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Former ace paddler eyes coaching post
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Liu Guozheng, two-time winner of the World Team Table Tennis Championships, is set to follow in the footsteps of world and Olympic champion Kong Linghui, as he plans to start his coaching career with the national team in the near future.

Liu, 27, assisted Wu Jingping, coach of highly fancied stars Ma Lin and Wang Hao, during the team's closed-door training session in Shenzhen, where it is now gearing up for February's World Team Table Tennis Championships in Guangzhou.

The Wuhan-born paddler was in his prime between 1998 and 2004, when he won two team world titles as well as some major Open and Tour titles.

The highlight of his career was the men's team's dramatic semifinal win over South Korea in the 2001 World Championships, where Liu Guozheng saved an astonishing seven match points in the fifth and final rubber.

But he began to fade after 2004 due to injury and pressure from emerging teenagers. He finally chose to get into coaching after last year's national championships.

"I am getting old and there are so many good players on the team," Liu said. "I think I have better potential in a job as a coach. Though it's impossible to play in the Olympic Games, the coaching role will give me another chance to make a contribution for the team."

Liu is still in the process of learning how to switch from a player to a coach and will have to pass some examinations after the Beijing Games before being officially appointed the team's coach.

"As a player, I am not tired after running back and forth during the training. But as a coach, I have to stand for 1-2 hours to see them train. My legs still need time to get used to it," Liu smiled.

Liu's World Championships-winning partner Kong has a good example after he was named assistant coach of the women's team.

Under Kong's coaching, teen player Guo Yue won last year's World Championships women's singles title.

(China Daily January 30, 2008)

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