Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Thursday, March 18, 2004

Olympic champion Kong out of China's table tennis roster for Olympic qualifiers

Chinese table tennis hero Kong Linghui was out of the lineup for the coming Asian zone Olympic qualifiers, officials announced here on Wednesday.


Chinese table tennis hero Kong Linghui was out of the lineup for the coming Asian zone Olympic qualifiers, officials announced here on Wednesday.

China named Wang Hao and Niu Jianfeng for the men's and women's singles, defending Olympic champion Wang Liqin/Yan Sen, Ma Lin/Chen Qi for the men's doubles and Zhang Yining/Wang Nan, Niu Jianfeng/Guo Yue for women's doubles.

Cai Zhenhua, national head coach, said: "It was a hard decision. It is a pity for Kong that he could not defend his title in Athensthough he is in good form. In my mind, Kong is still the best in the world."

Comparing with the 29-year-old Kong, Wang, 2003 Pro Tour Finals champion, has the advantage of his innovated techniques, fighting spirit and young age.

"Wang performed very well at the World Team Championships in Doha earlier this month. He has the better chance to achieve good results in Athens comparing with Kong," Cai said.

Under the new stipulations, any ITTF member is only allocated with three tickets at most for the Athens Olympic Games and only one player is eligible to compete in the continent's qualifiers for the third seat, in both men's and women's events.

However, the quotas were too few for China, who has been cradling the best and most paddlers in the world.

In the men's singles, world top two players Ma Lin and Wang Liqin placed on top of the Olympic list, with a group of other medal-hopefuls hunting for the lone third spot, including talented and in-form Wang, Kong and veteran Liu Guozheng, not to mention another group of uprising teenagers Chen Qi, Hao Shuai and Qiu Yike.

Wang is the current world No.3 player while Kong placed 11.

In the women's field, world No. 1 Zhang Yining and Olympic and world champion Wang Nan are top favorites, leaving the third berth to 2003 Pro Tour Finals winner Niu Jianfeng, veteran Li Ju and 16-year-old Guo Yue.

As young talents, Chen Qi and Guo Yue failed in the singles but earned the chance to show up in the doubles. "They are the future of Chinese table tennis. We hope that they can compete in the singles at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games," Cai said.

The Asian Olympic qualifiers will be held from April 9-13 in Beijing. There are 11 Olympic berths from Asia but in fact only 7 on offer in Beijing as the rest four go to areas in Southeast Asia, West Asia, South Asia and Central Asia.

Source: Xinhua

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