Top Chinese trio sorry for pullout after stiff criticism

BEIJING • Three top Chinese table players - Ma Long, Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin - have apologised for skipping singles matches last Friday at the China Open in Chengdu.

They apparently boycotted the tournament in protest at their coach Liu Guoliang's removal and were condemned by the Chinese Table Tennis Association, the Chinese government agency responsible for sports and the International Table Tennis Federation for their actions.

On Sunday, the paddlers posted apologies on their Weibo accounts. The trio said that they had acted without fully understanding the situation and had let emotions affect their decisions. They wrote: "We deeply recognise the seriousness of our errors.

"We created a harmful influence on society and let down the many people who love the team, and harmed the Chinese table tennis team's good image of upholding patriotism and collectivism and competing for the glory of the country."

The ITTF has said it will take action against the players after a full investigation because their behaviour "damaged the image and integrity of the game".

Before their scheduled second-round matches on Friday, the three players and coaches Qin Zhijian and Ma Lin posted on Sina Weibo: "We have no desire to fight... all because we miss you, Liu Guoliang."

It sparked speculation their withdrawals had to do with the decision to remove Liu as national team head coach. The former Olympic and world champion, was named CTTA vice-president on Tuesday after four years as head coach.

That decision, which also did away with the head coach position and set up separate coaching staffs for the men's and women's teams, was made to optimise management, the CTTA said.

CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2017, with the headline 'Top Chinese trio sorry for pullout after stiff criticism'. Print Edition | Subscribe