Table Tennis: Defending champ Ma Long, Xu Xin absent from Houston World C'ships

Secretary-general of the Chinese Table Tennis Association Qin Zhijian said that Ma Long (right) and Xu Xin decided not to participate in the championships for physical adjustment. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (XINHUA) - World champion Ma Long, Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen have withdrawn from the upcoming Houston World Table Tennis Championships as the mighty Chinese team bids to rejuvenate its line-up.

"Ma and Xu have decided not to participate in the championships for physical adjustment," said Qin Zhijian, secretary-general of the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA), as the roster was announced on Monday (Oct 25).

"The two paddlers are leading figures in the team with strong competition ability. The men's team will face a great challenge in the championships with the absence of Grand Slam winner Ma Long," added Qin. "Looking ahead to the Paris Olympic Games in 2024, it is necessary to train young paddlers' ability to withstand pressure and bear responsibility in international events."

The Grand Slam in table tennis refers to a player who has captured the sport's three most prestigious titles - the Olympics, the World Championships and the World Cup.

World No. 1 Fan Zhendong will lead the men's singles squad for the championships, which take place from Nov 23-29 in Texas.

"None of the five paddlers who have signed up for the men's singles have ever won the title in the World Table Tennis Championships," noted Qin.

He said that China would begin the selection of its squad for the 2024 Paris Olympics starting from the Houston event.

In the women's draw, Tokyo Olympic champion Chen Meng, Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu will spearhead the Chinese challenge in the championships alongside three paddlers who have no experience at the Olympics. Liu, the 2016 Olympic champion, would also skip the Houston event.

"The Paris Olympics are less than three years away. Although the women's team has seen good transition from experienced paddlers to younger players, we still hope to form a competitive team for the Paris 2024," said Li Sun, head coach of the Chinese women's team.

"Chen will represent China in her quest to claim a Grand Slam. Sun and Wang are aiming for three titles in the championships," added Li, "Hopefully, the championships will become a good start for the squad to prepare for Paris Olympics."

China's squad for the Houston World Table Tennis Championships:

Men's team: Fan, Liang Jingkun, Wang Chuqin, Lin Gaoyuan, Zhou Qihao.

Men's singles: Fan, Liang, Wang, Lin, Zhou.

Men's doubles: Fan/Wang, Lin/Liang.

Women's team: Chen Meng, Sun, Wang Manyu, Chen Xingtong, Wang Yidi, Qian Tianyi.

Women's singles: Chen Meng, Sun, Wang Manyu, Chen Xingtong, Wang Yidi.

Women's doubles: Sun/Wang Manyu, Chen Meng/Qian Tianyi.

Mixed doubles: Wang Chuqin/Sun, Lin/Wang Manyu.

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