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    China dominates table tennis titles, earns points on diplomacy

    By MAY ZHOU in Houston | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-12-01 09:10
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    Lin Gaoyuan (left) from China and Lily Zhang from the United States celebrate during the award ceremony of the mixed doubles event at the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships Finals in Houston on Sunday. MA JO/IMAGO IMAGES

    The Chinese team dominated the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships, which concluded on Monday in Houston, Texas, but the event is just as likely to be remembered for China and the United States' gesture of unity.

    Four of five titles were won by China, with 265 players from 56 nations competing in the championship, organized by the International Table Tennis Federation, which took place from Nov 23 to 29.

    For the first time, China and the United States joined together to enter two combined teams in the mixed doubles event. One of the pairs-Lin Gaoyuan from China and Lily Zhang from the US-secured a bronze medal. It was the first medal won by the US at the championships since 1959, and also a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Ping-Pong Diplomacy, which helped the normalization of Sino-US relations.

    The combined teams had strong support from both Chinese and US fans.

    Former professional table tennis player Ludovic Gombos, who lives in Dallas, said he was cheering for Lin and Zhang throughout their semifinal match, shouting out their names and yelling jia you, or keep going.

    "I was very happy and surprised (by the pairings) because it reflects back on the Ping-Pong Diplomacy of 50 years ago," Gombos said. "It's a nice thing to see these countries together joining forces, working together, and aiming for the gold."

    Richard Mangnall, a retired pastor from Indiana, spent the week in Houston watching the games with his wife. He has played table tennis most of his life and once competed against the late John Tannehill, a member of the US team that visited China in 1971 to start Ping-Pong Diplomacy between the two countries.

    "I think it's phenomenal, I couldn't support it more," Mangnall said of the combined teams. "This is Ping-Pong Diplomacy where we are cooperating with the Chinese team to make something new. I think that's great."

    China's Fan Zhendong won the men's championship after defeating Truls Moregard from Sweden 4 games to nil on Monday. "The matches were very hard, and I was well prepared for each match and played well," he said after the victory.

    The Chinese pairing of Wang Manyu and Sun Yingsha overcame Mima Ito and Hina Hayata from Japan 3-0 to take the women's doubles titles.

    It was the second WTTC championship for Sun and Wang, who eclipsed the same Japanese players again. "From the first match to winning the final, we believed in each other, coordinated with each other very well, and gave each other encouragement," Sun said.

    However, Sun and Wang later turned into opponents when both vied for the women's singles championship. Wang eventually overcame her teammate in a closely fought final 4-2. She said both had done their utmost and both were winners.

    "We are the same age and have been trying to catch each other. There is a healthy competition between us. We are respectful opponents in competition and good friends outside competition," Wang said.

    Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha secured China's fourth title at the event after defeating Tomokazu Harimoto and Hina Hayata of Japan 3-0 in the mixed doubles.

    The only title China didn't win was the men's doubles, with Swedish players Kristian Karlsson and Mattias Falck defeating the South Korean team to take the gold.

    Jiang Chenglong in Houston contributed to this story.

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