Skip to content
Home News Table tennis: A big deal in China

Table tennis: A big deal in China

Summer Games 5 August 2023

Zhou Kai (China) celebrates his gold medal win in men’s singles

Thanks to two more titles on the last day of table tennis competition, the Chinese delegation managed to sweep all seven gold medals in the sport in Chengdu.

In Saturday’s singles finals, Qian Tianyi defeated Japan’s Idesawa Kyoka in seven sets to claim the women’s title, while Zhou Kai beat teammate Xu Yingbin 4-2 to capture the men’s crowd.

06   Qian Tianyi of Team China won the women's singles competition
Qian Tianyi (China) in action during women’s singles competition

An impressive achievement, which was almost expected given the quality of the athletes sent to the Chengdu FISU World University Games by the host nation.

This success, above all, highlights the importance of the sport for China as a country.

“It is basically the most popular sport in all schools, because it is not that exhausting to play, and everyone can participate,” explains Lin, a 18-year old university student and table tennis aficionado who attended Saturday’s finals.

Displaying a big Chinese flag on the right cheek, the youngster had booked tickets for the finals way back when the FISU Games were attributed to Sichuan’s capital city.

“I’m glad that after two years of delay and preparation I finally have the chance to watch the game. Even if it means being far from the table, as long as I can see the game it’s perfect.”

03   7 year old Jiang enjoyed the Ping pong finals with her dad and little sister
7 year old Jiang enjoyed the table tennis finals with her dad and little sister

Thousands more fans shared Lin’s passion for table tennis in the High-Tech Zone Sports Centre Gymnasium, especially families gathered with children like 9 year-old Jiang, who enjoyed Qian’s gold-medal win.

“I like that it requires a lot of focus, strength, and quick reaction to every movement of the ball,” said the young girl. “But I also like that only good performance can be seen by everyone, not all the effort behind it. It’s more intimate this way.”

“So many people talk about it all the time, it is natural that the kids want to do it,” explained her father. “Seeing all these athletes performing creates a winning spirit passing down to the children, and it shows them that they can perform and excel if they work hard and focus.”

This is why there is no secret as to why international-level professional players were sent to Chengdu.

“Countries like Korea and Japan also have many great talented players, and they constantly get stronger, generation after generation. Although Chinese ping pong may seem dominant now, no one is sure if we could keep the leading place,” Lin said.

02   Ambiance at Ping pong venue for the finals 2
Fans enjoying women’s and men’s single table tennis finals at the High-tech Zone Sports Centre Gymnasium

Especially on home soil, where the pressure is higher, nothing is left to fate. The same happened at Shenzhen 2011, the last time China swept all table tennis gold medals. Back then, the Chinese delegation included future world No. 1 and four-time world champion Xu Xin.

“He is definitely my favourite player,” Lin said. “In the football game between Australia and Argentina a month ago in Beijing, a Chinese fan rushed onto the football field trying to hug Lionel Messi. If I am watching a game between Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong (the current world No. 1), I may as well try to climb over the barricade and rush onto the field to ask for autographs.”

Be it for passion or for work, everyone basically has a reason to enjoy table tennis in China.

“I like the sport and I wanted to feel the passion of the crowd at the venue, that’s why I applied to be here specifically,” shared volunteer Deng Lingrui, who helps direct spectators in the stands.

“It has been such an important part of my life. I guess it’s inseparable from me now,” said Xu, the men’s singles finalist. “I think people long for the fighting spirit embedded within this sport, they have seen so many athletes bounce back when they were down and never give up. It’s appealing.”

Xu’s passion was not enough to overcome Zhou on Saturday, but the local fans cheered both of them equally, as it put the final touch on China’s table tennis supremacy during these FISU Games.

Written by Louis Gilles, FISU Young Reporter