“Though it is my third world championships, I still have high expectations for myself.”
Competing on home soil, China’s Lin Ma is determined to make it a hat-trick of world titles when he lines up for the start of 2014 ITTF Para-Table Tennis World Championships in Beijing on Monday (8 September).
Virtually unbeaten at major table tennis competitions, the class 9 player has won two Paralympic gold medals and the last two world championship singles titles.
But the 34-year-old left-handed player has had a difficult season so far, recovering from a knee injury, which has hampered his preparations.
“I am not satisfied with this season, mainly because the training was not guaranteed as before due to the injury,” he said.
At May’s Slovakian Open, he only managed bronze, conceding gold and silver to USA’s Tahl Liebowitz and Ukraine’s Yuriy Shchepanskyy respectively. It was only the fifth time in 11 years that he had not won gold in a major singles event. His confidence was knocked further by losing several national games after that.
“I lost some events. I feel a little disappointed with my performances,” he said. “Though it is my third world championships, I still have high expectations for myself.”
The stakes are high as the World Championships take place on home soil in Beijing.
“Every coin has two sides, when you take the advantage and convenience of being players from the host country, you will face more pressure, because one will want to bring a better performance at home,” said Ma, who won individual silver and team gold at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.
“I am always at ease. The best mental status is very important to an athlete, so I will try to adjust it to the best. Hopefully my performance won’t let anyone down, including myself.”
In Beijing, he thinks his biggest rivals will come from the Netherlands and Ukraine. However, his arch rival will always be his “old friend” Stanislaw Fraczyk from Austria, who is currently ranked No. 1 ahead of Ma in second place.
The 61-year-old plays more offensive game than Ma, and despite his age, fought him for gold at the 2006 World Championships and the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
“I won for the two games but I have to admit that they were both a very narrow victory as we are close on techniques,” said Ma.
“I might be better physically, so I was able to beat him.
“I really look forward to playing with him this time, and hope everyone can enjoy the match.”
The 2014 ITTF World Championships will host will host 314 athletes from 45 countries. For more information visit the ITTF website.
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