World Table Tennis in the Era of China

Hyun Jung-hwa’s first ever singles gold medal taken in Gothenburg 1993 was a special memory for Korean table tennis. However, to think of it again in another side, it’s meaningful in that it was the last WTTC the Chinese table tennis allowed competition to other countries. It is a possible assumption that the Chinese team was stimulated while giving the victories of ‘main events’—men’s and women’s singles—to Gatien and Hyun as well as losing to Sweden in men’s team event. The world of table tennis has had one flow since then. With the start of the 43rd WTTC hosted in Tianjin, China, in 1995, China won every event with the key players Kong Linghui and Deng Yaping and most of gold medals in WTTCs held afterwards. It may be a little too much to say but the Chinese table tennis has opened the ‘era of China.’

▲ Chinese team began the ‘era of China’ by winning all events in Tianjin with Kong Linghui and Deng Yaping.

In fact, it’s much easier to count events that China couldn’t win. For team events, Sweden men’s team winning Kuala Lumpur 2000 and Singapore women’s team winning Moscow 2010 were the only cases. For men’s singles, Sweden’s Waldner and Austria’s Schlager each won Manchester 1997 and Paris 2003. For men’s doubles, Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan and Chen Chien-An pair won Paris 2013 and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Kim Hyuk-bong and Kim Jung pair won the mixed doubles in the same Championships. Japan’s Yoshimura Maharu and Ishikawa Kasumi pair won Dusseldorf 2017’s mixed doubles.

▲ Sweden and Singapore defeated China in men’s and women’s team event.

There are almost no events that the other countries have taken gold—most of them were won by the Chinese team. 82 out of 89 gold medals were taken by China from the 1995 WTTC to the most recent one held in 2019 (individual). The famous Chinese superstars took all the gold medals above: Liu Guolian, Ma Lin and Wang Hao known for their skills of using both sides of a racket, Deng Yaping, Wang Nan and Zhang Yining the ‘queens of table tennis,’ Kong Linghui and Wang Liqin the ‘representatives of the earth’ and Zhang Jike, Ma long, Xu Xin and Li Xiaoxia, Ding Ning, Liu Shiwen the ‘mixed trios.’

▲ Ma Long continues his WTTC history. He rewrote the men’s single history by winning in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

During the period, Wang Liqin (2001, 2005, 2007), Ma Long (2015, 2017, 2019), Deng Yaping (1991, 1995, 1997), Wang Nan (1999, 2001, 2003), Ding Ning (2011, 2015, 2017) each one singles event for three times. Zhang Jike (2011, 2013) and Jang Yining (2005, 2009) also won twice. The Chinese men and women’s teams each achieved the 20th win in Kuala Lumpur 2016 while also continuing the victory in Halmstad 2018, marking the 21st win. Having Busan 2020 ahead, Chinese table tennis currently possesses a total of 146 WTTC gold medals, which is exactly twice amount of Hungary’s 73.

▲ It is a common scene the Chinese players conquering the podium. Photo depicts Zhang Ining winning the 2009 Yokohama.

It is also important to note that their heyday does not seem to have an end. The Chinese table tennis is already equipped of the next generations of table tennis prodigies given its base and continued research and development. The current superstars such as Fan Zhendong, Wang Chuqin (won the Liebherr 2019 in doubles with Ma Long), Sun Yinsha and Wang Manyu winning women’s doubles are all teenagers or all in their early 20s. The ‘Great Wall’ continues to get sturdier.

Written by_Han In-su | Photo by_Table Tennis Monthly Database & ITTF Museum