ITTF backs Singapore to host Super Series event
Get ready to be entertained by the top paddlers in the world by 2017, as International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) president Thomas Weikert backed Singapore to host a successful Super Series event, amidst a host of possible changes to make the sport more attractive.
The 53-year-old German is in town for the ITTF executive committee meeting at Swissotel Merchant Court and, yesterday, he told The New Paper: "We discussed the matter here.
"I hope and I think, after speaking to the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) president (Ellen Lee), that they will bid for a Super Series event, which will be great here.
"I think next year is too early. It's possible, but I think 2017 is more realistic.
"It's great to come back to Singapore after the 2011 World Cup. It's time."
The STTA had previously told TNP that it was keen to bring a major event here, especially with the new Sports Hub up and running - which leads Weikert to believe that Singapore will put on a good show.
"Bigger events like the World Cup or the World Championships remain a possibilility, but I think not in the next two years," he said.
"You have the facilities so it's a question of money, but I think table tennis is very popular here in Singapore and you should be able to find sponsors.
"You have very good players, especially (women players) Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu. It will be ideal to encourage youngsters to play table tennis."
Feng and Yu are both China-born players who have taken up Singapore citizenship, an example of a more global table tennis phenomenon. While Weikert understands that some fans across the world feel that this deprives local-born paddlers of playing opportunities, he prefers to look at the situation positively.
"I understand how people can construe it negatively - China A versus China B - but we live in a globalised world and my opinion is we cannot forbid players born in another country from playing," he said.
"We have three China-born players in Germany. We have many young German players, so what will they do?
"We don't think negative and say they have no chance to go to the national team.
"Often, they practise more and they are motivated to play better because they see if they can't play better than these China-born players, then most likely they have no chance to win at the international stage."
However, Weikert acknowledged that China's prolonged dominance is not healthy for the sport, and the ITTF is mulling over suggestions to help other countries become more competitive.
He said: "Yes, of course, it's a problem and it's unhealthy in the long term if only one country dominates, but this happens also in other sports, in badminton and some winter sports.
"As you know, for the singles competition, we now allow just two players, and not three. So another nation will have a medal.
"It is not the fault of the Chinese they are so strong. The Chinese are opening up themselves. They have sent players and coaches to other countries. I think it's a good way to improve the others.
"Other ideas are to play with two-coloured balls - one part white, one part yellow. We tested it in the Chinese Super League.
"You can see the spin, so it's good for the players and also spectators to understand why the ball is going up or down."
Weikert also revealed that a possible radical shift from a first-to-11 scoring system to a time-based system, where games are won by the player with the most points after a pre-determined time frame.
"Team matches can last one hour or more than two hours, so it can be difficult to have live coverage. So we are thinking of not playing to 11, but play six-minute sets instead," he said.
"We have to think of more action. For handball and football, there's always action. For table tennis, there's a rally, then the player goes and retrieves the ball and so on.
"We can do something, like play with many balls instead of just one, so there are fewer breaks, which can make it more attractive for the media."
I think next year is too early. It’s possible, but I think 2017 is more realistic.
— ITTF president Thomas Weikert on the possibility of Singapore hosting a Super Series event