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Will the Lebrun brothers make table tennis popular again?

Will the Lebrun brothers make table tennis popular again?

 


Frenchman Felix and Alexis Lebrun play during the men's table tennis doubles semi-final at the European Championships in Munich, southern Germany, August 18, 2022.

The Lebrun brothers have become the unmistakable faces of table tennis. As young French prodigies, they played a key role in securing the French men's team's place in the last 16 of the World Cup, which takes place in Busan, South Korea, from February 16 to 25. The French team sits in fourth place, thanks in part to their two young stars.

At the age of twenty, Alexis, the eldest of the two and already a two-time reigning French champion, has won five medals at European level and climbed to fourteenth place.e in the world rankings. He impressively achieved the feat of beating the number one in the worldFan Zhendong.

Flix, the younger sibling at 17 years old, holds the French doubles championship and a European championship title. With two international circuit titles to his name, he is currently in sixth placee in the world, making him the best player in Europe.

The first signs of impact on registrations

The French Table Tennis Federation has good reasons to be satisfied. With less than six months to go until the Paris Olympics, the two brothers are the new driving force behind the sport, which saw a drop in membership after the pandemic but is now back to pre-Covid levels. In addition, the membership figures come from the end of the 2022-2023 season, before Felix's first titles.

The challenge of media attention

Alexis and Flix Lebrun are also the new ambassadors of table tennis in the media. They are still relatively unknown and their media attention is far from comparable to that of a major competition such as the Olympics or high-profile celebrity competitions such as the table tennis match between Queen Camilla and Brigitte Macron in September 2023, which overshadowed the Euro table tennis team event in the media.

The key challenge is to elevate table tennis from a sport often seen as a casual pastime or therapeutic activity for conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, to a recognized and respected competitive discipline. Quite a task, considering that most matches in Asia currently take place at night.

But despite being overshadowed by major sporting events, media coverage of table tennis is growing steadily, thanks in large part to the impressive achievements of the Lebrun brothers and a notable boost from royal involvement, resulting in a 65% increase in stories about the sport in 2023. compared to 2022.

However, the widespread fascination with the Lebrun brothers inadvertently minimizes the achievements of other emerging talents, especially female players. This includes overlooked achievements such as that of Lilian Bardet remarkable backhand in his debut match for France in Busan, and the performance of veteran French player Jianan Yuan, who became the first Frenchwoman to win the European Top 16 in January. Moreover, 19-year-old prodigy Prithika Pavade, who earned three bronze medals at the European Championships and a silver medal in mixed doubles in Antalya with Flix Lebrun, also received minimal media attention. At the World Cup, the French women's team also qualified for the quarter-finals.

Translation of an original article published in French on lemonde.fr; the publisher can only be liable for the French version.

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2/ https://www.lemonde.fr/en/sports/article/2024/02/22/are-the-lebrun-brothers-making-table-tennis-popular-again_6547590_9.html

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