YAN'AN, China, May 9 (Xinhua) -- China's national table tennis team, hailed as "the best team on earth" by fans, Thursday visited Yan'an, a historical place during the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Led by Liu Guoliang, president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association, 35 of the national team players and coaches, officers of the association visited Pagoda Hill, veterans' home and Yan'an University.
"I have been looking forward to this trip since I took up office. The national team has just returned with five gold medals from the world championships. They were overwhelmed by praise. I hope this visit to Yan'an can calm them down. The team can benefit from the revolutionary tradition of plain living and hard struggle," said Liu, "as the Tokyo Olympic Games are around the corner."
Fan Zhendong, world No. 1 men's singles player, was impressed by the veterans' experiences. "They were almost my age when they join the army. They braved the bullets to defend the country. We have good lives because of their sacrifices. I am impressed by their patriotism. Hopefully, I can win more glories for our nation."
Olympic champion Ma Long and Fan Zhendong played an exhibition match at Yan'an University. Other team members had a brief training clinic with the college students later.
Liu said the first team is preparing for the ITTF World Tour Platinum China Open from May 28 to June 2, and the Japan Open in June, and a young team to compete in Hong Kong Open from June 4 to 9.
"There are one more year before Tokyo Olympic Games, all the teams are polishing their squad and skills," Liu said. "We will select our squad according to results of the World Championships and players' conditions."