Chinese table tennis veteran Nan aims for gold in Olympics

July 19th, 2008 - 9:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 19 (Xinhua) Veteran Chinese table tennis player Wang Nan is excited about her Olympic appearance at home and hopes to cap it with a gold medal. “I don’t want to have any regrets,” Nan said. “Every athlete has the dream of winning an Olympic gold on the home turf and I’m not an exception.”

The 30-year-old has had a successful stint at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she pocketed both the singles and doubles gold. In Athens, she paired up with Zhang Yining to win the doubles, but lost in the singles.

Nan, who began playing table tennis at seven years of age and entered the national team eight years later, has decided to postpone her retirement till after the Beijing Olympics.

“No one else in the team can compare with her as an experienced player and a spiritual pillar of the whole team,” Shi Zhihao, China women’s team head coach, said.

Nan is currently the sport’s most successful player with 23 world titles. But she suffered an unexpected defeat to much lower ranked Kim Kyang Mi and Kim Hyon Hui of North Korea at the 2002 Busan Asian Games.

“It was really a big blow and I almost blacked out. I don’t even remember how I came back home,” she recalled. “At that time, I thought about retirement for the fist time.”

But she chose to train herself harder, believing courage and perseverance would help her walk out of the shadow of defeat. Half a year later, she took a clean sweep in the women’s competition at the world championships in Paris.

“After the six-month training and recovery, nothing could beat me,” she said, adding that the ups and downs she experienced have become the greatest treasure of her life.

As new stars, like Ding Ning from southwestern China’s Chengdu, emerge in domestic games as a potential threat, the “big sister” is unruffled.

“New stars come out one by one, which indicates that China will continue to dominate the sport. The young are supposed to replace the old,” she said.

But she outperformed the 19-year-old, higher-ranked team mate Li Xiaoxia at the Guangzhou world team championships in March this year.

Shortly afterwards, the veteran proved herself fit for the Olympics, after a title dry spell in 2007 by competing at the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament in Hong Kong.

Chinese sports authorities said it allowed Wang to fight in Hong Kong for another Olympic appearance because she had extensive tournament experience, steadfast mindset and strong ability to withstand pressure.

“To be a true world champion, you must not only have advanced techniques but also develop good qualities in all aspects,” she said when asked to give some advice to younger players.

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