China: Table tennis nation

In China, there is a joke, do not say you play table tennis well, because you do not know among your friends, whether there is some guy who is retired from Province team.- Mark Luo

We all know that China is so good at table tennis? However, do most of know why China is so good at what many deem to be its national sport? We endeavoured to find out and this article is the fruit of our findings.

Population

Its a matter of statistics. China has a population larger than any other in the world, and the more people there are in a country the higher the chance of the country having its average player of the country better than that of any other nation.

Tradition of strong state endorsement

The era of Chinese dominance in table tennis started much more modern than most people realize - such dominance started counterintuitively in the 1950s. It did not have its culture to thank for such dominance but the culture of state support from current regime. The country has embraced table tennis since at least the 1950s, when Chairman Mao Zedong declared it the national sport. For the communist leader, it was a logical choice of a sport - table tennis could be played cheaply without much space and it was not popular at all in the West.

Unmatched national intensity

The country treats table tennis more seriously and intensely than any other. The country begins recruiting table tennis talent at a young age and then does everything possible to make them succeed. There is a far greater and brutal selectivity when it comes to table tennis talent scouting in China unmatched anywhere else. China is ruthless in selecting its national team, focusing all its efforts on players likely to medal now or in the future, rather than blindly including all the top players at a given time. Chinese players train for at least 7 staggering hours each day. Top players work with specialized practice partners and sometimes even play against two at a time - a practise alien to most other national teams. There is ability to innovate present in Chinese teams - they undertake extensive strategic analysis of their competition around the world and are constant pioneers in new table tennis techniques.

Superiority in technique

Above all other nations, the Chinese players dominate with serve & receive techniques. THough some countries have closed the gap in serve techniques, most consider Ma Lin’s serves the best among world-class players, and before him, Liu Guoliang’s – both Chinese players. But it is in the return of serve where the Chinese really dominate. Where other countries learn to return serves to neutralize the serve, it is common for the Chinese to return serves to throw opponents off in order to gain the initiative. 'Mozart of table tennis' Waldner may be the only one who can do this at the Chinese level. The Chinese are also known to have the best basics. They spend huge amounts of time on the “boring” basics, and so are nearly machine-like in their efficiency - you rarely see a Chinese player miss an easy shot. Cheng said after his winning the USA Nationals in 2004 at age 46 that most of his international opponents do not have good basics.

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