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China on course to rule Asian Games table tennis

China is expected to dominate the table tennis medals at next week's Asian Games, although uncertainty surrounding ailing men's No. 1 Ma Long and the continuing search for an heir to former women's champion Zhang Yining could make the competition more interesting.

other Updated: Nov 06, 2010 13:24 IST

China is expected to dominate the table tennis medals at next week's Asian Games, although uncertainty surrounding ailing men's No. 1 Ma Long and the continuing search for an heir to former women's champion Zhang Yining could make the competition more interesting.

With a chest full of Olympic medals and 11 of the world's top 20 players, the host could still make it a clean-sweep of the medals in what Chinese consider their national pastime.

Olympic silver medalist and three-time world champion Wang Hao is expected to lead the way for the Chinese men in the singles competition, possibly joined by world No. 1-ranked Ma Long, who is recovering from a foot injury that has impacted on his form. Beijing gold medalist Ma Lin will feature in the team competition, alongside Chinese national champion Zhang Jike and Beijing bronze medalist Wang Liqin, who could also replace Ma Long in the singles if Ma's performance continues to lag. "The list can be changed even three days ahead of the match. Whether Ma Long will compete in the singles depends on his recovery," coach Liu Guoliang said.

On the women's side, China is still on the lookout for a new superstar following the retirement last year of Zhang Yining. The 2009 world championship doubles pair of Guo Yue and Li Xiaoxia will represent the Chinese women in the singles, with No. 1 ranked Guo Yan, No. 2 Liu Shiwen, and No. 6 Ding Ning joining them in the team competition. Although a Chinese victory seems likely, it may not come as easily as in past years, said coach Shi Zhihao. "Since Zhang Yining, there hasn't been a single individual on the team who has the ability to dominate matches," Shi said. Still only a complete meltdown could prevent China from mounting the podium, something unthinkable among players known for their steely precision and laser-like focus.

China swept the singles medals and won both team events at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Last year's world championships was the same story.

What competition they do have in Guangzhou will come mainly from North Asia, although in among the women, Singapore world No. 3 Feng Tianwei and No. 5 Wang Yuegu, part of the silver medal team at the Beijing games, are also likely to challenge.

South Korea's Kim Kyung-ah and Park Mi-young are also top 10 players in the competition, while mainland Chinese-born Jiang Huajun, Hong Kong's top player, is also in the running. Japan's Ai Fukuhara, who finished runner-up to Liu Shiwen at February's Kuwait Open for her best career finish, will try to make up for a subpar performance at the last Asian Games in Doha. Among the men, South Korea's Joo Se-Hyuk and Japan's Jun Mizutani are likely challengers, while South Korea's Athens gold medalist Ryu Seung-min will miss these games.

South Korean head coach Kim Taek-soo isn't ruling anything out, saying his paddlers had been practicing hard to be prepare to face the Chinese players' power and speed.

"We can aim for gold medals when we get to the semifinals and finals. For the men's singles and doubles events, we hope to advance to at least the semifinals," Kim said.China on course to rule Asian Games table tennis

BEIJING (AP) _ China is expected to dominate the table tennis medals at next week's Asian Games, although uncertainty surrounding ailing men's No. 1 Ma Long and the continuing search for an heir to former women's champion Zhang Yining could make the competition more interesting.

With a chest full of Olympic medals and 11 of the world's top 20 players, the host could still make it a clean-sweep of the medals in what Chinese consider their national pastime.

Olympic silver medalist and three-time world champion Wang Hao is expected to lead the way for the Chinese men in the singles competition, possibly joined by world No. 1-ranked Ma Long, who is recovering from a foot injury that has impacted on his form. Beijing gold medalist Ma Lin will feature in the team competition, alongside Chinese national champion Zhang Jike and Beijing bronze medalist Wang Liqin, who could also replace Ma Long in the singles if Ma's performance continues to lag. "The list can be changed even three days ahead of the match. Whether Ma Long will compete in the singles depends on his recovery," coach Liu Guoliang said.

On the women's side, China is still on the lookout for a new superstar following the retirement last year of Zhang Yining. The 2009 world championship doubles pair of Guo Yue and Li Xiaoxia will represent the Chinese women in the singles, with No. 1 ranked Guo Yan, No. 2 Liu Shiwen, and No. 6 Ding Ning joining them in the team competition. Although a Chinese victory seems likely, it may not come as easily as in past years, said coach Shi Zhihao. "Since Zhang Yining, there hasn't been a single individual on the team who has the ability to dominate matches," Shi said. Still only a complete meltdown could prevent China from mounting the podium, something unthinkable among players known for their steely precision and laser-like focus.

China swept the singles medals and won both team events at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. 2009's world championships was the same story.

What competition they do have in Guangzhou will come mainly from North Asia, although in among the women, Singapore world No. 3 Feng Tianwei and No. 5 Wang Yuegu, part of the silver medal team at the Beijing games, are also likely to challenge.

South Korea's Kim Kyung-ah and Park Mi-young are also top 10 players in the competition, while mainland Chinese-born Jiang Huajun, Hong Kong's top player, is also in the running. Japan's Ai Fukuhara, who finished runner-up to Liu Shiwen at February's Kuwait Open for her best career finish, will try to make up for a subpar performance at the last Asian Games in Doha. Among the men, South Korea's Joo Se-Hyuk and Japan's Jun Mizutani are likely challengers, while South Korea's Athens gold medalist Ryu Seung-min will miss these games.

South Korean head coach Kim Taek-soo isn't ruling anything out, saying his paddlers had been practicing hard to be prepare to face the Chinese players' power and speed.

"We can aim for gold medals when we get to the semifinals and finals. For the men's singles and doubles events, we hope to advance to at least the semifinals," Kim said.