NANJING, China, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) promotion manager Matt Pound calls for next Timo Boll Monday in order to achieve better recognition and participation for the sport.
A few hundred Chinese fans made their way to Wutaishan Sports Gymnasium on Sunday to see table tennis star Fan Zhendong from China playing his first game at the 2nd Youth Olympic Games. Despite his undisputed status as gold medal favorite, the excitement still was high after he beat Brian Afanador of Puerto Rico 3-1 in the morning session game.
The ITTF also acknowledges powerhouse China's medal chances in Nanjing, but to Pound, being unbeatable is not necessary the best promotion for the sport.
"Chinese fans love the game but if you look at the TV ratings it becomes less interesting for them when Chinese is playing Chinese. The sport becomes more popular the more international it gets. In order to make sport exciting, you need drama," said Pound.
That is why table tennis experienced a new high in China after German player Boll appeared on the agenda in Bejing 2008. With two Olympic medals and being a regular at the top of the ITTF world-ranking list, Boll became a star in China.
"He was the first one to really challenge the Chinese dominance. The fans loved that, that's why Boll is a huge star in China," added Pound.
The two Germans playing in Nanjing, Kilian Ort and Yuan Wan, are eager to follow in Boll's footsteps, but so are most of the Europeans.
"It is a great experience for those players. Whether they are from Europe, America or Africa, they all try to show their best here in China. It's special to compete and it will be exciting to see if anyone can challenge the Chinese players," said Pound.
After the first round of games on Sunday, both Fan Zhendong and Liu Gaoyang from Chinese national team proved to be unbeatable in their two respective games against Afanador and Adam Szudi of Hungary.