Jul 25, 2016

    China-born paddlers look elsewhere to fulfil dreams


    FOR former Chinese athletes that now compete for other countries, an Olympic meeting with a rival from the motherland in table tennis in Rio will be bittersweet.

    Scores of China-born athletes have switched citizenship in the two decades since the Asian powerhouses returned to the Olympic fold in 1984, driven by stiff competition for national team places.

    Discounting 12 paddlers competing for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, 27 of the 140 entrants in the table tennis singles were born in China but represent nations like Portugal, Qatar and Republic of Congo.

    "The first feeling if I meet them is that I'm very unlucky, because it's very difficult to beat them and it feels like the match may be over very quickly," Melek Hu, who will represent Turkey, said.

    China have won 24 out of 28 gold medals since table tennis became an Olympic sport in 1988.

    Meanwhile, Beijing-born Wu Yue will compete for the United States.

    Wu, who also goes by her English name Jennifer, said life in China as a table tennis professional is easier because of government support.

    But she noted that her freedom to choose her own schedule and competitions had been invaluable.

    "There are too many talents in China. In China I didn't count as a talent," she said.

    "I feel that it doesn't matter which country you're playing for, this fulfils my Olympic dream ... It means that I didn't play table tennis for nothing."