Penhold group members (from left) Wang Hao, Ryu Seung-min and Ma Lin, and shakehand group members (from right) Ma Long, Zhang Jike and Timo Boll and China's men's head coach Liu Guoliang (center) pose before the match. [Photo/CFP]
A special table tennis competition was held on Tuesday in Shenyang of Northeast China where the world's top paddlers were grouped into shakehanders and penholders, two types of paddles, to probe the pros and cons of the two styles.
Olympic champions Ma Lin and Wang Hao from China, and Ryu Seung-min from South Korea formed the penhold team, while word champions Ma Long and Zhang Jike from China, and Germany's Timo Boll were grouped as the shakehand.
Several game fixtures were planned in advance and the organizers opted for the netizen-voted Olympic table tennis group system - the best of five, with four singles and one doubles game.
It was a see-saw tournament with the two groups exchanging the lead until reaching a two-all tie. The winner was decided by a sudden-death play-off where Ma Long and Ryu Seung-min were pitted for a one-set do-or-die game. Ma edged Ryu, 12-10.
The game was proposed last year by head coach of the Chinese men's team Liu Guoliang amid controversies of which is the better option.
Penhold group members (from left) Wang Hao, Ryu Seung-min and Ma Lin pose before the match. [Photo/CFP]
In China, most of the female players are penholders and two of the three Olympic men's singles champions - Liu Guoliang from 1996 and Ma Lin from 2008 - use penhold.
Shen Penghua, the first coach of Zhang Jike, said nearly all of the new table tennis players in China choose penhold, but top shakehanders have more advantages in near-table plays.
Regardless of the debate, Coach Liu Guoliang said the "penhold vs shakehand" showcase is a way to further popularize the sport in which China has an overwhelming dominance.
Penhold group member Wang Hao watches his group mate Ryu Seung-min play. [Photo/CFP]