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Tradition and Tenacity Table Tennis Team in the Swing of Things


□ Su Zhenzhen

  "Istart training at eight o'clock every morning, nap foran hour in the afternoon, and then continue trainingfor three hours," says Wang Liqin, holder of manyworld table tennis championship titles. Now about ayear before the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, he explains, "Thatis my daily life. Boring? I don't think so. Everybody has theirown dream, and my most cherished ambition is to win a goldmedal at the Beijing Games." Wang has won all world championtitles in his sport except at the Olympic level. Now winning atthe 2008 Games is his foremost ambition. Wang's sentimentsare shared by his fellow teammates on the China National TableTennis Team.
  
  Nearly all 94 players of the China National Table Ten-nis Team are stars in the world of table tennis. Most of the 25coaches, including retired grand slam winners Liu Guoliang andKong Linghui, and the strict and experienced Li Xiaodong, areformer star players.
  "I get nervous at the mere mention of 'Olympics' now,"says team leader Huang Biao. "The Games will be held in thiscountry and the players will be more fired up than ever. But ashost country players, we also face a big psychological test. Ourbiggest problem now is how to help players ease their stress."
  In preparing for the upcoming Olym-pics, the team must try new methods andadapt to new changes. Much competitionhas been introduced to the team. "Since thequota of athletes for The Games is limited,"explained Liu Guoliang, chief coach of themen's table tennis team. "We must assesseach player thoroughly, and let them fullydisplay their own potential. In this way theywill be more qualified to take part in TheGames and live up to expectations." Liuwas the champion of the men's team, men'ssingles, men's doubles and mixed doublesat the 43rd, 44th and 45th World Table Ten-nis Championships. In China, he is also thefirst grand slam winner of the World TableTennis Championships, the World Cup andthe Olympics. Probably, it is he who mostunderstands the meaning of 'competition.'"Now we will have dual meets within theteam before an international competitiontakes place. Only the best will move on,"Liu says.
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