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.
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
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)