(REUTERS, XINHUA) – China and the United States will team up for mixed doubles at the World Table Tennis Championships, which begin Tuesday (Nov. 23) on the 50th anniversary of “ping pong diplomacy,” the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) said Monday.
“Ping pong diplomacy” was triggered by a meeting between a Chinese and an American player at the 1971 World Cup and helped restore relations between the two countries.
That resulted in a U.S. table tennis team being invited to China to play what the Chinese know as “ping-pong,” eventually paving the way for U.S. President Richard Nixon’s trip to the country in 1972.
China’s Lin Gaoyuan and Wang Manyu will team up with Americans Lily Zhang and Kanak Jha respectively at the Nov. 23-29 event in Houston, the ITTF said.
“I’m very happy to partner with Lily Zhang for the mixed doubles event,” said Lin. “She’s the best table tennis player in the US. I’m not the top player in China yet, but our goal is to come out on top at this event.
“The biggest advantage of working with her is that she speaks Mandarin. I hope we can quickly get into the rhythm, develop good chemistry and work hard for a great performance.”
Echoed Zhang: “It’s so cool to pair with a player from the Chinese national team. They are the best in the world, so I will do my best and hopefully we can work well together and get a good result.”
“It will be a historic moment,” the five-time US national champion said she is very happy that China and the United States can work together through sports.
According to the statement, the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA) and the US Table Tennis Association jointly submitted a request to allow pairs to compete between China and the US, to the ITTF and the ITTF executive committee, which approved the request.
“We have been thinking about how we can build on the friendship between China and the US that was established 50 years ago by our predecessors, and further strengthen this relationship through sporting events, sports activities and community events,” said Liu Guoliang, president of the World Table Tennis Council. and president of the CTTA, said.
Virginia Sung, chief executive officer of USA Table Tennis, commented, “We are very excited that China and the US have been given the opportunity to play a mixed doubles event in Houston.
“Like so many years ago, sport once again shows us the power of unity, and ping pong is once again changing the course of history,” she said.
Fifty years ago, the US team was invited by their Chinese counterparts to visit China at the end of the 31st World Championships in Nagoya, Japan.
The American players landed in Beijing on April 10, 1971, becoming the first American group to visit China since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.
The Chinese team paid a return visit the following year.
“Once again, we are all witnessing the unique power of sport and how table tennis can create dialogue and foster mutual understanding,” said Steve Dainton, CEO of the ITTF group.
“This will inspire us to deliver extraordinary and historic championships and encourage the dreams, hopes and aspirations of not only the entire table tennis community, but also the next generation worldwide,” he added.
It is the first time that the tournament will be held in the US.