BRITAIN’S top table tennis talent are enjoying competing against one of the best - thanks to a Chinese sporting star who has been brought over to Sheffield to share his blistering ping pong skills.
Elite table tennis player Hao Peng has been flown in from China to give the Sheffield-based Team GB a workout in advance of next year’s London Olympic Games.
His arrival is thanks to a huge collaborative effort by Sheffield Council, the city’s Chinese Entrepreneurs and Professionals Association (CEPA), Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.
As well as competing against the Olympic team, Hao is looking forward to some time exploring Sheffield - and has even been given money to spend in a Chinese supermarket so he doesn’t miss his home country’s cooking.
He said: “I have had a really warm welcome into Sheffield from the Chinese community here, and the rest of the city. It is great to be in such a friendly new city playing the sport I love.”
Jerry Cheung, chairman of the Sheffield Chinese Entrepreneurs and Professionals Association, said: “It means a great deal to the Chinese community in Sheffield to see Hao Peng come over to train with the British team.
“We are passionate about supporting the integration of the Chinese community into the city, and we are happy to play our part in supporting local sport.
“Table tennis is the most popular sport in China, and we want to be the gateway that helps to bring this expertise into Sheffield.”
The Olympic team includes British number one and triple European champion Paul Drinkall, and British number three and ‘the face of table tennis’ for Nintendo Wii, Darius Knight.
But the sport has seen its national funding cut in the last few years, meaning the squad were unable to attract the best players from around the world to Sheffield to ensure the British team were getting the right level of competition to prepare them for the Olympics.
English Table Tennis Association (ETTA) chief executive Richard Yule said: “Sheffield has fantastic elite sporting facilities for the team, but what they really need is top quality competition to practise with.
“Hao Peng’s visit to Sheffield is absolutely invaluable in putting the team through their paces and getting them prepared for the standard they will be competing at come next year at the Olympic Games.”
Paul Hudson, general manager of the English Institute of Sport in Attercliffe where the team is based, said: “We are proud to be home to the country’s elite squad.
“Having the opportunity to train alongside a world leading player like Hao Peng at such an important time will be a massive boost.”