OTHERS

There's no stopping the Chinese

OSAKA, APRIL 29. China defeated Belgium to win the men's team title at the World table tennis championships on Sunday, but the beaten side admitted it was overjoyed to have got to the final at all.

In an unequal contest, China's Ma Lin, Liu Guozheng and Kong Linghui, all top five players, won 3-0 against the Belgians, who had not previously even reached a semifinals and never really threatened.

The title follows the women's team gold China took the previous day and keeps them on course for a probable clean sweep of all the golds at the event in Osaka.

However, this prize was a particularly sweet one for the Chinese, who had narrowly lost the Swaythling Cup, the men's trophy, to arch-foes Sweden at the previous World championships.

Chinese coach Cai Zhenhua said afterwards he was ``really happy to get the cup back''.

``The reason we could get the Swaythling Cup back was not just technique, we had fighting spirit, very good fighting spirit,'' he said as star-struck Chinese journalists pressed his players for autographs.

However, Sydney Olympic champion Kong expressed one note of regret; that the triumph had not come as revenge against

the Swedes, whom Belgium defeated in its semifinals.

``I wish we could have played Sweden, of course I am sorry they lost against Belgium,'' he said.

Although Belgium fought hard in every match, trading smashes and hurling themselves about the court, as player Philippe Saive admitted it was their ``stupid little mistakes'' which proved the vital difference between the teams.

But after the final the Belgian side, grinning widely, said they were very happy to have made it as far as they did.

``I think most of all for Belgium just this is really a fantastic result, second in the world,'' said Philippe's team- mate and brother Jean-Michel saive, adding ``no one expected for our team to play as well in the tournament''.

Philippe Saive added: ``I had really a great feeling today, I was really enjoying the moment.''

Jean-Michel, a flamboyant player with an odd fondness for tucking the bottom of his shorts inside themselves to the top of his thigh, making it look as if he is leaping about the court in a large black nappy, took Belgium's only game, the very first.

By far the team's best player, when he lost the next two games and thus the rubber to Ma Lin, there was no way back for the Belgians.

China even had the luxury of dropping a world number one, 22-year-old Wang Liqin, whose confidence had appeared to suffer after a quarterfinal loss and was also left out of the semifinals.

The difference in status was emphasised in the final rubber when Kong, ranked second in the world, took on Martin Bratanov, Position 105.

Bratanov later summed up their predicament concisely. ``It was really not so easy because China are much better than us,'' he said with a smile.

Mouma Das qualifies

Former national champion Mouma Das entered the main draw of the women's singles with a straight games win against Iulia Degtiar of Israel in a third and final round qualifying match.

Mouma won 21-13, 21-18 in a group-11 match but compatriots M.S. Mythili and National champion Poulomi Ghatak lost their third round matches to go out of contention.

Mythili lost 21-23, 19-21 to Nataliya Tsygankova of Belarus in group-6 while Poulomi went down 15-21, 21-19, 13-21 to Susanne Johsson of Sweden in group-14.

Mythili, partnering N.R. Indu, made it to the main draw of the women's doubles event when they defeated the pair of Suttilux Rattanaprayoon and Pornsri Ariyachotima of Thailand 21- 17, 18- 21, 21-14 in the second and final round of qualifiers.

The duo of Soumyadeep Roy and Subhajit Saha qualified for the main draw of the men's doubles event with a 6-21, 21-9, 21-16 win against Ianiv Sharon and Ohad Paniel of Israel in a second round group-21 match.

In the mixed doubles, the pair of Shibaji Datta and Poulomi kept their main draw hopes alive with a 22-20, 21-10 victory over Lao Wai-Meng and Tam Sut-Fei of Macau in the first round qualifying match. They need to win the next match against the Italian combination of Chen Yu Wei and Ding Yan to qualify. lThe results: Men's team (final): China beat Belgium: Ma Lin bt Jean Michel Saive 18-21, 21-7, 21-15; Lin Guozheng bt Philippe Saive 21-18, 21-17; Kong Linghui bt Martin Bratanov 21- 18, 21-19.

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