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Six Days to Go: Spanning History, Selection as Difficult Now as Three Decades Earlie
By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Ni Xialian was a World champion when tentative steps were being made to Olympic acceptance  Photo By: Alex Lomaev - Butterfly

08/01/2016        2016 Olympic Games (Click here to access this section)

No player who competed in Seoul in 1988, the first time that table tennis was included in the Olympic Games, will be on duty at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games which start in Riocentro Pavilion 3 on Saturday 6th August.

However, there is one player in particular competing, who may well have had a claim to be considered had matters worked out differently and could have held an even stronger claim to have competed, when it was mooted, there was a possibility the sport may be held in 1984 in Los Angeles.

The lady in question is Luxembourg’s Ni Xialian; now 53 years old, she will be competing in the Women’s Singles event in Rio de Janeiro.

World Championships
At the World Championships staged in Tokyo in 1983, alongside Cao Yanhua, Geng Lijuan and Tong Ling, she was a member of the outfit that won the Women’s Team title; later in harness with Guo Yuehua the duo won the Mixed Doubles event accounting for colleagues, Chen Xinhua and Tong Long in the final.

Additionally, in partnership with Cao Yanhua, Ni Xialian reached the semi-final stage of the Women’s Doubles; the pair lost to compatriots Dai Lili and Shen Jianping. Furthermore, in the Women’s Singles competition, Ni Xialian advanced to the quarter-final round of the Women’s Singles event, losing to Cao Yanhua.

Notably Dai Lili and Shen Jianping won the Women’s Doubles title, Cao Yanhua was crowned Women’s Singles champion.

Moscow Meeting
At the 83rd session of the International Olympic Committee in Moscow in 1981, it was recommended that table tennis be included in the Olympic Games.

However, there was concern expressed that the Olympic Games was becoming too big. Nevertheless, at the meeting of the General Assembly of the International Olympic Committee later that year in September the decision to include table tennis was unanimously accepted.

Time Problem
There was the possibility that table tennis could be included as early as Los Angeles in 1984 but the Organising Committee of the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games indicated that it was too late to include table tennis in the schedule; thus the debut was four years later.

Notably the Organising Committee of the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games offered table tennis as a demonstration sport; it did not happen but what if that situation had accrued would Ni Xialian had played in 1984?

World Rankings
I doubt it, even though listed at no.7 on the Women’s World Rankings for July 1984, Ni Xialian may not have gained a place in the team; five of the six higher World ranked players were from China, the interloper was Korea’s Yang Youngja at no.4.

Cao Yanhua was at no.1, followed by Dai Lili and Tong Ling; Jiao Zhimin was at no.5 with Qi Baooxiang at no.6.

A place in the potential 1984 Chinese Olympic Games Women’s Team; it was just as difficult as is it now 32 years later.



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