Olympic Games / Olympic Countdown - Table Tennis: Chinese ready to rule again

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CHINA'S veto of its former World Cup winner, Chen Xinhua, has not just denied the Yorkshire-based English national champion his only chance of Olympic competition. It also signifies a new determination by the world's leading nation to regain supremacy in men's singles.

This will be difficult even though the improving Ma Wenge unexpectedly helped China win back the World Team Cup from Sweden in November at the Olympic venue, and even though the Chinese are using the rule that a country can prevent a former citizen from competing in the Olympics for three years after gaining another passport.

This is because the migration of leading players and coaches has left China weakened, though they remain favourite to win the women's events.

However, bet on a European, possibly Sweden's world champion Jorgen Persson or former world champion Jan-Ove Waldner, or France's world No 1, Jean-Philippe Gatien, for the men's singles title. The men's doubles could go to contenders from at least eight nations.

None of these are likely to be British, even though we have our best men's squad for 30 years. Carl Prean, ranked 22 in the world, and Lisa Lomas, the European silver medallist, are each capable of beating front-runners, without getting a medal.

GREAT BRITAIN: Men's singles: C Prean, M Syed; Men's doubles: Prean, A Cooke. Women's singles: L Lomas, A Gordon; Women's doubles: Lomas, A Holt.