Mar 12. 2013 Paris – The break of Chinese dominance
The 52nd edition of the World Table Tennis Championship was held in Paris, after Doha withdrew from its bid. This happened because Paris hosted one WCh back in 2003, and now they wanted to have an anniversary competition at the same venue – Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy – as ten years earlier. At the 2003 WCh, for everyone’s surprise, in the men’s singles event a European champion: the Austrian Werner Schlager was the winner. Thanks to his performance, everyone was excited about how this WCh in 2013 will go down.
What else could be the logo of the competition than Paris’ emblematic building, the Eiffel tower, made from table tennis rackets. The capital city of France is an attracting spot anyway, anytime, but Gustave Eiffel’s masterpiece has such big inviting power, that the lovers of table tennis could not resist it and travelled there. This is one of the reasons why the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy was the perfect venue with its 13500 seating capacity. This sports complex had opened its doors to several prestigious sporting events before 2013, and this has not changed since then. What else could prove it better than the fact that it will be one of the venues of the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.
A record number of players entered the competition: there were 511 men and 411 women table tennis players came to Paris from six continents. But in the arena there were „only” 20 tables set, which meant a very tight schedule for the first two days of the qualification rounds. It was the first time since 2003 that China did not achieved all five golds, and it was the first time since 1993 that they returned home with less than four gold medals. This was possible thanks to Taiwan whose men’s doubles were the first to stop the Chinese men’s doubles in their ten WCh long winning series. And thanks to South Korea whose mixed doubles, in the semifinals, put an end to the Chinese mixed doubles’ winning series at the past 11 WCh.
Of course, besides China’s surprising fail, we have to highlight the performance of Taiwan and North Korea –they took the gold in the mixed doubles final against South Korea – as they achieved their first win of their history. But China also had some reason to be happy: in women’s and men’s singles only Chinese players were standing on the podium, this way they, again, took 14 medals out of the 20 available. In women’s singles, with her gold medal, La Xiaoxia reached a career grand slam – World Cup win, Olympic and WCh gold – Zhang Jike had his fourth consecutive win at the WCh or Olympic Games. Of course, he celebrated after this fantastic performance: he jumped into the audience to his parents and again, similar as in 2011, took off his shirt which, this time, landed in the audience. The two-time Olympic and seven-time WCh winner, Wang Hao – after his defeat against Zhang Jike – announced that he will soon retire from the national team, so this was his last WCh. As it was for Krisztina Tóth, who during her career achieved 26 medals at the European Championships, from which 7 was gold, she was also bronze medallist once at the WCh and she took a fourth place from the Olympics, both in women’s doubles, and she had participated in five Olympic Games.