Heads will roll if Chinese paddlers are toppled

SHANGHAI • Chinese table tennis has gone on a war footing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, vowing to dock coaches' pay and demote them if they fail to keep the country at the pinnacle of the sport.

China top the men's, women's and team world rankings, while the country has won all 12 gold medals across the last three Olympics.

But open dissent broke out in 2017 when three of China's top men's paddlers pulled out of a home tournament in protest at the removal of head coach Liu Guoliang.

The highly respected 43-year-old has been back in favour since last autumn and this week labelled himself "commander-in-chief", as the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA) laid out in stark terms its determination to clean up once more in Tokyo.

Speaking at a media conference on Monday, Liu - now CTTA chairman - deployed more militaristic bombast as he "vowed to advance and retreat with the team", according to Xinhua.

The state news agency also reported that the new points-based system of rewards and punishments for coaches under his new regime was also the most stringent in history.

The terms require the Chinese teams to win at least the world championships or the Team World Cup, plus a number of selected tournaments, in order to "pass" in the lead-up to the Games.

These include men's and women's World Cup, Asian Championships, Asian Cup, China Open, Japan Open and ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.

According to the China Daily, coaches can score points only if the players win gold medals.

The world championships will offer the most number of points - 4,000 this year - with a total of 18,000 up for grabs among all competitions.

A team who score less than 12,000 points will be deemed to have failed.

Liu said that he would forgo his salary for the year if any of the coaches under his watch falls short of the required number of points. "For Chinese table tennis, the only goal in Tokyo is to win," he added.

The coaches will similarly be hit in the pocket and demoted to a lesser post if they fail to reach the benchmark.

As host, Japan will be a major threat at the Games, particularly in team events, Chinese table tennis bosses also warned.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2019, with the headline 'Heads will roll if Chinese paddlers are toppled'. Print Edition | Subscribe