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Chinese lead table tennis qualifiers for Beijing
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China's Zhang Yining, the reigning Olympic champion, has qualified for the Beijing Games despite losing her number one table tennis ranking for the first time in five years.

Zhang Yining

Guo Yue

Wang Hao

Ma Lin

The top five women in the rankings released on Thursday by the sport's ruling body were all Chinese and so were the top four men, but only the top two gain automatic qualification.

Guo Yue, the 19-year-old new number one, is the other automatic Chinese qualifier in the women's singles.

Wang Hao and Ma Lin qualify directly from the men's rankings, meaning Wang Liqin, the reigning world champion, must try to take the third and last Chinese spot at the Olympics via the Asian qualifying event. The surprise men's singles gold medalist from the 2004 Games, Ryu Seung Min of South Korea, has qualified, ranked eighth in the world. Timo Boll of Germany is the highest-ranked non-Chinese player at five.

The top 20 in January's rankings automatically qualify for the Beijing Games in August. Because of the large number of Chinese in the rankings, Zoran Primorac of Croatia, ranked 23rd, has qualified for his sixth Games.

Two other players who have competed in every Games since table tennis was introduced to the Olympics in 1988, Sweden's Joergen Persson and Belgium's Jean-Michel Saive, are tied in the final qualification position in the men's singles.

They will stage a play-off for automatic qualification before the European qualifying tournament in April.

(Agencies via China Daily January 4, 2008)

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