China has a monopoly on the Olympic table tennis ranking: Know Why?
China has become synonymous with table tennis and their association with the game has made it a powerhouse with amazing ping pong mastery. In fact, unsurprisingly, table tennis is also the country’s national sport and to showcase their fortress – record books have run out with the names of paddlers from the world’s most populous nation.
In table tennis, China has redefined what it really means to dominate as it has exercised its monopoly by winning a staggering record of 53 Olympic medals for the sport alone, since it was included in the Seoul Games in 1988. Statistics who are watching us are dazzling and startling to say the least, the Chinese paddlers have won 28 of the 32 Olympic gold medals contested so far. Among the 53, there are also 17 silver medals and only 8 bronze – the majority has been gold.
At the Rio 2016 Olympics, in fact, China won all the gold medals – Ma Long won gold in the men’s singles, Ding Ning won the women’s singles while the men’s team including Zhang Jike, Ma Long, Xu Xin and the women’s team of Liu Shiwen, Ding Ning and Li Xiaoxia took top honors.
At the Tokyo Olympics, China will once again enter the top favorites and look to maintain its dominance – certainly adding to the 53 Olympic medals it has already racked up.
The secret of China’s gold race
For a sport to thrive in a country, first and foremost it must gain popularity among the masses. Being quite economical, table tennis hit home in China when the Chinese government, led by Mao Zedong in the 1950s, decided to shift attention away from “developing sports to improve people’s fitness.”
Called a “sick man of East Asia” by Westerners for China’s medal-less performances in a trio of the Olympics, the Chinese government stood up and took an active note. This push factor led to the creation of one of the greatest dominations in the history of sport. Currently, China boasts of having 546 Olympic medals to its name and is very comfortably placed in 5th place on the Olympic medal list.
Just as Rome was not built overnight, the Chinese table tennis monopoly is not an overnight creation either. The easy accessibility of the sport and the Chinese love for their table tennis provided the initial impetus for the growth of the sport. The Communist government entered the scene and orchestrated a major role in establishing the monopoly and its effects that we see today.
In China, table tennis is played with religious sincerity. After almost military rigidity in training, players are brought up with undue scrutiny. With a focus on muscle memory, players are put through hours of rigorous practice until they perfect each stroke. Before the Olympics, training also culminates in its level of seriousness. Qualified athletes stay away from outside influence, including the media, and focus on training, in the months leading up to the Games.
Speaking to The Bridge, India’s head national table tennis coach, Soumyadeep Roy explained, âChina has done an incredible amount of research on table tennis. They follow a very systematic approach. All the infrastructure that China has for table tennis is top-notch. . They have been working on it for many years and only then have they achieved such results. At present, China is like a factory for producing the best paddlers. “
One cannot help but accept Roy’s understanding of this Chinese monopoly as well. Table tennis in China is encouraged from the grassroots stage and this has dramatically helped them shape champion paddlers.
“From the age of 6 or 7, players are brought up in China. Every small town, every town has table tennis centers. The whole structure is admirable. It is difficult to reach this level for us (India) soon – a lot of work needs to be done, in terms of infrastructure. Plus, China has a lot of table tennis knowledge, “Roy said.
Can the Chinese monopoly soon be threatened?
Given China’s stronghold on sports, especially the Olympics, it seems highly unlikely that this order could be disrupted anytime soon. Ridiculously enough, the top four out of five male table tennis players are from China while six of the top seven female table tennis players are all Chinese. If that’s not a sign of their rampant domination, what is it?
The only second nation to give China a fight in the medal-collecting department at the Olympics is likely South Korea, which has collected 18 medals so far. With people like Ma Ling, Ma Long, Cheng Meng, Xin Xu, Jike Zhang, Dang Ning and Wang Manyu still very much present, it would be a Herculean task to dissuade these paddlers from continuing their reign.
However, apart from these sporting legends, China continues to factory produce such paddlers who grow up to be global drummers. Being very organized and systematic in its approach, China has shown how hard work, scientific precision, a deep understanding of a sport and finally a touch of talent can transform any nation and put it on the roost. .