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China announce table tennis squad for Tokyo Olympics

China has announced a six-member team for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games, with 32-year-old Ma Long leading the squad and 29-year-old Liu Shiwen skipping the singles event.

China has collected 28 out of 32 gold medals on offer since the sport debuted at the Olympics in 1988, and will have world No. 1 Fan Zhendong and Ma in the men's singles, while Xu Xin joins them in the men's team.

Ma Long and Liu Guoliang

In the women's draw, top-ranked Chen Meng will spearhead the Chinese challenge in the singles alongside with 20-year-old world No. 3 Sun Yingsha, and reigning world champion and record five-time World Cup titleholder Liu joining them in the team event.

In a category making its debut at the Tokyo Olympics, the current worlds winning pair Xu and Liu will represent China in their request to claim the first-ever mixed doubles gold medal.

Discussing the Olympic roster, Liu Guoliang, president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA), emphasized that Tokyo 2020, which has been postponed for a year and will be held amid the pandemic, will be a totally different edition from previous Olympics.

"There are too many unsure things and challenges, and we need a squad full of experience and confidence, adding to top-class individual skills," said the 45-year-old, a Grand Slam winner of Olympics, World Championships and World Cup himself before becoming a coach and official.

"I want an all-around plan from the coaching staff who are preparing for the worst even before the Olympic Games get underway," he added.

The Tokyo Olympic Games table tennis competitions are set to take place from July 24 to August 6 in the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.