China's victory in the Mens Teams Event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics
Image Courtesy of the Official Beijing Games Page
Communism, Population and Table Tennis
It's a simple combination which has lead to world dominance and is slowly leading China to excel in a large multitude of sports. Their athletes were born atheletes, born to train in their codes. This has led to a strong socialisation which is unique in asia of parents really pushing their children to succeed no matter what the sacrifice and we see that not just in sport but in education particularly also. There is such a massive population in China that when combined with this socialisation everything becomes highly competitive, the athletes adapt to become very self driven and strictly disciplined to train repetitively for long periods of time, this tends to be a point of difference from other places around the world where the emphasis is not so much upon technical perfection.
The communist slant is simple, the Chinese have avoided the simple fact that there is not enough money pumped into the sport. Talented players around the world are faced to sacrifice their sport for education and employment, this is the way of the western world and only the top most talented sports people are supported enough to chase their dreams. China is different, those born table tennis players are supported by the state, young children forfeit basic education in some cases to focus on developing their skills as elite table tennis players with packed day schedules of training to perfect technical strokes, footwork and improve agility around the table. There is a high use of multiball training for this purpose.
The simple truth is that with prize money like $50,000US for the World Cup winner Table Tennis lacks financial incentive for skilled players to commit to being professional players and lacks publicity as a competitive sport to attract numbers. China has a pool of over a billion people from which comes millions of table tennis players. From those huge numbers of players and with that training ethic and discipline it is no wonder the Chinese are able to produce the world's best players.
In order to compete with those players the rest of the world require a strong dedication to training, a desire as strong as the Chinese to succeed even if sacrifices are necessary. Starting young we need players to grow into the sport and continue to develop and be hungry for achievement and competition and to dedicate their time to playing table tennis. This requires financial incentive which is a major setback in the sport currently and also publicity, professional sportspeople want to be recognised for their efforts and successes!
So essentially those are the areas where China beats the rest of the world and of course some of those failings are in the global image of the game and its development as a sport. I think if Table Tennis took the same kind of marketing and financial framework approach as Tennis to build sponsors and spectators and then tap into television networks and have profile league events around the world then we would start to see greater income potential and then table tennis would offer a bit more staying power to athletes with talents which can be built to knock China off its perch.
Until then they are most welcome to sit there as each and every one of their athletes has worked tirelessly to achieve their successes!
Chinese Superleague 2010 Xu Xin v Chen Qi
Courtesy of TT Provider