IN KUALA LUMPUR
Talk to China’s greatest table tennis athlete about the continued “export” of her country’s paddlers to play for other countries, and without prompting, she says, laughing, “Particularly Singapore, yes?”
But when informed about the widespread Singaporean backlash against imported foreign sports talents, Deng Yaping also admitted to being ashamed by the perception of Chinese athletes as mercenaries playing for money.
Nonetheless, the 41-year-old still sees more positives in the increasing number of players switching their national allegiances to achieve sporting success elsewhere.
“We have many people who love to play table tennis in China, that’s why we have so many talented youngsters coming out all the time,” said Deng, speaking to Yahoo Singapore in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia a day before the Laureus World Sports Awards to be held in the capital.
The 18-time Olympic and world champion continued, “The level is very high, and in the national team we only have a limited number of athletes who can play. Obviously (those who don’t make the team) are still very good, so they go out to represent different countries.”
This is a “good thing”, according to Deng.
“We should encourage more good (China) players to go out and compete with each other. Then the games become more fun and more interesting,” she said. “The audience wants to watch the best games. The more competitive, the more they like it. This is sports.”
Deng, who was once ranked No.1 in the world for eight years running, also argued that the phenomenon extended beyond the realm of table tennis.
“Footballers from Brazil, they go to other countries and represent them. Still they show talent, and that they have the capabilities to be the best players in the world,” she said.
“If they achieve their personal goals, what does it matter which country they represent?”
IN KUALA LUMPUR