Ding and Liu to miss Olympic test run

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Ding Ning is seen during training in Macao, on May 4, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Grand Slam winner Ding Ning and reigning world champion Liu Shiwen will both miss Team China's Tokyo Olympic Games test competition next month.

The Chinese Table Tennis Association announced on Tuesday that the test event will be staged in Lingshui, Hainan province, from Aug 8-21.

The test run will follow the Tokyo Olympic Games program, with players to contest women's and men's singles, mixed doubles, and women's and men's team events.

Seedings for each category are based on the latest International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) world rankings.

Qin Zhijian, head coach of the Chinese men's team, said players have been in fine form since resuming training together.

"They need one week of concentrated training before the test run to recover their physical condition, and will gear up for the competition starting from August 1," said Qin.

Apart from players in the first and second-string national teams, veterans Zhang Chao and Hou Yingchao, as well as young paddler Lin Shidong, have also been called up for the upcoming matches.

Qin regards the competition as a chance to evaluate the players' training over the past six months, and also a starting point for the second half of 2020 to prepare for the world championships in 2021.

A total of 43 female paddlers will be present, including most players in the first and second-string teams. Mu Zi, Wu Yang and Hu Limei have also been recruited for the competition.

Li said that Ding is trying to make the most of this period to adjust her fitness and form.

"The Tokyo Olympics postponement has affected everyone's preparation. We have trained for five months, which had a huge impact on our veterans. They have laid out a specific plan about training and adjustment over the coming days," said women's team head coach Li Sun.

Liu misses out due to an elbow injury. "She has recently undergone surgery and is in the rehab process," Li said of Liu, adding that the team will spare no effort in helping the players through these setbacks.

Li added the test run's overall level is even higher than the Olympics. "Hopefully everyone can take it as the real Olympic Games, especially for our young athletes, who can fully showcase themselves in the absence of the two veterans," she said.

More cancellations

Meanwhile, the ITTF's executive committee has decided to extend the suspension of all ITTF events until the end of August due to ongoing difficulties arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ITTF World Tour Czech Open, originally scheduled for Aug 25-30 in Olomouc, has been canceled after the ITTF and Czech Table Tennis Association thought it impossible to stage the event amid ongoing travel restrictions and potential risks to health and safety of participants.

The world governing body also said that the World Tour Hong Kong Open, originally scheduled for May 5-10, will not be going ahead because travel restrictions have made it impossible to reschedule the event in 2020.

The ITTF also continues to explore the possibility of holding alternative events for the final months of 2020, in case the pandemic does not allow the full staging of open international events as planned.

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