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Friday 11th May

China in a class of its own

Titles retained, at the Liebherr 2018 World Team Championships which concluded in the Swedish resort of Halmstad in Sunday 6th May, once again China proved at least one step ahead of the field; somewhat coincidentally for both the men as for the women it was the 21st time the titles had been secured.

Furthermore, whatever the world rankings may read; did not Ma Long in the clinical way he beat Timo Boll in the opening match in the Men’s Team final endorse the fact that he is the best player in the world followed closely by Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin? Time and again coach Liu Guozheng sent out the tried and trusted trio, even in the group stage when Lin Gaoyuan and Wang Chuqin were sent out to bat, they were never in trouble. Every contest witnessed a three games to nil win for China, not a five games duel in sight.

Equally, the Chinese women’s team was never in doubt but rather surprisingly they surrendered three matches; the first time that has happened since the memorable defeat at the hands of Singapore in the 2010 Moscow final.

In that historic contest, Feng Tianwei beat both Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen, in Halmstad as in Moscow the experienced similar fates. In the group stage Feng Tianwei accounted for Wang Manyu, at the semi-final stage against Hong Kong, Ding Ning was beaten by Minnie Soo Wai Yam, in the final when facing Japan, Liu Shiwen lost to Mima Ito.

Japan with Mima Ito, Kasumi Ishikawa and Miu Hirano on duty proved themselves very much the next in line to China; it was only against China when they suffered defeat. Notably they beat the team named “Korea” at the semi-final stage; the decision for DPR Korea and Korea Republic, set to meet in the quarter-finals, not to play and unite was an historic moment in sport.

Impressive but equally Hong Kong impressed, with Doo Hoi Kem and Lee Ho Ching lining up alongside Minnie Soo Wai Yam; the success paid great credit to efforts of the local coaching staff, the whole team was from within the Special Administrative region.

All three steps of the podium for Asia, in the Men’s Team event Europe took a bow. In addition to Germany, Sweden secured the third step of the podium alongside Korea Republic who principally fielded Lee Sangsu, Jeong Youngsik and Jang Woojin, the quarter-final victors in opposition to Japan’s Jun Mizutani, Tomokazu Harimoto and Kenta Matsudaira. No place on the men’s podium for Japan having been the runners up two years earlier in Kuala Lumpur was a disappointment for the Land of the Rising Sun.

Eight days of intense action and in whatever way you look, China in a class of its own.