Berlin, March 23 (IANS) Four months ahead of the London OLympics, the table tennis world will gather at the World Championships in Dortmund with the Chinese teams being the usual favourites.
The 51st edition of the event starts Sunday and will last a week. The Chinese dominance is reflected in the number of world team titles in the history of the tournament, which is organised every alternate year with the singles singles event.
The Chinese men hold a record of 17 wins and so as the women.
Japan is second in the list with seven titles in the men's category and eight in women. Hungary was a very strong table tennis nation in the past, winning the men's championships the first five times since 1926 with overall total of 12.
From the 1960s onwards, China emerged as the new dominant power. The last defeat of the Chinese men came in 2000 during the Championships in Kuala Lumpur, when Sweden defeated them in the final. In 2010, China beat Germany to win the gold.
In the women's event, one of the biggest upsets in sport's history occurred during the last edition in Moscow. Singapore stunned China with a remarkable victory, Xinhua reports.
The women from Singapore are well aware that another surprise is not likely, said Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) president Lee Bee Wah on Channel News Asia.
"Of course for the women's team, we are the defending champions, but I told the team, 'don't give yourself unnecessary pressure'. We know that to beat China a second time is nearly impossible," said Lee.
Star player Feng Tianwei admits her team feels pressure. "Not just from ourselves but because all eyes, including the media, are on us," she said. "But I think that as long as I can realise my potential, it will be okay."
An encounter between China and Singapore in the final would be the most anticipated scenario again. The Japanese team, with world no. 6 Kasumi Ishikawa, is the other main candidate for a podium spot.
Chinese women's coach Shu Zhihao selected Guo Yue, Liu Shiwen, Li Xiaoxia, Guo Yuan and singles World Champion Ding Ning to take revenge, the same line-up as two years ago.
"This season is very different compared to the previous ones as we have to first redeem ourselves in the World Team Championships," coach Shi Zhihao was quoted on tabletennista.com.
"Having some worries is normal. But I think, with two years of tough training, our athletes should stand this test."
In the men's event, China's main rival will once again be host Germany with world no.6 Timo Boll and no.10 Dimitrij Ovtcharov in their ranks. South Korea, with Joo Se Hyuk, and Japan, with Jun Mizutani, can be considered as a strong outfit.
The Championship starts with a round robin of four groups of six teams. The winners of each group will move directly into the quarter-finals, while the numbers two and three will be drawn in the round of sixteen first. The teams placed 4th, 5th and 6th in the groups will continue in the play-offs for the positions 13 to 24.
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