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Former world champ Schlager denies falling behind
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Former world champion Werner Schlager believed he's in better shape than five years ago when he lifted the St. Bride Cup in Paris.

Former world champion Werner Schlager

Former world champion Werner Schlager believed he's in better shape than five years ago when he lifted the St. Bride Cup in Paris. 

"Table tennis has changed dramatically since 2003 and it is still changing. The game is now faster, players are more accurate in directing their strokes and physical fitness is more important," the 1.73m Austrian, who turns 36 years old next month, said Wednesday after a closed door training session in the underground gym of the Peking University Gymnasium.

"You must keep up to speed with the developments in sport. If I had not done this, I would have fallen behind and I would now be ranked outside the top 100 in the world," added Schlager, who's currently ranked world No. 16 and will play both singles and team events in the upcoming table tennis tournament of the Beijing Olympic Games.

The right-handed attacker, who defeated China's Wang Liqin and Kong Linghui en route to victory in the 2003 worlds, has been back to winning ways after a lull in fortunes, winning the men's singles at the Europe Top 12 tournament in Frankfurt last February.

He seemed knowing well what makes a champion, while talking about possibly easier victory at the Olympic field.

"I think it is harder to win at the world championships because there can be six or seven good players in the men's singles event whereas at the Olympic Games, it is limited to three per country," said Schlager. "I think it's more possible to achieve a high finish in the Olympics than in the World Championships."

"At the world championships in 2003 I was in good shape," he added. "I liked the draw, the people I played were world class, but they were players I enjoyed playing. Also, the conditions were excellent."

The Olympic table tennis competitions, with singles and team events on both men's and women's parts, is slated on August 13 to 23 at the PKU Gymnasium, a very first stadium specially designed for the sport in the world.

(Xinhua News Agency August 6, 2008)

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