German table tennis icon Timo Boll bids farewell to China

Xinhua
German paddler Timo Boll has bid farewell to China, which he calls his second hometown, as the WTT Champions tournament in Chongqing wrapped up this week.
Xinhua

German paddler Timo Boll has bid farewell to China, which he calls his second hometown, as the WTT Champions tournament in Chongqing wrapped up this week.

"It was very emotional. You can see I still have some tears in my eyes," the 43-year-old veteran, who has announced that he will end his international career after a seventh Olympics this summer in Paris, told reporters after his last match in Chongqing.

In the men's singles quarterfinals last Saturday, which Boll described as "his last adventure in China," he was beaten by 17-year-old French player Felix Lebrun after five rounds.

"I knew he was really eager to play me, and the same to me," said Boll. "He could be our new superstar in Europe. He could break all my records for sure. He is still so young and so good."

Table tennis fans believe that the competition between Boll and Lebrun symbolizes the passing of the torch to the next generation, following Boll's announcement of retiring from the international stage after the Paris Olympics.

Boll said Lebrun's performance reminded him of his own breakthrough in 2002. "I can imagine how he felt. I mean when I had my first big tournament in China, the World Cup 2002 in Jinan (north China's Shandong Province), I had the feeling that I could play against my idol Kong Linghui in the final, and could win my first world title here in China."

Since defeating Olympic champion Kong Linghui in 2002, Boll has been one of the strongest opponents of the Chinese men's table tennis team for more than two decades. The two-time Olympic silver medalist witnessed the growth of generations of Chinese ping pong players and formed a deep friendship with them.

At the World Table Tennis Championships, Boll partnered with Ma Long in the men's doubles, competing in both the 2015 and 2017 worlds.

"I learned so much from the players here, from the coaches and also from the culture," said Boll in Chongqing. "Thanks a lot! China is my second home, I will come back as a tourist."

"Thank you, I love you," he said to the audience in Chinese.

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