SPORTS

New rules not a concern

Major rule changes will have no impact on China’s dominant table tennis players at the Athens Olympics, a senior Chinese delegate official said Wednesday in an ominous warning to their rivals. The rule changes, which include sets being reduced from 21 to 11 points and the introduction of a larger ball, have been used at other recent major international events but will be used for the first time at an Olympics in Athens. There has been speculation that the rules were changed in a bid to weaken China’s stranglehold on the sport. Austrian Werner Schlager’s surprise men’s singles world championship victory last year under the alterations fueled the conspiracy theories, but China Olympic Committee Vice President Li Furong told reporters on Wednesday he did not believe the charges. «I acknowledge that over the years there are regular adjustments to the rules but generally speaking this will promote the development of table tennis worldwide,» Li said. «There are some sources who say the amendments to the rules of table tennis are aimed at China. (But) the performance of the really excellent athletes will not be affected by such factors. All the athletes must face the same standard.» China’s male and female competitors are hot favorites at Athens. In the singles, Wang Liqin and Ma Lin hold the top two world rankings, while Wang Hao is ranked No. 4, separated by South Korea’s Ryu Seung Min. China’s dominance in the women’s categories is even stronger, with Zhang Yining, Wang Nan and Niu Jianfeng ranked Nos. 1 to 3. (AFP)