China plays crucial role in global development of table tennis: ITTF president
China plays crucial role in global devt of table tennis: ITTF president
Published: Mar 24, 2024 07:59 PM
Chinese players pose for a photo after winning the men's title at the World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals in Busan, South Korea, on February 25, 2024. Photo: VCG

Chinese players pose for a photo after winning the men's title at the World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals in Busan, South Korea, on February 25, 2024. Photo: VCG

While China's men's and women's teams defended their titles at the recently concluded 2024 World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals in Busan, South Korea, they faced stern challenges from the host, Japan and other emerging countries. 

The thrilling victories offered young Chinese players valuable experiences as they turn their focus to the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympic Games. 

Petra Sörling, president of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and member of the International Olympic Committee, told the Global Times during an exclusive interview on Friday that the recent team championships showed a refreshing level of competitiveness within the sport and expectations are high for the Paris Games. 

"The world team championships in Busan showcased a remarkable display of skills and sportsmanship. Across both the men's and women's events, teams from four continents advanced to the round of 16, setting the stage for intense matches with unexpected upsets and the emergence of new contenders," said the Swede. 

"While China ultimately retained its titles, the journey was marked by formidable challenges. This dynamic landscape promises an exciting future for table tennis, with each event offering thrilling encounters and opportunities for growth," she noted. 

The women's team clinched its sixth consecutive title with a nervy 3-2 win over a tenacious Japanese side, marking China's record-extending 23rd title at the tournament. 

Led by table tennis legend Ma Long, the men's team fended off a relentless South Korea side in the semifinal before sealing a convincing 3-0 victory over France in the final. It was also the record-extending 23rd time that China has lifted the Swaythling Cup in history.

Wang Hao, head coach of the men's team, admitted that the team withstood unprecedented pressure in the semifinal against the host and the difficulties encountered in this competition was an asset for the Chinese team and boosted their confidence in preparation for the Paris Games. 

After the final, Ma announced that the Busan tournament would be his last worlds and it is unknown if Ma will compete at the Paris Games. 

ITTF President Petra S?rling Photo: VCG

ITTF President Petra S?rling Photo: VCG

Significant milestone

China's triumph marks a significant milestone in table tennis history, reaffirming their unparalleled legacy and dominance on the global stage. While France's silver medal signifies a commendable return to form, it also reflects the promising future of French table tennis, said the ITTF president.

Sörling also acknowledged the efforts of the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA) in facilitating the global development of the sport. 

China's dominance in table tennis is unparalleled, and their role in helping the development of the sport globally is crucial. In partnering with the ITTF, the CTTA has always supported the sport's development worldwide, she said.

In 2023, the ITTF High Performance and CTTA jointly organized several youth training camps, providing an exceptional learning platform for future talent. 

"We anticipate continued collaboration with the CTTA to nurture table tennis stars from around the world and further grow the sport," said Sörling.

With just over 100 days away from the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, anticipation is building as players vie for ranking points to secure the last qualifying spots and advantageous seeding.

Except China and host France, some 11 teams have qualified for the Paris 2024 Games through the worlds in Busan.

"We hold great expectations for table tennis at the Paris 2024 Games. The recent historic achievements of the French men's and women's teams, both medaling at the worlds for the first time, particularly heightened our anticipation," she said. 

"Let us not forget Para Table Tennis which heightens our excitement for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. Overall, we foresee a spectacular summer for our sport, brimming with thrilling competition and monumental achievements," said Sörling.

In 2021, Sörling became the first female president of the ITTF, pledging to modernize table tennis and increase the sport's sustainability.

One of the efforts is the implementation of the Table Tennis Review (TTR) system at the World Championships Finals 2025 in Qatar. 

"The introduction of the TTR system in 2025 marks a significant step forward for table tennis. The TTR system is poised to improve our sport by providing instantaneous replays of disputed decisions. This real-time feedback will empower video match officials to review incidents accurately and potentially overturn rulings based on concrete evidence," she said.

As a result, players will benefit from clearer, more transparent officiating, free from doubts or uncertainties. Overall, the integration of the TTR system promises to elevate the table tennis competitions, ensuring that the outcomes are determined with the highest level of accuracy and precision, she added. 

'People, Planet, Prosperity'

To modernize table tennis and foster its sustainability and diversity globally, Sörling said the ITTF is committed to putting People, Planet and Prosperity at the heart of every cause.

"Our aim is to create an environment where everyone within the table tennis community feels valued, respected, and included," she said. 

The inaugural Mixed Team World Cup held in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province in December 2023 demonstrated a historic move in championing gender equality and diversity. 

The groundbreaking format placed women's players on equal footing with their male counterparts, exemplifying the values of collaboration and inclusivity. The event will return to Chengdu for the next consecutive years until 2027, and aspires to leave a lasting legacy and inspire a new era of sporting inclusivity.

"I'm very grateful to the CTTA for their invaluable support in making this historic event a reality. Their partnership was instrumental in delivering an event that not only made a significant impact within the table tennis community, but also set a new standard for gender equality and diversity in sports," said Sörling.