China ‘still world’s best but watch out for Japan’, says table tennis chief after Olympic showdown

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 August, 2016, 6:55am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 August, 2016, 7:33am

China are still best in the world at table tennis but they need to watch out for Japan who are catching up, the head of the sport’s world governing body has warned.

Thomas Weiker, president of the International Table Tennis Federation, made the remarks after watching China dominate in Rio this week – winning Olympic gold in men’s singles, men’s team, women’s singles and women’s team. Chinese players also took silver in men’s singles and women’s singles.

“It was an amazing match. It was very close. With the winners from China, who are really good, and they are the best. But it was close … I mean the gap between China and the rest of the world is large. Everybody has to work on it,” Weiker said after watching the Chinese players win gold in men’s team earlier this week.

Japan lost 1-3, winning the singles match when Jun Mizutani went up against world number three Xu Xin.

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“Very good future for the Japanese team in Tokyo,” Weiker continued. “They have a table tennis tradition. Nobody knows what will happen in four years. I think the Japanese will work also on other sports for the Olympics and there will be amazing tournaments there. I guess the gap will be closer.”

Asked if he believed China’s dominance was under threat, Weiker said: “I don’t think immediately, maybe we will see closer matches in Tokyo, but at the moment they are really dominating.”

Uncertainty looms in the future of China’s table tennis team after Zhang Jike, 28, announced after winning gold in men’s team and silver in singles that he was ready to retire.

“Let me tell everyone this in advance — I am ready to retire when I am back [to China]. Don’t be too emotional, everyone. It’s just too exhausting for me. I have already achieved all I can possibly achieve, why should I keep playing?” he said in a live broadcast on Chinese social media.

“There is a day I have to retire. I can’t play until I am 50 years old,” said Zhang, who won gold in singles and team table tennis at the 2012 London Olympics.

Meanwhile, Weikert said he has not heard of any complaints from Rio Olympics table tennis players that the balls used at the Games were “very bad” or “sub-par” as the New York Times reported earlier.

“I spoke with many players before the games – with European and also Asian players. No complaints,” he said. “It (the report) was completely new to me. I think the balls have improved. No problems here. To be realistic, I think the balls were good here.”