Chinese table tennis goes on war footing for Tokyo 2020

China’s table tennis team (AFP pic)

SHANGHAI: Chinese table tennis has gone on a war footing for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, vowing to dock coaches their pay and demote them if they fail to keep the country at the pinnacle of the sport.

China top the men’s, women’s and team world rankings, while the country has won all 12 gold medals on offer across the last three Olympics.

But open dissent broke out in 2017 when three of China’s top men pulled out of a home tournament in protest at the removal of head coach Liu Guoliang.

The highly respected Liu has been back in favour since last autumn and this week labelled himself “commander-in-chief” as the Chinese Table Tennis Association laid out in stark terms its determination to clean up once more in Tokyo.

Speaking at a media briefing on Monday, Liu — now CTTA chairman — deployed more militaristic bombast as he “vowed to advance and retreat with the team”, according to state news agency Xinhua.

A points-based system of rewards and punishments for coaches under Liu’s new regime was “the most stringent in history”, Xinhua declared.

The 43-year-old Liu said that he would forgo his salary for the year if any of the coaches under his watch fall short of the required number of points under the new assessment system.

The coaches will similarly be hit in the pocket and demoted to a lesser post if they fail to reach the benchmark, which will be based on China’s performances in international competitions this year.

As hosts, Japan will be a major threat at the Games, particularly in team events, Chinese table tennis bosses warned.