Wednesday 7 May 2014

Why Restricting China Is Bad For the Sport

ITTF recently unrolled it's new rules regarding the World Championships and appointed Sharara into the position of ITTF Chairman. He has now vowed to begin a mission to thwart Chinese dominance in the sport. While the new rule allowing multi-national doubles pairs is a fantastic idea and is great for international relations and friendship promotion in the sport, the restrictions on World Championships entries for each nation is the first step on a long road to reduce the dominance of China at major events.

Chinese Dominance Continues in Table Tennis
We already saw the reduction of entries into the Olympics to just 2 athletes per gender from each country, now the new rules will see a maximum of 5 athletes per nation into the World Individual Championships, a standard of 3 plus 2 more on World Ranking. No doubt we will see more measures in place in the near future to restrict the World's top table tennis nation.

While all this effort is being made to prevent China from winning everything, one simple thing is forgotten. They are the best because they wanted to be. They created the perfect system for making their players the best in the world, their players train from a very young age and dedicate their youth to the sport. There are so many players in China that it is highly competitive and the players have to give everything to be the best, and even then so, some are not successful.

The ones who do make it are still under a constant state of pressure to perform in order to remain at the top and have to earn every chance to become champions. Now the ITTF have further narrowed the chances for the world's most hard working players to achieve the reward they deserve.

Other nations have extended dominance in the sport. Hungary won the Men's Team title on 12 occasions, the closest to China's 19. Japan and Sweden also had periods of dominance in the sport. No attempt was ever made to reduce those great nations, instead other nations worked harder. China was the nation to emerge from those other nations. Just as China rose to defeat other dominant nations, the rest of the World must rise to defeat China.

The approach of Sharara and ITTF is all wrong. We should be focusing our time and resources on providing opportunity for the growth of table tennis and for development outside of China so that the other nations can develop their players to be more competitive. What is the real benefit of making it easier for other countries to win? What is the cost to China of these restrictions? Is it fair to effectively sanction the hardest working players in our sport?

These are all the things which have clearly been overlooked during the construction of this grand idea. I think the way to beat China is to share the same passion as them, to share the same dedication. There is only one way for that to happen. Table Tennis needs to become a professional sport. It needs to be viable for players to make a living from playing table tennis across the globe, that way their commitment early in life is justified. Now there is no reason for players outside of China to give up school to train as table tennis is not a lucrative or supported career choice.

This is what the real focus needs to be on, table tennis needs to work towards this end. Would love to hear the thoughts of everyone on this topic so please feel free to comment below.


  1. It's good to see different countries in the podium, but we all know that it doesn't represent the best of the best in table tennis. I agree with you. Reducing the number of players is unfair for China. They worked and invested to be what they are now.

    I read an article about this and said that Sharara asks China to be more open and let top teams train and learn from them just for 5 or 6 years. I think it's a very unfair petition. Why do they have to reveal their "training secrets", years of studies and hard work for free?


    Dear All.,,

    It is regretfull to note here. there is a dramatic drain of good defensive male players out of the sport of table tennis.
    No male defenders are now seen fighting for medal position at crucial stage of event, not much attraction for public to watch the "single-colour" event, you understand.
    For the World's Top Men100, only 14 defenders now present. It is a gross disbalance between defensive and offensive styles, to reduce the game public attraction by far, and to lessen TV involvement in the sport.


    Certainly, it all mostly comes from the over speedy/spinny rubbers with a thick and springy sponge, plus the chemicals to enhance rubber's catapult (boosters) as is now heavily applied by most attackers.
    Certainly, we need to restrict the rubber's catapultive effect a little, so as to give defenders better opportunities to compete against the attackers.

    The best relevant measure would be setting a restrictive limit of total rubber thickness to 3.5mm instead of the 4.0mm, so as to reduce the ball speed and spin a little.

    This is to encourage more newcomers to enter the men's defensive department of the sport.
    Best skilled defenders and allrounders, as Seu Hiuk, will always be main attraction in public's eyes, you understand.

    Promoting defenders -- promoting the sport.


    Igor NOVICK
    certified national umpire

  3. Honestly I don't think that even letting other national teams train with China would narrow the gap significantly. China is doing all this not only with the number of players ready to step in and make an impact if given a chance on the national team, but also with infrastructure. The country has made a massive investment in the infrastructure to surround their national and professional teams with, including staff like coaches, video analysts, physios, even sports scientists etc. If you look at the countries performing well they are all building up this infrastructure.

    In countries where the sport is not a professional sport, we simply cannot compete with the level of infrastructure available to these countries or replicate the environment the Chinese train in, which is that if you don't perform thousands of other players are ready to take your spot.

    I really agree with your analysis of where the ITTF's priorities should be.

  4. One word: there*
    Matt S - 1
    Matt H - 0
    man it's satisfying when I find that one typo in a million ;)

    Great read by the way.

  5. Thanks for the comments guys. I think defensive players have been too heavily studied, we haven't seen a defensive player reach the very top spot in the world for a long time and that's because everybody knows how to play them now. Modern defenders attack frequently now as well.

  6. These restrictions are wrong and very bad for table tennis, no other sport would consider restricting their best players. Unfortunately we have a very egotistic president in Sharara who does not look into the negative sides of his decisions, he said he will resign from president but recently stated not until December and has now created a new position for himself as chairman. We should be encouriging the Chinese they are the worlds best by far, for the rest of the world to catch up they must train harder and improve their level similar to Sweden and Hungary in the past. The best thing for our sport now is for Sharara to resign completely and immediately before we have further decline which I can see coming with the new inferior plastic ball.
    Barry Meisel

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  9. My 2 cents to Matt. Removing/squeezing Chinese is very childish in its approach. Here in India, an idiom is used, which describes it best probably " To goal in an empty field" [This is the translated version] [Indian/Hindi version is very funny/comic/insulting to here to whom it is aimed at.

    Any sport, you fight for being the best & if you don't include the best, you should not experience that happy/joyous feeling after the victory. You've not beaten the best. Sport is a war of reinforcing one's identity, that "I've arrived" & if you can't take that attitude, you better beat him or go back to your training arena.

    Indian army also has an quote "The more you sweat in your training fields, the less you bleed in war". Guess, fits appropriately here :)

    Very true, that one country swapping every title . . .It pinches . . . But then . . . what do you do about that pinch & how many extra hours & strategies, you put in daily for the next battle. Feeling just bad/egoistic & initiating measures to keep them away . . .That way even if the title is won . . .It is PURE FAKE & just for the sake of. The entire sport community will have only one line on their lips " XYZ won because China wasn't allowed to participate fully. & that is the worst line, any champion/any nation could hear.

    Nutshell, one reason for Chinese dominance is their "Sheer Discipline", which I give 9/10 & the rest countries are 7.5-8/10. There are many instances in a tournament, where I feel that discipline embedded in their blood.

    Want to write more . .but got to go. Next time probably.

    Sachin Sardana
    New Delhi, India

  10. Completely agree with the idea not to restrict China in any way but bring the rest of the world up to their standard. Right now here in Oceania we have players from the various islands representing their countries in the coming Olympics at Rio who are far below the standard of other nations. While this is acceptable at the Olympics, although a waste of time, is not in the World competitions.

    1. Yea mainly because the New Zealand olympic committee have ridiculous standards and we can't send our players that qualify so the islands always take our place > . <


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