Foreigners benefit from nation's table tennis expertise

By Lin Shujuan in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-24 07:42
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Kristof Taubert from Germany trains at the college. GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY

Training camp

The young players Neumann and Taubert train with are members of the training camp that the CTTC runs for aspiring young hopefuls from across the country. While they continue their education in nearby primary or secondary schools, they spend four hours training at the college after school.

Wang Tianrui, 12, who moved from his hometown of Nantong, Jiangsu province, to live with his grandparents in a rented apartment in Shanghai, said: "I won three championships in my hometown last year, but suddenly felt it was no longer fun to win any more matches in Nantong. In Shanghai, the level of competition is much higher and the training is far more efficient."

He and his teammates have regular matches with Neumann, who doesn't always win.

Neumann said: "The young players are very competitive, focused, and always willing to improve. They sometimes fight with each other, but in the end they're family. They strive to improve together, and the best eventually emerge. This also explains why China is always producing something new.

"This kind of team unity and collective benefits do not exist back in Mexico, or in Europe, where more emphasis is placed on self effort and individual achievement."

Neumann said he sometimes envies the opportunity the young players have at the CTTC.

"They have the talent, the coaches, and do the hard work. You can't beat a team like that," he said.

He added that he originally planned to stay in China for a few months and then secure a contract with a European club. However, he has now decided to remain for at least three to four years — maybe more — because while he is improving his table tennis skills, he has also become so attracted to Chinese culture that he is reluctant to leave.

Zhang, the sport's dominant female player throughout the 2000s, has served as assistant dean of the CTTC since the college was established. She said she relishes the opportunity to share her expertise with table tennis enthusiasts from across the world.

In recent decades, Zhang has focused on the CTTC's international exchanges by coaching players such as Loi, from Papua New Guinea, and his teammates, who attend the college and its overseas branches for training.

"Even though I've been retired for years, I'm delighted to still play a part in the development of table tennis careers," Zhang said.

Shi, the dean, said: "It is not only the good results we've achieved that have given me so much pride as a table tennis professional. It is also the fact that table tennis has made great contributions to Chinese diplomacy and people-to-people exchanges with other countries and regions."

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