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Table Tennis Championships kicks off

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The 20th Asian Table Tennis Championships kicked off last night in Macau in a cheerful dinner buffet that pitched a sure-win Chinese team and an undefeatable Japanese team, while the local Macau squad was defending its entrance to the quarterfinal.
Before the “hostile” (in a playing sense) competition begins tomorrow, a friendly gathering was held last night at the Ballroom of Banyan Tree Macau, hosting more than 200 players from 28 countries congregating for one of the world’s most major table tennis games, also one of the most important sporting events in Macau this year.
As widely expected even before the matches begins, the most formidable groups are from mainland China, Japan and South Korea.
Talking to the Macau Daily Times last night, Chinese team Liu Guoliang said they send the team here mainly for a “warm-up” for the World Tournament in March and the Summer Olympics in July.
Asked about their chances of winning, he said “it’s difficult to estimate if we can win all the medals, but we don’t really mind (how many we get). We are here to get the feeling of competition to prepare for further games.” However, he added that they would strive to do their best.
Liu conceded that the Chinese team’s major competitors were Japan and South Korea.
The Japanese team has some famous players, among them Fukuhara in the female squad. Japanese coach Kuarshima was not hesitant to say that their prime objective here was to defeat the Chinese team.
“Everybody knows they’re the top in the world,” he said, “so we must defeat them before we win others.”
“However,” he added, “if we can’t (defeat China), at least we should not be defeated by any other team.” Kurashima meant at least they would defend the second-runner-up as they did in the previous Championship held in 2010.
Referring to the South Koreans, he said they were on par but Japan had a higher chance of winning.
Meanwhile, the Macau team is eyeing the quarterfinal, as they did in the previous games two years ago.
Chang Hoi Wa, a male team player of Macau told Macau Daily Times that “we hope we don’t have to face China, Japan or South Korea that soon, otherwise our chances would be quite slim (for quarterfinals).”
But on the whole, he and his teammates, seven males and seven females, were upbeat and confident of playing a good match with all rivals they meet.
Their first match is with Mongolia, to be played out today. Chang said the chance of winning was high.
The biennial event, organised by the Asian Table Tennis Union and co-organised  by the Sports Development Board, and Macau Table Tennis Association, will run from today until next Thursday.
The event congregates the best players from Asia, among the teammates are some of the world’s most famous players including Ma Long, Zhang Jike, Ding Ning, Liu Shiwan and Guo Yan, from mainland China; and Ai Fukuhara as well as Kasumi Ishikawa from Japan.
The event was originally scheduled to be held in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, but due to security reasons it was relocated to Macau.
The last Asian Table Tennis Championship games was held in Lucknow in India. Mainland China won all tournaments, including men’s and women’s mixed matches, while Ma Long and Ding Ning won the men’s and women’s singles.

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