Remembering the World’s Greatest Ping Pong Ambassador

The world of table tennis is mourning. Sunday 11th of February not only bought in the exciting start of the Chinese New Year. The Year of The Snake also bought in the death of one China’s most prolific sports person. After a long bout with cancer, Chinese Champion table tennis hero Zhuang Zedong died at the grand old age of 72.

Zedong had an interesting and unusual life, to say the least. After joining the Chinese National Table Tennis Team as a teenager, Zedong went on to set the world of table tennis on fire with his scorching achievements. Winning the men’s singles not once, not twice, but three times amongst many other accolades, Zedong also added global peace mediator to his C.V.

The political ping pong champion, along with his Chinese team mates, initiated a powerful diplomatic dialogue with their American competitors. This dialogue, humorously coined ‘Ping Pong Diplomacy’ was the catalyst for change that opened the door for peace during testing times.

Winning the men’s singles not once, not twice, but three times amongst many other accolades, Zedong also added global peace mediator to his C.V.

It was during the 31st World Table Tennis Championship that everything changed. This competition was more significant than anyone could have anticipated.

During the competition in 1971, American table tennis player Glen Cowan had missed his own team’s bus and was in need of a ride.

After venturing or being waved onto the bus of the Chinese National Table Tennis Team, depending on who was recounting the tale, Cowan was given a warm welcome by Zedong. Zedong gave Cowan a portrait of the Huangshan Mountains. All political and cultural differences were put aside.

It was even said that Zedong became a firm favourite of Chairman Mao’s wife Jaing Quing and as a result, many bridges were burnt

The simplicity of Zedong’s empathy carried much lasting magnitude, and it was not long after that Richard Nixon paid a visit to China.

It cannot be ignored that the Cultural Revolution of China heralded a dark period where many people lost their lives. It was even said that Zedong became a firm favourite of Chairman Mao’s wife Jaing Quing and as a result, many bridges were burnt.

However ultimately one enduring bridge of peace was built, which Zhuang Zedong was instrumental in initiating.

by Paula Pennant

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