It used to be that sports were run by sportsmen and women. But then, as is often the case, money got in the way and sports became more “professional”, so “professionals” were hired to run the sports.
For example, the head of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) used to be former star Chinese player Xu Yinsheng, until he was replaced in 1999 by a “professional”, an electrical engineer called Adham Sharara. The Egyptian-born Canadian also played on the national team for three years, but his biography makes it clear he is a career administrator who played, rather than top player-turned-administrator.
I’ve just spent a few days in Korea, where the country’s female golfers are perhaps as dominant on the world stage as any team in sports today. Comparing different teams in different sports brings to mind apples and oranges, but 35 of the world top 100 players are from a country with a population of under 50 million. South Koreans have won six of the past eight major championships, and came second in the other two.
What do they get for this? “Boring”, “faceless”, “robots”, “predictable” etc. Inbee Park has won three majors this year and gets fewer column inches than Hunter Mahan’s new baby. Today’s Sports Talk column looks at why sports stars might be better off striving for one level below perfection: become perfect and the fans and media will turn on you – or worse – just ignore you.
In recent years, Japan and China have had a, shall we say, “strained” relationship, but the Japanese may have just pulled one over their rivals in the most unlikeliest of places – table tennis, currently China’s most watched sport.
China has won 24 of a possible 28 gold medals in Olympic ping pong history, adding another 15 silver and 8 bronze. Japan, in contrast, has won a solitary silver medal in seven attempts since the sport was first included in the Olympics in 1988.