With a bulging trophy cabinet and happily married to a multimillionaire realtor, Chinese table tennis queen Wang Nan says her life will be perfect with an Olympic appearance at home.
The 29-year-old is the most decorated Chinese table tennis player, with 20 world and Olympic titles to her belt, beating previous record holder Deng Yaping by two. Called to the national team at the age of 15, the baby-faced northeastern Chinese wears the national jersey longer than legendary Deng.
"I will keep fighting until after the Beijing Olympics," Wang Nan has told reporters on many occasions.
Wang Nan is seeking China's last Olympic ticket since 2004 Olympic singles winner Zhang Yining and reigning world champion Guo Yue have qualified automatically.
The only roadblock to Wang's Olympic outing is the second ranked Li Xiaoxia, winner of the International Table Tennis Federation's Pro Tour singles final last December.
The Asian Olympic qualifying tournament, which will take place in Hong Kong in March, will unveil China's third Olympic participants. The tournament's official website shows Wang Liqin and Wang Nan as entrants.
However, China's table tennis administrator said on Thursday that Chinese women's third ticket is still up for grabs.
"I can assure you that Wang Liqin will compete for China's third men's berth in Hong Kong, but we haven't decided on the women's candidate," said Liu Fengyan, director of the Chinese Table Tennis and Badminton Administrative Center.
"Before the Olympic qualifier opens on March 6, we can switch names any time. If Li Xiaoxia plays better than Wang Nan in the world team championships, we would send Li to Hong Kong instead," he added.
The world championships will start in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou on Saturday and run through to March 2. With its players topping the world rankings, China is expected to easily win its fourth straight men's title and the eighth straight for women.
The Chinese Table Tennis Association's media chief Zhao Weizhen believes Wang will outshine the 19-year-old Li in Guangzhou.
"In the team event, experience is usually more important than individual bravery," said Zhao. "Wang Nan has collected 20 major titles including three Olympic golds and has participated in seven world championships. She is far more experienced than Li Xiaoxia."
Wang Nan is the only married member of the Chinese table tennis team. Guo Bin, a realtor in eastern China's Shandong Province, won Wang's heart during the 2005 world championships by sending her 10,001 roses. The two tied the knot late that year.
"He cares about me," Wang said of her doting husband. "I spend little time with him because both are very busy. But after the Beijing Olympics, we will have a lot of time together."
(Xinhua News Agency February 22, 2008)