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Visit by China's teenage star put on hold

NEWLY-crowned world champion Kong Linghui will not play in the Epson World All Stars this month but is scheduled to make his territory debut in an exhibition series later in the year.

Organisers were hoping Kong would be the drawcard in the eight-player Epson tournament but the Chinese authorities are not releasing the 19-year-old who lifted the world crown in Tianjin last month.

'Taiwan also sought Kong for their tournament but because his visa could not be issued in time, the Chinese authorities decided not to let him play in Hong Kong either,' said Tony Yue Kwok-leung, chairman of the Hong Kong Table Tennis Association.

The world champion will also miss the opening leg of the series in Shenzhen.

But Yue added the HKTTA is planning an exhibition series by the Chinese national team later in the year in which Kong would make his Hong Kong debut.

There will still be an interesting, fresh face in the Epson line-up in top defensive player Ding Song, who was beaten by Kong in the semi-finals of the World Championships.

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Other Chinese players in the tournament are defending champion Ma Wenge and world number two Wang Tao.

Said Yue: 'Ding Song is most feared by the European players and among his victims at the World Championships were world number one Jean Michel Saive of Belgium and Swedes Jorgen Persson and Peter Karlsson.' Persson and Karlsson are also coming. Completing the eight-strong cast are South Korea's Kim Taek-soo, Croatia's Zoran Primorac and local star Chan Kong-wah, the current Commonwealth champion.

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