China on a higher plateauI

PARIS: China’s position as the dominant force in table tennis remained secure after the final ball was struck at the 47th world championships despite Austrian Werner Schlager striking a blow for Europe in the men’s singles. 

“China are still setting the standard, and it’s up to the rest to improve and work harder to beat the best,” said Canadian Adham Sharara, president of the sport’s governing body, the ITTF, in his end-of-championship assessment. 

The Chinese head home with four of the gold medals on offer, the red army’s sole reverse coming in the men’s singles in which Korea’s Joo Se-Hyuk came off second best. 

“The Chinese are disappointed at only winning four out of the five golds, I dream of the day when Canada are upset at only winning four from five!” smiled Sharara. 

The bearded former table tennis coach had a word of advice for those who were trying to challenge China’s supremacy. 

“To beat them you have to become stronger. You can’t expect China to get weaker.” 

He said the difference in ability between China and the rest of the world was more discernible among the women than the men. 

“The Chinese’s lead in the women’s game is quite large but in the men’s game the difference is closer.” 

Sharara was giving his verdict on what had been billed as the most eagerly awaited world championships for years. 

The ping pong pilgrims had descended on Bercy with their megaphones and drums, banners and flags and even a cow bell, creating a corrida-type atmosphere which Sharara reflected had boosted the players. 

“The atmosphere’s been fantastic, it’s made players play better.” 

Schlager agreed. 

“The Paris crowd were fantastic,” said the newly crowned champion. 

With over 300 million pairs of eyes following every topspin forehand live on television back home the Chinese duly fulfilled their remit as the sport’s unrivalled superpower. 

Of the 20 medals China walked off with 14, with Europe and Korea sharing out the remainder. 

Europe was making a welcome return to the podium after drawing a blank at the last championships in Osaka in 2001. 

Sets reduced from 21 to 11 points and bigger balls made for moments of compelling theatre for the 72,000 fans who turned up to watch the action. – AFP  

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