Li replaces Kong to take charge of women's team

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Kong Linghui on May 14, 2017. [File photo/Xinhua]

Legendary table tennis coach Li Sun, the mentor of three Chinese Olympic champions and known to the world as "the championship coach," has replaced suspended Kong Linghui to take charge of the Chinese women's team at the ongoing world championships.

Liu Guoliang, head coach of the Chinese national team, made the announcement on Tuesday as Kong, with whom he won the men's doubles gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, had been ordered to return home from Dusseldorf.

Kong was suspended as head coach of the Chinese women's team following a lawsuit over a gambling debt filed by a Singaporean hotel. The Singaporean hotel where Kong and his family and friends had stayed in 2015 filed a lawsuit against Kong in a Hong Kong court. Media reports said Kong borrowed S$1 million (721,200 US dollars) from the hotel, but failed to pay back the debt in full.

"Having raised three Grand Slam (Olympics, world championships and World Cup) champions, Li Sun is a very experienced and successful coach," said Liu. "He is very familiar with our players and our opponents. At the same time, I will shift my working priority to the women's team as well."

"The team will not be too much affected; we are still in our own pace for preparation. We will focus on the matches. I trust our strength, not only the players' strength but also the coaching strength," Liu added.

The 54-year-old Li, who became a coach for the Chinese team in 1996, had been the coach of three of world top women's players - Wang Nan, Zhang Yining and Li Xiaoxia - who had a combined nine Olympic gold medals between them, including three women's singles titles at the 2000, 2008 and 2012 Games.

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