Sharara paves wrong way by blighting powerhouse

By Lu Wenao Source:Global Times Published: 2014-5-4 0:28:02

When I learned Adham ­Sharara will step down as president of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) after 15 years, I was relieved. This lasted until the news that he was elected to a newly created role at the governing body.

Chairman of the ITTF, ­Shahara's new job, is an "independent and nonpolitical" position without any voting or decision-making power.

I'm not buying it.

During Sharara's tenure he has made a lot of changes to table tennis, notably dropping scoring down to 11 points from 21 and increasing the size of the ball, in an effort to make the sport "more attractive."

However, those changes are widely considered to be ­methods to contain Chinese dominance in the sport.

One example is Liu Guo­liang, who was known for hiding the ball during his serve. The ITTF banned such serves in 2001, which is widely considered one of the key factors that led to Liu's retirement the following year at the age of 28.

Promoting the sport by blighting a powerhouse looks thoughtless.

Rule changes may confine several players, but it can't work for all. China's training system continually creates talented ­players, which means if some are affected by rule changes, others can step in.

But foreigners have to work on their own. A change to the rules can stall an individual's progress and then it's hard to find a capable player who can push their Chinese counterparts.

I fully respect players like Jan-Ove Waldner who can be an opponent to China for years, and I hope to see another foreigner to make the game more attractive to a global audience.

I really hope Sharara's successor, Thomas Weikert, finds some ways to make the sport more popular but not by trying to curtail China's success.

Posted in: Eye on the ball

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