Watching Table Tennis, the Perfect Day Out in Guangzhou
Suddenly at just before 11.00am on Saturday 27th March 2010 in the Guangzhou Gymnasium, there is a rapid influx of some 300 or so spectators.
They have come watch the action unfold at the Evergrande Real Estate Asian Cup; it’s not the finals and there are no matches taking place that will produce a medal winner. The matches are to determine fifth to eighth place.
Quite simply, they have come to watch table tennis; whoever is playing the spectators applaud the athletes as they demonstrates their wide ranging skills.
One Player in Particular
However, there is one player that attracts the attention; it is Ma Lin, the winner of the gold medal in the Men’s Singles event at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008.
Winning that title makes him immortal; there is no prize higher than Olympic gold for a Chinese sportsman or sportswoman.
Perhaps Ma Lin cannot walk on water but in China he can certainly surf with aplomb but there is another reason he is the focus of attention. He is almost, very nearly the local boy.
Like many others Ma Lin hails from Liaoning, the province which has spawned so many famous players but having started his career in the north he moved to play in Shantou, about a one hour flight from Hong Kong or if you prefer the delights of a rail journey, then four hours from Guangzhou.
The opposition on the second morning of action is provided by the multi talented Korean teenager Kim Min Seok. Talent abundant but the aspiring Korean is never allowed to show that talent.
Using his experience, his clever placement of a table tennis ball, Ma Lin directs the ball wherever Kim Min Seok does not want the ball directed. Now that’s talent.
He teaches the young upstart a lesson and only when the job is virtually completed and Ma Lin is out of sight does the Olympic champion give Kim Min Seok the chance to show his skills.
It is exhibition time, Kim Min Seok might well become the greatest in that art since the cartwheeling Chen Xinhua; the Korean retreats towards Hong Kong, lobbing the ball into the stratosphere.
Ma Lin co-operates. He could have buried the ball into the third row of the tiered seating but he plays the game and gives the Korean the opportunity to race at full speed to execute a forehand topspin.
Kim Min Seok duly produces the absolute ridiculous; a forehand topspin travels round the side of the net, it skids across the table, Ma Lin looks bemused as he is yorked, bowled under the bat.
Try Again Son
The next point, Kim Min Seok prepares to retreat; Ma Lin concludes matters: “you’ve had your moment of glory, now goodnight” are the Olympic champion’s sentiments.
The match is over but the crowd remains, they want to see more table tennis, they love the entertainment, the fare on offer; for them it’s table tennis and more table tennis; a good day out.