By Sports Reporter/Doha
Rio Olympic champions Ding Ning and Ma Long of China were named female and male Table Tennis Stars respectively at the ITTF Star Awards, held in Doha on Thursday night.
The award show was held on the sidelines of the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, which began at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena on Thursday. In total, eight awards were handed out to honour the world’s best table tennis athletes.
Having dominated the international table tennis scene since his victory at the 2015 World Championships, world number one Ma Long was the favourite for the men’s award. The Chinese was adjudged as the best in 2015 too and he became first player to receive the title twice in a row.
“Thanks to the ITTF and the Qatar Organizing Committee for giving me this award. I’m very happy and honoured to receive this award in Doha. Thanks to everyone for the recognition of my efforts and results in 2016,” said Ma.
“I hope that through my efforts and those of other members of the table tennis community, we will be able to spread table tennis to more corners of the globe,” he added.
Ding Ning was the overwhelming choice for the women’s award, which was voted for by fellow players and members of the media. Ding was also inducted into the ITTF Hall of Fame together with fellow teammates Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen.
Liu Guoliang of China received the Coach of the Year Award for the second time in succession, while his compatriot Liu Jing was named Para Female Athlete of the Year. Jing had claimed her third consecutive Paralympic singles gold in Rio earlier this year. Belgium’s 16-year-old Laurens Devos took the Male Para Table Tennis Star award. At the Rio Paralympic Games, Devos secured the Singles Class 9 title. At 16 years, he became the youngest player ever to win gold in a table tennis event at Paralympics.
Chinese Fan Zhendong claimed the 2016 Star Point award for his amazing roller shot when retrieving the ball from below the height of the table at the Japan Open.
Miu Hirano of Japan returned home with the Breakthrough Star title. At 16, Hirano became the youngest World Cup champion, and is the first non-Chinese ever to take home the trophy.
Egypt’s Rinad Fathy was the 2016 Fair Play Star for acts of sportsmanship and honesty at the ITTF African Junior Cadet Championships.
At 2-2 and 12-11 in the Cadet Girls’ Team Final, Fathy gave an edge point to her opponent that neither the umpire nor the assistant umpire saw, which resulted in the loss of her individual game.
But Fathy’s sportsmanship was rewarded in the end, as Egypt were crowned the eventual champions.
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