Chinese Table Tennis Association at the end of the season for misconduct.
The 27-year-old Lin Gaoyuan continued the "champion shortage" for more than three years. After losing to his teammates twice at the beginning of the year and winning the runner-up, he wasted six match points in the final of WTT Budapest Championship in July, failing to seize the opportunity of meritorious service when his teammates were defeated. Although she won 2 gold medals and 2 silver medals at the end of the season, and narrowly won the men’s team final against Fan Zhendong by 17-15, she still failed to show convincing performance in the international arena.
The performance of the two main players of "Long Pang" this season is remarkable. Although veteran Malone only won a runner-up, he also lost only one off-court battle. Fan Zhendong, the world’s No.1, won one championship and one Asian in the absence of the European Summer Series, but it was defeated by both Chinese and foreign strong players.
In terms of opponents, compared with the Tokyo Olympic cycle, there are more rising stars in the Eurasian team in the new cycle, and the China men’s table tennis team, which has been hit hard in the international arena, is facing greater challenges. In almost every high-level competition, the China men’s team has lost the main foreign war. In the two WTT high-level events held in Budapest in July, Guoping was "delayed" by the men’s team. Among them, Korean men’s doubles "new and old combination" Zhao Dacheng/Li Shangzhu, Lian Ke, Wang Chuqin/Malone, Liang Jingkun/Lin Gaoyuan won the Star Challenge. In the subsequent singles championship, China men’s table tennis four without Fan Zhendong were all eliminated by foreign association players, which sounded the alarm for preparing for the Olympic Games.
Healthy competition of four "golden flowers" for women’s teams
Compared with the men’s team, the performance of China women’s table tennis in the world is still strong, and its "Jianghu status" is impregnable. Not only that, with the birth of Wang Yidi, healthy competition has also formed within the women’s team, and four "golden flowers" compete with each other and promote each other.
The 25-year-old Wang Yidi has a strong upward trend in the new cycle, and broke into the semi-finals in the World Championships last year. This season, she has won many successes in high-level events and impacted the "three main players", which proves that it is no accident that she ranks among the top four in the World Championships with stable performance. In March’s WTT Grand Slam and October’s World Cup, she reached the semi-finals. In July’s WTT European Summer Series, Sun Yingsha was a "double kill", winning 1 crown and 1 Asian. In the two events at the end of the season, Wang Yidi first won the women’s team and the women’s singles in the all-round championship, among which she narrowly beat Manyu Wang to reach the top for the first time in the singles final, and then reversed Ito Meicheng’s first seal in the Asian Cup. Next year’s individual World Championships will be the "outpost" of the Paris Olympic Games. If this season’s momentum can be continued, Wang Yidi’s impact on the Olympic lineup is by no means empty talk.
However, judging from the lineup of this year’s World Table Tennis Championships, the position of the "trio" who won the team championship of the Tokyo Olympic Games for women’s table tennis has not wavered for the time being. As a "big sister", Chen Meng, 28, has made it clear that her sword refers to Paris. This year, she won 1 crown and 1 Asian in the international arena, and her performance is still stable. The two "new generations" won two championships and one Asian respectively. Among them, Sun Yingsha won two championships in the "China season" in October, and continued her unbeaten performance in foreign wars. Manyu Wang, the champion of the World Table Tennis Championships, topped the WTT Macau Tournament in January and the Budapest Championship in July, and won the mixed doubles champion and runner-up in the women’s singles in the all-round championship, with a stable record throughout the year.
Chen Xingtong, the same age as Wang Yidi and selected for the team World Table Tennis Championships, has not yet withdrawn from the competition, but his position has become marginal. Its performance in the competition fluctuated and did not pose a threat to the four main players.
Looking around the world, China women’s table tennis, with fierce internal competition, is strong, even stronger in the new cycle, not only rarely losing foreign wars, but also winning the championship, runner-up and even the semi-finals. At the World Table Tennis Championships in Chengdu in October, China defended its title by crushing its opponents, without losing a set in eight games, only losing two sets. In the ——WTT Macau Championship, the only high-level event with frequent "accidents", Manyu Wang and Chen Meng lost to European players in the first two rounds, but Chen Xingtong and Sun Yingsha still joined forces in the final, which fully reflected the strength and thickness, and also made major rivals such as Ito Meicheng feel the despair of "pressing the gourd to float the ladle".
In addition, Manyu Wang and Sun Yingsha’s women’s doubles team beat Miki Ito/Hayata Hina in the final of high-level events twice this year after last year’s World Championships, almost beating their opponents over. Both singles and doubles have a "fault" strength advantage, so it is difficult for China women’s table tennis to defend its title in the Paris Olympic Games.
Reporter Wang Xiaoxiao
(Source: Beijing Daily)