Can China's table tennis team be beaten?

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[FONT=PublicoText_Roman]One of England’s best young table tennis coaches says so, and believes that he has the recipe for success
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[FONT=PublicoText_Roman]Every time I tell people that I'm a table tennis coach and former top player their response is invariably this: "The Chinese are the best. Can you beat the Chinese?"
I started playing table tennis in the 1990s and was fortunate to witness three Europeans win the men’s world singles title (Swedes Jorgen Persson in 1991 and Jan-Ove Waldner in 1997 and Frenchman Jean- Philippe Gatien in 1993) as well as an Olympic singles title (Waldner in 1992). I also saw Sweden become the last nation to beat China in the men’s team event at the 2000 World Championships!
I dreamed of becoming a world champion myself but that was too far fetched, having only started playing the game when I was 14 years old. So I turned to coaching. Now, with 16 years of coaching experience behind me, I have produced countless national team, doubles, male and female singles title winners. But my ultimate goal is far greater than national success. My vision is fixed on defeating China.
I previously played in Germany, France and Belgium and saw the best table tennis set-ups in Europe. I believe they all lack the full infrastructure needed to develop Olympic and world champions. There are various full time centres but they are not structured in a way that allows players to develop their game throughout their career, especially beyond the age of 18.
Even in those with a structured system there seems to be lack of innovation, passion and most importantly motivation. They have a defeatist attitude: "China are too good, so what's the point?!"
[h=2][FONT=PublicoText_Bold]Where’s the gap?
[/h]I currently run a table tennis academy in Harefield in the London borough of Hillingdon which caters for students aged 11-19 (it also has on-site boarding allowing players from all over the world to stay there while they study and train). Here they receive regular table tennis training alongside their education. But we also need top-level coaches from the grass roots level who can develop players from the age of five through to 10. They are then technically well developed and can build onwards from these solid foundations.
Only then should they be passed on to a full time set up such as The Harefield Academy, which has a full-time coaching team including myself. Here, they are able to train regularly before, during (in PE lessons and during classes on subjects that they are not taking further) and after school. They get personal attention on either a one-to-one basis or in a small group of up to four players. After school, they can then join a larger group comprising the whole table tennis squad, for a few hours. This is where teamwork, ethics and personal development are encouraged and a variation of styles is integrated into the coaching.
It’s an effective set-up but what happens before kids join the Academy and after they leave? This is where my attentions are now focused. I am collaborating with The Harefield Academy to try and establish a dedicated table tennis centre of excellence within the school grounds. While we are still in the early planning stages, this is an exciting opportunity. The centre would host local, national and international players and cater for national and international training camps and European matches. Such a facility would provide a clear pathway for young aspiring players, fulfill their needs from a young age and crucially allow them to continue their development even after they leave school.
[h=2][FONT=PublicoText_Bold]The here and now
[/h]Currently in England we have many exceptionally talented players who dream of pursuing a career in table tennis. Sadly, they either quit before the age of 18 or at the end of their junior years. In some cases they leave home to chase their dreams elsewhere, heading to the likes of Germany, France, Poland etc. Why should this talent have to go abroad? Clearly I believe they shouldn't.
image: http://cdn.talksport.com/sport-mag/475/TT_3.jpg
TT_3.jpg
England's table tennis team have actually performed exceptionally well over the past two years, resulting in three men now being ranked inside the world’s top 100. They also finished third at the 2016 World Team Championships and reached the quarter-finals at the 2016 Olympics, losing out to China.
All three players in the England team left the country in their teens, in search of a higher level of training and a more financially rewarding table tennis system. It’s a sad indictment on a country that not only invented table tennis but has also had three World Champions: Fred Perry (1929), Richard Bergmann (1939, 1948, 1950) and Johnny Leach (1949, 1951). Indeed, throughout those years the World Championships were often held at Wembley with tens of thousands spectators flocking to watch.
[h=2][FONT=PublicoText_Bold]Back on trend[/FONT][/h]Away from the competitive side of things, the sport is actually thriving in England. With tables popping up in more and more public spaces and bars being themed around the sport, table tennis has become trendy. It is also being celebrated for its long-term health benefits, with the increased blood flow to the brain while playing said to help conditions like Alzheimers.
All we need now is a structured system to not only keep our players on home soil but also help them to compete with the absolute best. My vision is to create a bulletproof infrastructure by raising the funds to build a centre that will provide a complete pathway for the table tennis players of tomorrow.
Despite being a coach with limited resources and access to only a small window of a player’s career, I have been able to produce many of today's top England players. I believe that with a good team and infrastructure in place, China can be beaten and England can be crowned world champions once again. I'm looking for help, not only to make my vision come true, but also to make table tennis great again, inspire our youth and give them the best possible chance of becoming the world’s best.
If you’re interested in helping to make table tennis great again, get in touch: @EliBaraty [FONT=PublicoText_Bold]Head coach, [/FONT]Harefield Table Tennis Academy @THA_School
image: http://cdn.talksport.com/sport-mag/475/TT_1.jpg
TT_1.jpg
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[FONT=PublicoText_Roman]ELI BARATY | @EliBaraty


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Read more at http://sport-magazine.co.uk/features/can-chinas-table-tennis-team-be-beaten#pUpVqxCt0M6h1ldq.99[/FONT]
 
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No.

But I hope I am wrong. And the only way I will be wrong is due to stuff that Eli Baraty is doing.

There is a thriving new club in my city now, with great playing conditions and hordes of very young children getting trained by former Chinese provincial level coaches, former US national champion (Timothy Wang), and several former Chinese provincial team players, and even the first Wang Hao -- a Chinese national team member from the late 80s. (Some of you may remember him, he is a modern defender, not the penholder from the mid 2000s. Here in the US he goes by Eddie. Fantastic friendly guy, awesome with kids. I hit some balls with him last weekend). There is a 14 year old boy at our club who is right around 2500. His younger brother will probably be better in the fullness of time. And some other really talented kids.

They will be very good junior players.

And then they will go to the university and become doctors or engineers or something. I honestly don't know what the solution is to that, or really, if there even should be one.
 
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I think it is possible, but it would need a serious commitment. There's a Swedish documentary on Youtube about the approach Sweden had to beat the Chinese, as far as I know it is only in Swedish though. Really good documentary.

It being possible comes with quite a few ifs though.

First I think you need a country where table tennis is popular enough that you can get several talented players going at the same time. I think this is the biggest problem, good players need quality practice and sparring partners. Somebody from Sweden, either a player or a coach, suggested that what we need is cooperation in Europe so that the really good players can start to compete and train together at an early age, so it would be essentially Europe against China, not a single country.

You also need a long time plan. Sweden started the project to beat China in the early eighties. First you need enough players so that you can get enough talent to work with, then you also need the coaches and all other structure in place once you do develop your talent.

I think today most countries either don't have the talented players and those that do doesn't have the infrastructure in place. Mean while China has everything in place and they also have as many active players as all of Europe or more...
 
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Right on, Eli.
[Emoji106]
Even though I must agree with Baal, that keeping those young adulescents around 18 years old will be the biggest challenge, i think.
One of my close friends was in german Junior National Team. He was practicing and playing with guys like Timo Boll, Thomas Keinath, Stefan Feth and a few more good players. But when he turned eighteen/nineteen his focus changed.
Before that he was such an TT-enthusiast, that he had his beloved paddle lying next to his pillow at night.
But then something changed and he wanted to become a doctor or more specific a surgeon.
At first here in Freiburg/Germany but after some time he first went to Stanford, then was one year in Philly and is now back in Stanford.
He still can play on a decent level but unfortunately he didn't expect his tabletennis career to get him anywhere he is now.

So this is one of the key things that need to change, so young people can see a perspective following a tabletennis career and stick to it and keep them in the sport. Creating that infrastructure that young professional/semi-professional players can make a living from TT should be one of the main goals.

On the other hand I believe he has already been saving lives now that he's a surgeon and I'm not sure if he would have been able to do that if he wouldn't had chosen this path. But still...

Creating the right surroundings for developing young players is essential!

So carry on with your good works, trying to uplift the sport to where it belongs.
All the best for you, Eli
[Emoji106]
 
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I don't know. I am pretty sure FZD will show a level of tabletennis we have never seen before so the next years will be very tough. atm it would definitely require a Timo Boll- like talented player instead of an overall higher level.

I am always hoping to see a young talent with enough dedication to also bring his body to the maximum. Kristian Karlsson has a very good physique and it is really paying off for him, but if I look at Anton Källberg for example he is very talented but will never match the power of ZJK, ML or FZD. I think this is also the biggest problem for XX, who probably has the best touch in the whole world.
 
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AS long as China will continue to consistently train players like Wang Liqin, Ma Lin, Wang Hao, Ma Long, Zhang Jike, Xu Xin, Fan Zhendong......no they won't be beaten in any team event, unless the head coach in CNT made huge mistakes by selecting the wrong players (like it was the case in 2000, Liu Guoliang, even if World Champion 99, shouldn't have been the number one player, Wang Liqin and Ma Ling should have been already included in the roster, I believe China wouldn't have lost in 2000 with a team composed of Kong Linghui, Wang Liquin and Ma Lin, even if Jürgen Person played godlike during the final).
 
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I think getting more people involved in recreational table tennis would benefit the health of the sport just as much, if not more.

It's unfair to the children to give them hope when even just 5% of the top category can succeed at the highest level. It's better to have a healthier infrastructure so that we can support the B team and province players (like in China). As a coach, I would feel very uneasy about encouraging even an extremely talented child to try for international success, knowing that only a small percentage make it.

If you read Timo Boll's book, it becomes clear that you need a lot of resources to create a player like that. In his case, an entire club moved to his village just so that he could train full time. That means that the top regional players completely shifted their residence somewhere else, just so that Timo could train at a very young age.

I'm currently coaching a group of beginners at my University. Instead of just supervising them, I'm trying to teach them technique in a fun manner :). You should have seen their faces when they tried to block a topspin for the first time :D. I think showing new people what table tennis actually is awakes their interest and perhaps a few might join a club after my course.
 
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I don't know. I am pretty sure FZD will show a level of tabletennis we have never seen before so the next years will be very tough. atm it would definitely require a Timo Boll- like talented player instead of an overall higher level.

I am always hoping to see a young talent with enough dedication to also bring his body to the maximum. Kristian Karlsson has a very good physique and it is really paying off for him, but if I look at Anton Källberg for example he is very talented but will never match the power of ZJK, ML or FZD. I think this is also the biggest problem for XX, who probably has the best touch in the whole world.
I think the problem here is that one talented player in a region/country is not enough.

Look at the Chinese mens team, the competition there is so high. It was the same thing for the Swedish team when they where good. Erik Lindh didn't get to play the WC final in 89. He was ranked 5th or 6th in the world at the moment, but at the day of the final Waldner, Persson and Appelgren were considered in better shape. You need a team like that, where you have internal competition for each position on the team.

It's the same with talent, you need competition or you stagnate and stop improving. It's really hard to even gauge if you are improving unless you have something to measure it against.
 
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I think getting more people involved in recreational table tennis would benefit the health of the sport just as much, if not more.

It's unfair to the children to give them hope when even just 5% of the top category can succeed at the highest level. It's better to have a healthier infrastructure so that we can support the B team and province players (like in China). As a coach, I would feel very uneasy about encouraging even an extremely talented child to try for international success, knowing that only a small percentage make it.

If you read Timo Boll's book, it becomes clear that you need a lot of resources to create a player like that. In his case, an entire club moved to his village just so that he could train full time. That means that the top regional players completely shifted their residence somewhere else, just so that Timo could train at a very young age.

I'm currently coaching a group of beginners at my University. Instead of just supervising them, I'm trying to teach them technique in a fun manner :). You should have seen their faces when they tried to block a topspin for the first time :D. I think showing new people what table tennis actually is awakes their interest and perhaps a few might join a club after my course.
You are absolutely correct. That's where you have to start. That's actually what started it in Sweden back in the day as well, people started playing it for fun.

Football and Ice Hockey is more popular in Sweden, but table tennis is slowly coming back due to exactly what you describe.

By the way, the way you describe teaching table tennis sounds perfect, keep up the good work!
 
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Suga, you live in Freiburg? I have played there a couple of times. One of my favorite places. Great university.
 
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I truly believe that it isn't purely about infrastructure or talent pools or even keeping the kids at the age of 18...although they all play a factor.....right now we use Chinese coaches and leagues and training facilities to learn from the best...which leads to very good foundations....however we can't just repeat China's style and expect to win...they have several great advantages.

1. The sheer amount of people willing to play.....even if you got every person in my entire country (Canada) to want to play pro table tennis you couldn't compete with the numbers. And then everyone of those players has the regional, provincial and national coaching that we all want already ingrained into their system.

2. Chinese coaches and high level players exported are great...they have a wealth of experience and we can learn lots from them....however if we think that we are getting Chinese players and coaches that could have bettered their own national team, we are dreaming. We get players that couldn't make it! Their cast offs can coach and teach us the fundamentals just as well as liu guoliang, bit they do not know what it is like to be on the top.

3. They have NO fall back. We always have the ability to go to school and make something of ourselves if we don't make it in table tennis. (Which we won't so we already are preparing). In China the kids are recognized as having talent from a very young age (which we can do as well) then they are put into sports schools (which we can also do but it is a bit rarer) and then the race begins. If they don't make it in table tennis they can't change their minds and go be an engineer there....they will end up in basic poverty for their life.....its a do or die thing.


I believe there is a way to beat China. Sweden did it. Michael Maze did it (for one tournament), and the very odd European player has a good run against them by doing it.

It's called being original.

Sweden came out with a style designed to defeat the fast attackers. It was take a step back and let the ball slow down a and counter loop. When China realized this was winning they did what they always do and imitated them but they could never defeat the original as they didn't have the players to go back and practice against. Sweden stayed at the top. Being the best at this. Until they decided to let kong linghui decided to go train in Sweden to learn the style....then he went back to China and everyone practiced against him as Sweden began to age and that began the decline.

Michael maze went through almost three top Chinese players in a tournament that were destroying the rest of Europe by LOBBING of all things....they just hadn't seen it and hadn't practiced against it. They clearly went home. Practiced against lobbers until the cows came home and never lost to them again....(this is less of an example then Sweden but I'm leading to my main point...)

First. You need a solid foundation. As solid as the Chinese get. Solid foot work solid shots from both sides of the table etc etc.

Then....you have to stop thinking that you can beat China at their own game. We cannot.

We have to do something they haven't seen. And when stacked with a world class foundation...it becomes a weapon....

For example...(I'm no world class coach...but...). What about a grip change that allows for more angles on shots. What about using a type of rubber that everyone thinks is a disadvantage but you learn to use it in a way that it isn't. What about instead of worrying about counter looping you stay at the table and angle block much to you Chinese coaches dismay! and use your opponents power against him.....

These are just ideas of a ranter....but China will do what China has always done best. They will imitate. They will not originate.

IMHO....China's players now are faster more powerful Waldners with the exception of a few insane freaks.

Let's originate.



Sent from my HTC One M9 using Tapatalk
 
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Suga, you live in Freiburg? I have played there a couple of times. One of my favorite places. Great university.

Oh sorry, i guess I mispelled that, maybe i should rephrase it again. I've been a couple of times in Freiburg. Really a lovely place, but i stay close to Frankfurt.
:)

@everyone: great posts so far. A real good read!
Keep 'em coming.
 
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AS long as China will continue to consistently train players like Wang Liqin, Ma Lin, Wang Hao, Ma Long, Zhang Jike, Xu Xin, Fan Zhendong......no they won't be beaten in any team event, unless the head coach in CNT made huge mistakes by selecting the wrong players (like it was the case in 2000, Liu Guoliang, even if World Champion 99, shouldn't have been the number one player, Wang Liqin and Ma Ling should have been already included in the roster, I believe China wouldn't have lost in 2000 with a team composed of Kong Linghui, Wang Liquin and Ma Lin, even if Jürgen Person played godlike during the final).
I would have to disagree I think china made the right choice in 2000 but liu guoliang got unlucky and didn't play well. Wang liqin and ma Lin (especially ma Lin ) were too young and wouldn't have been able to handle the stress
 
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Great article!
Europe needs more dedicated academy like this one.
You do get table tennis geniuses from time to time but it's the development and high performance system that counts the most especialy for sport like table tennis which doesn't have as developed pro tours as Tennis and Golf.
 
I would have to disagree I think china made the right choice in 2000 but liu guoliang got unlucky and didn't play well. Wang liqin and ma Lin (especially ma Lin ) were too young and wouldn't have been able to handle the stress

Ma Lin was finalist in 99 wttc, beating Waldner in semis. Wang Liqin is the one who has beaten Jurgen Person in 99 wttc.

Here is a match between Wang Liqin and Liu Guoliang in China Open 2000 :
Wang Liqin was already "miles above" Guoliang, and already the best player in the world in fact.
 
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Everything is possible
Impossible is for the lazy
Possible comes with sacrifices, hardship and will take time.

Its like American in the swimming pool, athletic track or basketball court. American was difficult to beat, but not impossible to beat.

Chinese players are spoiled with resources. I'm talking not just about the coach, or the sparring partner, or the physical trainer, or the team doctor, or team physio, or the analysis team, or the good salary (retirement plan), or the team chef (that travels with them), okay I think i've run out of resources for now.

The winning formula is more than just a coach and a player in this time at age (with any sport).
The problem in TT is most places only have players and coach and thats it (we are a poor sport with poor resources)

Eli got a good plan for the foundation, and that is what is lacking everywhere for sure.
However I see the major problem is what do you do with the top talent at age 13 or age 15 or age 17, what is the next step? and this is the problem I see

It doesn't make sense for parents to 100% support the kid after a certain age if the future is not in TT
In China, TT is a future and families are willing to sacrifice the kids full life to have a small chance of making the national team.
To me, that is the biggest different between China and world TT
skills/talent is just a distance second, this is number 1
 
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I totally agree with TonyTT. Kids must concentrate on school, because they need something other than tt to make their living.
And the problem isn't the school, but that they have to decide: enough learning + less training, or less learning + enough training. And that is something what can be helped with proper infrastructure, flexible rules and money.
 
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