September 28, 2002

(Edited 9/29/2002 23:35 PDT)

Asian Games Schedule

The Asian Games table tennis events will run from October 1 through October 9, in Busan (a.k.a. Pusan), South Korea. Here are the dates of the finals:

Women's teams: October 4

Men's teams: October 5

Mixed Doubles: October 6

Women's Doubles, Men's Doubles: October 8

Women's Singles, Men's Singles: October 9.

Detailed schedules are to be found here

Here's the link to the main English Asian Games web-site:

Ma Lin To Miss Asian Games Men's Singles

The Chinese national team decided that Kong Linghui and Wang Liqin will play in the Men's Singels event at the Asian Games. Ma Lin has lost out again, in a very close and tough decision by the coaches. "This decision has been so painful for me," Cai told reporters. "I have to drop Ma from the list, just like for the Olympics."

Reporters have obtained hints, as early as 2 months ago, that Ma had a good chance of being dropped from the highly-prized MS roster. Here is Cai's explanation:

"Ma has the best condition, and he is the toughest fighter. But we can only send two players. We need consistency, and the players cannot commit errors or not play to their levels. In these aspects, Kong is slightly better than Ma. From a technique standpoint, our main opponents are from South Korea and Chinese Taipei, and they are mostly penholders. Ma's style holds no advantage over their styles, whereas Kong's allround style has the upper hand. Also Kong has a better overall record against Asian players, compared to Ma. So considering all these factors, we decided to use Kong."

Ma, who for the last several months knew that he might not be selected, took the news calmly and continued to train hard. "Missing the Olympics made me play so much harder at the World Cup. Now that I am left off the MS event at the Asian Games, I will train even harder. Perhaps next year I will win the Worlds title," Ma said.

Ma: Kong is More All-round

Reporters came to the training center in Shanghai to interview Ma Lin who has been dropped from the Asian Games MS list. The team was running laps: 15 laps for a total of 6 km. Coach Cai said that this is their daily run after the morning session. During the closed training, the players hold 3 training sessions per day.

Those who ran faster had left for lunch. Ma still had one more lap to go. His coach was "threatening" him that he would have to run 10 km every day if he did not hurry up. "I have short legs", Ma told his coach jokingly.

Ma did not look like he took a severe blow. "Do I look like I took a huge blow?" Ma asked the reporter. "Before the decision was made, I was mentally prepared. Unfortunately I did not get a pleasant surprise. For the last several months, I felt that Wang, Kong and I all have the chance to make the squad, and that Kong and I had less chance than Wang. The two of us were about 50-50. So this decision is not a surprise to me".

Still it is regretful to the fans that Ma, the first World Cup champion in the big ball era, world-ranked number 2, and the best player in the Super League has been left out. Also Ma had already lost once in the Sydney Olympics selection. Now he will play doubles with Kong, and we wonder whether that partnership will be under stress.

"There is really nothing to worry about", Ma calmly said. "The three of us have a very good relationship, and we will not let the selection affect it negatively. There are only two places available in men's singles, and whoever is left out will be disappointed. But it is nothing out of the ordinary".

Ma felt that he was dropped because he is a penholder and that the internal (domestic) results have less weight. "I have the best results since the new service rule was adopted, but we have not played in major tournaments and faced foreign competition. So those results are not very conclusive. Based on past records, Kong has a better ability against foreign players. Plus, most of our opponents are penholders, and Kong's shakehander style has an advantage over those players. I have much less of an advantage (over those players)".

"Actually the coaches had a very tough job picking 2 players from the 3 of us. In Olympics and in the Asian Games, the number of entries is severely limited, it is not like at the Worlds where we can enter a larger number of top players who can win the title. If we make a slight mistake, we may not come back with the gold medal. That's why we have not yet swept the table tennis event at the Asian Games", Ma said.

The 22-year-old Ma had faced several major disappointments.Compared to two years ago, he appears much more mature. We can expect that Ma will turn this disappointment into a motivating force in the team event and in the doubles events.

Kong : "It has been very difficult for Ma".

Cai : "This decision has been so painful for me."

Wu Jingping (Ma's coach): "Ma is a tough fighter, The stronger the opponent, the better Ma plays".

Hong Kong's Women Team

The Asian Games Executive Committee held a meeting to decide the playing status of the three Hong Kong women players: Tie Yana, Lin Ling and Zhang Rui.

The committee decided that since Tie has played for China at the Universiade and has not represented in other events, and that the Hong Kong TTA has supplied proof of her residence in Hong Kong, she will be allowed to play for China.

Because Zhang Rui had represented Liaoning province, she will not be allowed to play for Hong Kong at the Asian Games. Lin Ling had represented China in previous international competition, and also because she has failed to appear at the players' village, she will not be allowed to play for Hong Kong at the Asian Games.

Wong Ching will take Zhang Rui's place on the Hong Kong team. Tie represented Hong Kong at the flag-raising ceremony at the players' village.

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