China’s table tennis squad remains the team to beat at the Olympics but other countries are working hard to close the gap, three of the sport’s top players said on Wednesday.
China has won 24 out of 28 gold medals since table tennis became an Olympic sport in 1988 and is expected to again dominate the tables in Rio de Janeiro.
”Our federation is trying to make table tennis more popular in the country,” Belarus’ Vladimir Samsonov, ranked world no. 9, told a press conference on Wednesday.
”It’s very important that more players play table tennis… there’s always a bit of a chance that one of the kids will become one day a superstar who will be able to beat the top Chinese players,” he said.
Brazil, whose women’s team will face the Chinese in the first team round, has made great strides in recent years by hiring a new coach and sending players to train in Germany, said Brazilian player Gustavo Tsuboi.
”From where we came from we have improved a lot,” said the world no. 64. ”We now have three players (who are) top 100 in the world.”
Japan’s Ai Fukuhara, who trained for many years in China, said that to be as good as the Chinese squad was certainly an aim of hers and her teammates, and she was confident that one day they could beat them.
”It’s not the fault of the Chinese players that they’re so good,” said Thomas Weikert, president of the International Table Tennis Federation. ”The others have to work very hard.”