YOKOHAMA, Japan, April 27 (Xinhua) -- The world table tennis championships that opens in Yokohama on Tuesday might not see Chinese sweep the board as they had done in the previous two editions. That doesn't mean they are not able to.
China pulled three versatile players off the doubles events, deliberately making the Yokohama championships more open.
Wang Liqin, Ma Lin and Zhang Yining, who have involved in nine doubles victories in the world championships, won't enter the doubles competitions and will concentrate on the singles events instead.
Cai Zhenhua, newly elected Chinese table tennis chief and a deputy sports minister of the country, said China has the responsibility to make table tennis a more popular sport.
"We have reached the top of table tennis in the 2008 Olympic Games, and now we should share the International Table Tennis Federation's responsibility to make the game more popular and spectacular," he said.
Huang Biao, head of the Chinese team, admitted that the absence of three doubles experts will "open a door" for young Chinese players as well as their rivals.
"Without these big names, Chinese look shaky in doubles events," he said.
Wang Liqin, three-time men's singles champion, has won two men's doubles golds with Yan Sen and two mixed doubles with Guo Yue. Wang and Yan were also Olympic doubles winners in 2000.
Ma Lin, who combined with Wang Nan to win the mixed doubles in 2003, was the Olympic doubles champion with Chen Qi.
Zhang Yining was the women's doubles winner in the 2004 Olympics and three world championships.
Other Chinese stars like Wang Hao, Ma Long, Guo Yue and Li Xiaoxia have opted out of the mixed doubles event, too, making Hao Shuai and Chang Chenchen the highest seeded Chinese pair at sixth.
Liu Fengyan, vice chairman of the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA), said that China had fulfilled the "Olympic Glory Plan" and has now embarked on the next plan that includes "toughening up young Chinese players and playing a more important role in healthy, balanced development of table tennis in the world."
Cai Zhenhua said the CTTA has agreed to cooperate with the table tennis ruling body in making the sport a truly global game.
"We will send coaches and trainers to countries which are less developed in the sport, publish research reports on new techniques and skills on the CTTA-sanctioned Table Tennis World magazine and include more non-Chinese players in China's top league," said Cai, who used to be head coach of the Chinese team.
"As a player and coach, I only saw gold medals," said Cai. "As a table tennis administrator and an ITTF official, I am thinking more about the global development of the sport."