The world has managed to turn the tables on China at the Rio Olympics this year. With the Chinese team heading for its worst performance in 20 years, the Global Times has attributed part of China’s fall to other countries exploiting the naturalization of athletes, particularly in the China-dominated sport of ping pong.
Out of the 56 national teams competing this year, 21 contain naturalized citizens from China, Quartz reports. When including players from Hong Kong and Chinese people born abroad, 57 out of 172 table tennis competitors are ethnically Chinese. The New York Times reports that at least 44 ping pong players in Rio were born in China, while only 6 play for the Chinese team.
Besides the fact that Chinese people are historically amazing at table tennis, another reason for the exodus of players is how competitive the sport is domestically. Many who are not able to make it on the national team or who can’t handle the extreme training, go abroad to follow their Olympic dream. For instance, Eugene Wang didn’t make it onto China’s team and was offered a spot by Canada. Ni Xialia represents Luxembourg after moving to Europe in the late 1980s.
Furthermore, naturalization might not be so bad for the sport itself. Table tennis is far less popular in other countries than it is in China. In order to promote the sport, China offers foreign players a chance to train domestically or sends their own coaches abroad to help train players from other countries, the Indian Express reports. Ping pong diplomacy at its finest.
Though Chinese players are representing other countries in the Olympics, it does not appear to be have hurt China’s own medal count. Since 1988, when table tennis was added as a sport, China has won 28 medals out of 32, The New York Times reports. Unfortunately for China, the London Olympics instituted a new rule, limiting the number of players from the same country competing in a single competition to two. So now, instead of getting gold, silver and bronze, like they did in Beijing, China only gets the gold and silver medals. No biggie.
On the other hand, China is guilty of bringing in foreign nationals as well, in the form of coaches. Though they may not directly compete for China, they certainly help train Chinese athletes to perform better. In sports like fencing, synchronized swimming, track cycling, soccer, track and field, and basketball, foreign coaches have no doubt been a part of the process of China winning medals in some of these fields.
So, instead of taking Chinese players, maybe other countries should consider copying China’s unique training methods…
To get the desired results:
By Sarah Lin