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Chinese table tennis teams usual favorites at team worlds

03-23-2012 13:33 BJT

BERLIN, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Four months ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the table tennis world gathers at the World Team Championships in Dortmund, Germany, with as usual the Chinese teams as big favorites, but the edition of 2010 proved China is not unbeatable.

The 51st edition of the event starts on March 25 and will end one week later on April 1. The Chinese dominance is reflected in the number of world team titles in the history of the tournament, which in 2000 was organized separate from the singles event for the first time.

The Chinese men hold a record of 17 wins and the Chinese women also hold a record of 17 wins.

Japan is the second best country in the history of the team worlds with seven wins in the men's tournament and eight women's victories. Hungary was a very strong table tennis nation in the earlier days of the tournament, winning the men's championships the first five times since 1926 and a total of 12 times.

From the 1960s onwards, China emerged as the new dominant power. The last defeat of the Chinese men came in 2000 during the Championships in Kuala Lumpur, when Sweden was crowned after beating China in the final. In the last tournament in 2010 China beat Germany to win the gold.

In the women's tournament one of the biggest upsets in table tennis history occurred during the last edition of 2010 in Moscow. Singapore stunned China with a remarkable victory in the final.

The ladies from Singapore are well aware that another surprise is not likely, said Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) president Lee Bee Wah on Channel News Asia.

"Of course for the women's team, we are the defending champions, but I told the team, 'don't give yourself unnecessary pressure'. We know that to beat China a second time is nearly impossible," Lee declared on Wednesday.

Star player Feng Tianwei admits her team feels pressure. "Not just from ourselves but because all eyes, including the media, are on us," she said. "But I think that as long as I can realize my potential, it'll be okay."

An encounter between China and Singapore in the final would be the most anticipated scenario again. The Japanese team, with world number six Kasumi Ishikawa, is the other main candidate for a podium spot.

Chinese women's coach Shu Zhihao selected Guo Yue, Liu Shiwen, Li Xiaoxia, Guo Yuan and individual world champion Ding Ning to take revenge, the same line-up as two years ago.

"This season is very different compared to the previous ones since we have to first redeem ourselves in the World Team Championships," coach Shi Zhihao was quoted on tabletennista.com. "Having some worries is normal. But I think, with two years of tough training, our athletes should stand this test."

Looking at the world ranking China has the top four women players, while Singapore's top paddlers Feng Tianwei and Wang Yuegu are ranked fifth and eighth respectively. Their last duel was in the final of the Asian Championships where China posted a victory.

The Chinese men's team is comprised of Ma Long, number one on the world ranking, Wang Hao, Xu Xin, defending individual world champion Zhang Jike and Olympic champion Ma Lin. The line-up is identical to the team in Moscow 2010 which defeated Germany in the final.

"2012 is an important year," coach Liu Guoliang declared in an interview on sohu.com. "It's the Olympic year. We have our five men who all have a great chance to win the London Olympic games. This World Team Championships is our biggest tournament prior to the Olympics, we can use this as a measure to see if the training is paying off."

One of the main rivals once again will be host Germany with world number six Timo Boll and world number ten Dimitrij Ovtcharov. South Korea, with Joo Se Hyuk, and Japan, with Jun Mizutani, can be considered as strong outsiders.

The championship tournament in Dortmund starts with a round robin of four groups of each six teams. The winners of each group will move directly into the quarter-finals, while the numbers two and three will be drawn in the round of sixteen first. The teams placed 4th, 5th and 6th in the groups will continue in the play-offs for the positions 13 to 24.

"Our goal must be reaching the final," Boll told the website of the German newspaper Westdeutsche Zeitung.

"If we win the group, we can only meet the Chinese in the final, but first we have to overcome some difficult obstacles on our way to the final. China is very hard to beat based on their incredible performances in the past. But we will not surrender without a fight and the support of 11,000 spectators might help us."

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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