Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sporting Defectors

China dominated the table tennis events in the Beijing Olympiad, but there were China-born players who represented other nations.

Singapore’s women table tennis team won the island republic’s first medal in the games. Its players were all imports from China.

Canada also brought four China-born table tennis players to the Olympics. The fifth squad member originated from Sri Lanka.

The International Table Tennis Federation got so alarmed about the number of Chinese-born players representing other countries that it had tightened its rule. After the Beijing Games, anyone aged over 21 will be banned from ‘jumping nation’ and those aged between 18 and 21 will have to wait seven years before they can play for other countries.

Question: Do you think it is ethical for an athlete to switch nationality and play for another country?

Before you make judgment, you may want to read the story of Chire Koyama.

Chire Koyama

Born He Zhili (何智丽), she was a Chinese table tennis player. In the 1987 World Table Tennis Championship, she faced her compatriot Guan Jianhua in the women's singles semi-final. In another semi-final match, a North Korean player was expected to win. He Zhili did not have good track record against the North Korean. So eager to secure a trophy for the nation, the Chinese coach told He Zhili to “give way” to Guan Jianhua. He Zhili refused to follow instruction. She beat Guan in the semi-final and went on to win the championship.

Unfortunately, He Zhili was dropped from the 1988 Olympic squad. The reason given by the coach was that she was ‘overage’. (She was 24!) The distraught He Zhili migrated to Japan and married a Japanese husband. She subsequently played for the Japanese table tennis team under the name Chire Koyama (小山智麗).

In the 1994 Asian Games held in Hiroshima, Chire Koyama won a gold medal in the women's singles event, beating China’s World Champion Deng Yaping in the final.

Chire Koyama (far side) vs. Deng Yaping


  1. No problem for me!

  2. well, if the country is not treating them fairly then why cant they prove their talents else where ?

  3. monkeywong, 迷迭香
    Thanks for your input.

  4. Yes, I agree with the above two comments.

  5. to me, they shud b free to move wherever they want to go. of coz a lot of investment has been heaped on training them but it is useless to hold them back. eventually the world will catch up anyway

  6. bengbeng
    As far as table tennis is concerned, the rest of the world still cannot catch up with China. In fact, it is worried that people will lose interest in this sport because of the dominance of China.

  7. I don't think that isn't a problem too. You fight for the country that took care of you.

  8. 宝茹
    Your point is a good one :-)

  9. your point is valid but take a look at these cases. Players basically football talents in poor african nations and some south american countries too are taken to europe by rich clubs at a tender age. They don't knw anything abt nation at that time. Then they get the nationality of that country and play for them against their own country. There are many examples including Deco, o'Henry and many others. What will you say about these cases?

  10. soccerfan
    Thanks for dropping by.
    I understand your point. There is no hard-and-fast rule for this issue. Some athletes played for another country because they have been ignore in their country-of-birth. Others simply want more money.

    In the case of China, the athletes were sent to sports schools at very young age. They probably have no other skills. They just want to play...