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ITTF President Weikert draws a brighter development blueprint for the sport
Last Updated: 2017-10-23 08:44 | Xinhua
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Four months after winning the re-election as the President of ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation), the biggest single sporting federation with 226 member associations, Thomas Weikert has a clear roadmap in his mind for future development of the sport.

"We have to change a lot in development, not only to have the number of member associations, but to set new standards that we enforce those member associations to do something for development," he told Xinhua in a recent interview here during the ITTF Men's World Cup.

"It could not be a goal to just give these associations some tables, some equipments, some balls and make a training course, but now to make them believe that table tennis is worth that they bid for some things, and they are feeling the worth to bid for anything, so that we can distribute our equipments to real interested associations.

"For example, somebody has a great idea to have a kids event in schools or kindergartens, then we have to focus more in details. This is not maybe for bigger associations like China, Japan and Germany, but also to enforce those smaller associations," he explained.

Mixed doubles is set to appear as the fifth table tennis event at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020, which, for Weikert, shows that development of table tennis has caught attention from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and means more glories up for grabs to all associations around the world.

"We have the most associations now. This is our strength, and the IOC knows that, so we have the new event at the Tokyo Olympics.

"The past has shown that in this event, it's not only one association who dominates. Other associations also have got a chance," he said.

The three-day World Cup concluded in the eastern Belgian city on Sunday, witnessing pretty good attendance. Undoubtedly, it was to attribute to 20 top level players around the world that featured. For further improving attractiveness of the sport, Weikert and the ITTF have been experimenting something new, especially for attracting young groups.

TTX (Table Tennis X), a new project initiated by the ITTF before the Rio Olympic Games last August, was meant to go in the direction of refreshing the sport, with its less restraint on space and equipments.

"We not only want to have competitive sport, but also fun sport on the beach, or wherever with simple equipements for attracting more young people.

"We have now seen a rise in market. The first fruit is that we have a new sponsor and a new team. For example, we have already employed a young Chinese woman to sell our products in China, which is necessary to understand the Chinese market, go and live there, attract companies that table tennis is one of the most important sports.

"The philosophy of development has changed a little bit, which is not to give every nation something on a regular basis, but to attract some nations to do something," said Weikert.

Witnessing emergence of young Japanese paddlers in recent years, possibly a great threat to China's dominance in the sport, Weikert thought the Tokyo Olympics as a "special" one. For him, more fierce contest in the future will promise to boost the sport development.

"We saw the strength of young Japanese players. Chinese have seen that, and will take care. They will know that it's hard to win all gold medals there. Also for Germany and France, they are preparing well, so we will see.

"I'm the president of the international federation. Who wins at last doesn't matter to me. I like a strong competition. Tokyo will be the right moment for a big fight for the medals. Chinese are favorites in the next three years, but the contest will be close.

"Not only in Tokyo, but also the 2024 Games in Paris, traditional table tennis associations will make big efforts to compete there, so China has to fight," he illustrated.

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