World champion Ma Long, Xu Xin, and Liu Shiwen have withdrawn from the Houston World Table Tennis Championships, according to the roster announced by China's national table tennis team on Monday.
"Ma and Xu have decided not to participate in the Championships for physical adjustment," said Qin Zhijian, secretary-general of the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA).
"The two paddlers are leading figures in the team with strong competition ability. The men's team will face a great challenge in the Championships with the absence of Grand Slam winner Ma Long," added Qin. "Looking ahead to the Paris Olympic Games in 2024, it is necessary to train young paddlers' ability to withstand pressure and bear responsibility in international events."
World No. 1 Fan Zhendong will lead the men's singles squad for the Championships, reports Xinhua.
"None of the five paddlers who have signed up for the men's singles have ever won the title in the World Table Tennis Championships," noted Qin.
Qin said that starting from the Houston World Table Tennis Championships, the team will consider their performance for the squad at Paris 2024.
In the women's draw, Tokyo Olympic champion Chen Meng, Sun Yingsha, and Wang Manyu will spearhead the Chinese challenge in the championships alongside three paddlers who have no experience at Olympic Games, with Olympic champion Liu Shiwen skipping from the Championships.
"The Paris Olympics is less than three years away. Although the women's team has seen good transition from experienced paddlers to younger players, we still hope to form a competitive team for the Paris 2024," said Li Sun, head coach of the Chinese women's team.
"Chen will represent China in her request to claim a Grand Slam. Sun and Wang are aiming at three titles in the championships," added Li, "Hopefully, the Championships will become a good start for the squad to prepare for Paris Olympics."
The 2021 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals are set to take place from November 23 to 29 in Houston.
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