China success 'devastating', says table tennis chief

China's dominance of table tennis is "devastating", according to the sport's top administrator, even though he considers himself an admirer of Chinese brilliance.

One of the three most important issues facing the sport is "challenging the Chinese", according to International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) president Adham Sharara.

He added the other two, a better image and greater recognition, were not unrelated.

Sharara's comments have added significance because over the next two weeks China will be prevented from repeating its achievement of winning all six individual medals at the Beijing Olympics by a new rule which allows only two players per country to take part in each event.

So at least one medal in both singles events will go to another nation here in London, even though at Wednesday's draw China were again seeded to win all four Olympic golds and had the top two players in both men's and women's singles.

However, Sharara claimed this rule change was not actually directed against the sport's outstanding nation. Rather, he said, it met a need to have more countries taking part in table tennis at the Games.

"Due to the limited number of players allowed at the Olympics -- 86 men and 86 women -- and with no prospect from the IOC (International Olympic Committee) of increasing these numbers, we had to find a creative way to increase the number of National Olympic Committees (NOCs) taking part," he explained.

"This of course opens the door for NOCs other than China to take part in the medal ceremony".

Nevertheless, Sharara reckoned "the current situation is actually worse than in Beijing -- worse in the sense that the difference in technical level between the Chinese and the rest of the world has grown even further".

He added: "This is good for the Chinese, but devastating for the rest. The Chinese are expected to win everything, so even within China the public is crying for a meaningful foreign challenge.

"This is not on the immediate horizon."

Although Singapore's women upset China at the world championships in Moscow two years ago they have been unable to follow-up this achievement.

There is though an emerging crop of good young Japanese and French players who between then offer the prospect of greater medal diversity.

"Hopefully this may turn things around and we may see the Chinese more vulnerable in the future," Sharara said.

The ITTF does not plan further interventions to help other nations, even though China has now won an astounding 20 gold, 14 silver, and eight bronze medals in just seven Olympics.

"We cannot without bias help directly any one nation against another," insisted Sharara, who paid tribute to China's dominance of table tennis and warned their quest for success would not stop there.

"I salute the Chinese for their abilities, skills, and professional approach to sport," he said. "Today they dominate table tennis, but in the future they may dominate many other sports as well."


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