ITTF adds 50cm to width of table tennis field for Tokyo Olympics
Table tennis. /CFP

Table tennis. /CFP

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has agreed to move away referees' tables back by 50 centimeters in the table tennis events at the Tokyo Olympics to increase the width of the undersized field, reported Tencent Sports.

According to Liu Guoliang, president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA), who has led the all-time leading Chinese paddlers to a clean sweep in the latest three previous Olympic Games, the standard size of a table tennis field in international table tennis competitions should be 7x14 meters, or 8x16 meters in the finals. "I measured it here, it's about 6x11 meters. There will be two referees' tables as well which will cover a big area. I'm worried about athletes' safety if they start running," said Liu.

Both Liu and the German table tennis team talked to ITTF about the issue. However, there's not much the organizing body could do because there are too many underground wires, and therefore changing the layout may present more challenges. Liu said moving referees' tables may be the best ITTF could do.

"I believe China and Germany raised this issue to promote the sport and for the equality of everyone. Regardless of the field size, athletes' safety comes first for every team," said Liu.

China has sent eight paddlers – Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Chen Meng, Sun Yingsha, Liu Shiwen, Xu Xin, Wang Chuqin (backup) and Wang Manyu (backup) – to compete in five table tennis events in Tokyo.

Xu Xin/Liu Shiwen as China's hope for the first mixed doubles championship in Olympic history, will meet Wang Eugene/Zhang Mo of Canada in the first-round competition on Saturday. China's major opponents, Jun Mizutani/Mima Ito of Japan, will play against Austrian pair Stefan Fegerl/Sofia Polcanova.

In singles events, Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Chen Meng and Sun Yingsha are all in different halves. Fan Zhendong is in the same half with Japan's Tomokazu Harimoto in men's singles event. Sun Yingsha will meet Ito in their half in women's singles competitions.

When asked about what he thought of a draw result, Liu Guoliang said it would not make much difference because China targets at winning all five gold medals. "Since that's our goal and we have confidence to do it, we must be able to defeat every rival we meet. Actually, the stronger out rivals are, the more valuable the matches will be."

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