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China's table tennis Olympians tested in warm-up matches
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China is testing its table tennis Olympians by introducing their teammates as challengers in a warm-up competition here 10 days ahead of the August 8-24 Beijing Olympics.

The women's Olympic team, comprising Zhang Yining, Guo Yue, Wang Nan plus the nominated reserve Li Xiaoxia, will take part in a round-robin team competition with three other teams, featuring fourth-ranked Guo Yan and some rising stars.

A round-robin team competition will replace the double event for both men and women at the Beijing Olympics. The competition involves three players playing four singles and one doubles match.

The opponent teams in the Wuxi competition include some very excellent young players like 18th-ranked Liu Shiwen and 31st-ranked Ding Ning, who will hopefully become China's main force in the future, said Liu Fengyan, director of the National Table Tennis and Badminton Center under the State Sports Administration of China.

"Young players will learn a lot from competing with the top stars," Liu said. "Meanwhile, the Olympians are supposed to discover their shortcomings and make some improvement at the last moment."

Preparation for difficulties

In the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi, roughly 120 kilometers west of Shanghai, the men's Olympic team will play an elimination game with three opponent teams which imitate the styles of major foreign rivals such as South Korea and Germany, the Chinese Table Tennis Association, or the organizer, said in a statement.

The trio of Wang Hao, Ma Lin and Wang Liqin will also face challenges from their teammates in singles matches.

Challengers who win three matches will be fielded in the singles competition of the world championships next year, the organizer said.

"The move was taken to encourage young players to try their best to upset the top stars, making the warm-up competition more difficult for the Olympic team," said Liu.

"We must be prepared for difficulties at the Beijing Olympics because foreign opponents will never give up easily at the quadrennial Games," he added. "Chinese paddlers set high requirements for themselves but pressure should not turn into jitters."

Jitters against foreign challengers sometimes get the better of the Chinese. Wang Hao lost to a fired-up and more composed Ryu Seung-min of South Korea in the singles final at the Athens Games four years ago.

Liu said that Chen Jing, women's singles gold medalist at the 1988 Seoul Games, has been working as a psychologist for the men's team.

Chen has the experience of winning and losing in major international competitions and is now a psychology professor, he said.

(Xinhua News Agency July 29, 2008)

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