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WTT chairman Liu is leading table tennis in a new role


Liu Guoliang waves to spectators at the awards ceremony during the ITTF World Tour Platinum China Open in Shenzhen, China on June 2, 2019. (Xinhua / Wang Dongzhen)

Chinese table tennis chef Liu Guoliang has the task of promoting the sport at a global level, as World Table Tennis (WTT) lists the former Olympic champion as its new head.

By sports writers Su Bin and Cao Jianjie

BEIJING, June 29 (Xinhua) – After a storied career as an athlete and coach, Liu Guoliang already had a blueprint for developing table tennis in mind when he embraced his new role as President of the World Table Tennis (WTT).

Liu, the current president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA), was appointed to the council chairman on Monday.

“This is quite a challenge, but also a good platform and opportunity,” said Chinese table tennis legend Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FORWARD

Launched last year, the World Table Tennis (WTT) will manage all International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) commercial and event operations from 2021, with its recently introduced event structure featuring Grand Smashes and the WTT Series.

“This is an excellent platform and the most daring innovation from the ITTF in many years, and is focused on developing the sport and promoting its popularity worldwide. This is a wonderful opportunity and a huge challenge,” said Liu.

Liu’s influence and experience in the sport was a key factor in the considerations of the WTT board as they worked to fill the position.

Chinese head coach Liu Guoliang (L) and Ma Long encourage their teammates in the men’s team gold medal match against Japan at the 2016 Rio Olympics on August 17, 2016. (Xinhua / Yin Bogu)

“We want someone who has a lot of experience in our sport and a little understanding of the modern way of practicing sporting events. When we looked around, we saw that Liu Guoliang was probably the best person,” said ITTF chief executive officer. Steve Dainton.

Liu had conversations with ITTF president Thomas Weikert and Dainton before accepting the position and exchanging ideas on the development of table tennis.

“ITTF has shown courage in implementing innovation and providing the best platform for players around the world. This is an opportunity for the sport. Everyone is looking forward to building an excellent platform,” said Liu.

“The future of WTT is intertwined with the future development of the sport. Table tennis has been seen in the past at the Olympics, World Championships and World Cups, but there are no professional leagues except the three majors. WTT’s four Grand Smashes starting next year provide a better platform for players around the world. More high-quality paddlers can have the opportunity to shine and perform at the highest level, giving fans the best matches, too. “

Liu called on all stakeholders in the “table tennis community” to work together to develop and promote the sport worldwide.

“Hopefully, every country and region, membership association and star player can motivate themselves so that more people can play table tennis, learn something and try it,” he said.

SPIRITUAL CHANGES AND CHALLENGES

“Life is always a process of self-challenges,” Liu said of his own many role changes in life, from athlete to coach, then president of the Chinese table tennis board and now in the global organization of the sport.

As a player, Liu Guoliang was only the second man to have a major career in winning gold at the Olympics, World Championships and World Championships. (Xinhua)

“I dreamed of achieving the Grand Slam when I was an athlete. Then I became the head coach, head coach and president (of the Chinese Table Tennis Association), and my position changed constantly.”

“When I change it, I have to change my mindset. This is the biggest. Getting on the WTT stage, apart from the results, I have to express the uniqueness of Chinese table tennis culture and tell the Chinese story to the world table tennis community,” he said.

Growing up as an athlete, Liu is keenly aware of the demands of the players, and WTT is expected to put players and fans at the center of all activities.

“They need an excellent platform to demonstrate their skills, making the platform the most important. We will have four more Grand Smashes and WTT Series events, which will provide more opportunities for athletes,” said Liu.

International table tennis competitions are currently suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Liu, whose job is to create a future for table tennis at an unprecedented period in history, is eager to turn lemons into lemonade.

“It is a major crisis for all sports. However, a crisis can create opportunities. It is crucial to resume and reconstruct table tennis. This challenging period requires everyone’s commitment and solidarity for the professionalization, commercialization and internationalization of the sport through WTT, “he said.

“It is a learning process. At such a global stage as WTT, we need to set aside small differences to find a common foundation and reap the benefits of all parties. This is the greatest challenge and direction we are marching towards. “

CHINA & WORLD TABLE TENNIS REAP MUTUAL REWARD

Liu is the head of two associations and says his dual role gives him a unique position to connect Chinese table tennis to the sport worldwide.

“It’s beneficial for both parties. World table tennis needs China and China needs the world too. It’s about mutual aid and promotion,” he said. “China has the largest number of champions, top athletes and fans, but we need an international stage and a better platform to show ourselves and hear Chinese table tennis culture around the world.”

People play table tennis in the Gujiang resettlement area in Dahua Yao Autonomous Region, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China, on May 15, 2020. (Xinhua / Cao Yiming)

Liu noted the growing trend of table tennis increasing in popularity, such as in China and Japan after the 2016 Olympics. This is especially true for young age groups.

“Fans and athletes are like water and fishing. Star players need and grow fans’ admiration and encouragement. We hope that more sports stars can stand out from the crowd and create positive energy in society.”

“If we have more stars, people will be more interested in the game and more fans will come out. Players can see their self-esteem on this platform and excellent athletes can work hard on the field to attract more fans,” says Liu said.

“Athletes are always the priority. We need to think about how we can use the platform to produce more champions, stars and excellent matches, and close contact between players and fans.”

“This will be a challenge that goes beyond just the battle for the gold medal. It is also an opportunity and platform to take this sport to the top,” he concluded.

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