Table tennis: ITTF fines Chinese trio but stops short of ban

Ma Long in action at the Men's World Cup in Liege, Belgium last month. He and team-mates Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin were each fined US$20,000 (S$27,250) for quitting a tournament in Chengdu in June to protest against the redesignation of their coach.
Ma Long in action at the Men's World Cup in Liege, Belgium last month. He and team-mates Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin were each fined US$20,000 (S$27,250) for quitting a tournament in Chengdu in June to protest against the redesignation of their coach.PHOTO: XINHUA

SHANGHAI • Table tennis authorities hit world No. 1 Ma Long and two other Chinese stars with US$20,000 (S$27,250) fines yesterday but stopped short of suspending them after they quit a tournament in protest at their coach's redesignation.

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) said that Ma, Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin - the three top-ranked players in the world - "damaged the reputation of the ITTF" and "let down the global fans at the China Open".

But the sport's world body said in a statement that it had resisted slapping a one-month ban on the trio after they promised there would be no repeat and explained why they had failed to turn up for their round-of-16 matches in Chengdu, south-western China, in June.

The ITTF did not repeat the reasons given by the players, but at the time - in a rare show of dissent from Chinese sportsmen - they said they were too heartbroken to play after head coach Liu Guoliang was named Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA) vice-president.

Dubbed the "Chengdu Three" for their actions, they later apologised and China's all-conquering table tennis team closed ranks.

The CTTA followed the debacle by pulling the men's team out of the Australian Open because of "tiredness".

The players accepted their punishment, the ITTF said, adding: "The ITTF is looking forward to welcoming Ma Long, Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin back to the ITTF World Tour and for the three icons of the sport to be role models for the millions of table tennis players across the world."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2017, with the headline 'ITTF fines Chinese trio, stops short of ban'. Print Edition | Subscribe