China and the United States will join forces at the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships with two pairs formed of both American and Chinese players entering the mixed doubles competition on the year marking the 50th anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) announced on Sunday evening.
China's Lin Gaoyuan, the men's singles fifth seed, will pair with American paddler Lily Zhang, while Kanak Jha will play with Chinese women's singles fourth seed Wang Manyu.
Lin said he is really happy to be partnering with Zhang for the mixed doubles event.
"I hope we can get into the groove soon, develop good chemistry and work hard towards a great performance," he said.
"It's so cool to pair with a Chinese national team player. They're the best in the world, so I will do my best and hopefully, we can work well together and get a good result," echoed Zhang.
Calling "it will be a historical moment," the five-time U.S. national champion said she is really glad that China and the United States are able to work together through sport.
The Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA) and the U.S. Table Tennis Association together submitted the request to allow China-U.S. pairs to compete with the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and the ITTF Executive Committee approving the request on Sunday, according to the statement.
"We have been thinking about how we can build on the China-U.S. friendship kickstarted by our predecessors 50 years ago, and further enhance this relationship through sports events, sports activities and community events," Liu Guoliang, World Table Tennis Council Chair and president of the CTTA said.
"On this basis, the CTTA alongside USA Table Tennis proposed to ITTF to have Chinese and American players paired up for mixed doubles - so that these athletes, who are friends with each other, can work together in the competition; so that fans from both countries can cheer them on, opening a new chapter of Ping Pong Diplomacy in this new era," said Liu, also a prominent figure of the sport.
Virginia Sung, Chief Executive Officer of USA Table Tennis (USATT), commented: "We are really excited that the opportunity has materialized for China and the U.S. to play a Mixed Doubles event in Houston."
"As it did so many years ago, sport is once again showing us the power of unity, and ping pong is once again changing the course of history," said Sung.
Fifty years ago, the U.S. table tennis team was invited by its Chinese counterpart to visit China at the conclusion of the 31st World Championships in Nagoya, Japan. The U.S. players landed in Beijing on April 10, 1971, becoming the first U.S. group to visit China since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. The Chinese team paid a return visit the following year.
"Once again, we are all witnessing the unique power of sport and how table tennis can create dialogues and foster mutual understanding," said ITTF Group CEO Steve Dainton.
"This will inspire us to deliver an extraordinary and historical Championships and to encourage the dreams, hopes and aspirations of not only the entire table tennis community but also the next generation worldwide," Dainton added.
The 2021 World Table Tennis Championships are set to take place from November 23 to 29 in Houston. It will be the first time the tournament will be held in the United States.