Table tennis preview: China target clean sweep at Asian Games

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China's formidable table tennis team aims to clinch all seven gold medals at the Asian Games, reinforcing its dominance in Asia, following their haul of the same number of golds at the Asian Championships earlier in September.

The Asian Games table tennis competition, scheduled from September 22 to October 2, will witness competitions for seven gold medals across the men's and women's team, singles, doubles, and mixed doubles events.

China's team has been a force to be reckoned with since 1974, accumulating 66 gold medals in the Asian Games alone. Their recent performance, securing 18 out of 19 gold medals in the last three editions, underscores their continued dominance.

Despite their historical successes, China are not resting on their laurels. They have fielded five male and five female paddlers for the Hangzhou Asian Games, all of whom rank within the top five globally.

Fan Zhendong of China hits a return during the men's singles round of 32 match against Felix Lebrun of France at the WTT Champions Xinxiang 2023 in Xinxiang, central China's Henan Province on April 10, 2023. (Xinhua/Li Jianan)

World No. 1 Fan Zhendong is leading China's men, aiming for an eighth consecutive championship. He is joined by the seasoned Ma Long, the recent men's singles title winner at the Asian Championships, as well as Wang Chuqin, Liang Jingkun and Lin Gaoyuan.

While Fan is a favorite, defending his men's singles title won't be easy. His teammate, world No. 2 Wang Chuqin, is expected to be a formidable opponent.

Reigning world champions Wang Chuqin and Fan Zhendong will also team up for the men's doubles, with Lin Gaoyuan and Liang Jingkun completing the line-up.

On the women's side, China's dominance seems likely to continue with top-seeded players like Sun Yingsha, Wang Yidi, Chen Meng, Wang Manyu and Chen Xingtong. The women's doubles will feature pairs Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu, and Chen Meng and Wang Yidi, both of whom boast impressive championship records.

In the mixed doubles, the pairing of Sun Yingsha and Wang Chuqin, two-time World Championship winners, will be ones to watch. Lin Gaoyuan and Wang Yidi will also compete in this category.

However, the competition in Hangzhou is anticipated to be fierce, with Japan and South Korea expected to challenge China's dominance. Japan's Tomokazu Harimoto and Hina Hayata are notable contenders in singles and mixed doubles. While Mima Ito of Japan is sidelined due to injury, 15-year-old Miwa Harimoto, Tomokazu's younger sister, is set to make her mark.

South Korea boasts strong doubles teams, including top-ranked pairs Jang Woo-jin and Lim Jong-hoon in the men's doubles and Jeon Ji-hee and Shin Yu-bin in the women's doubles. The mixed doubles pair Lim Jong-hoon and Shin Yu-bin are also ones to watch.

Emerging talents from Chinese Taipei, China, Hong Kong of China and DPR Korea could also surprise with medal wins. 

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