Members of China's men's table tennis team (from L) Chen Qi, Ma Long, Wang Liqin, coach Liu Guoliang, Wang Hao and Ma Lin pose with their trophy on the podium after beating South Korea in the men's final of the World Team Table Tennis Championships in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou March 2, 2008. [Agencies]
China clinched the men's world team table tennis championship yesterday, proving too powerful for archrival South Korea and sending a strong signal ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
China steamrolled over South Korea, a repeat of the final at the last Worlds, winning 3-0 for their fourth straight team title.
The victory comes hot on the heels of success for China's equally formidable women, who lifted their team crown on Saturday after downing Singapore 3-1.
China, which was viewing these championships as the perfect warm-up for Beijing, looks set to dominate the tables at the Olympics on home turf.
China head coach Liu Guoliang said his charges were now on course for the Olympics but paid tribute to the South Koreans, saying they were also heading for a good showing in Beijing.
South Korea's Olympic champion Ryu Seung Min said he was disappointed with his performance after being attacked by nerves before the clash.
"I didn't play very well. I was a bit nervous and I was lucky that I didn't have to play (world No 1) Wang Hao," the world No 8 said.
South Korea, gunning for its first title, had been seeking revenge after the last Worlds, and was confident of taking on China.
But its hopes were dashed when China's Ma Lin trampled over Ryu, who managed to take just one set off the world No 2 in the opening tie.
"I missed a few good shots but I felt confident of winning because the crowd was behind me," Ma said.
Undeterred, South Korea's Lee Jung Woo, ranked just 39 in the world, was determined to take down Wang Hao, and came close, winning the opening game before Wang steadied to take the next two.
With the crowd screaming for China, a fired-up Lee held off Wang in the fourth set, with the two engaging in lengthy rallies and cross-court smashes before Wang edged over the line to take the match.
"Maybe I was a bit lucky because I had a home crowd behind me. I hope I can take this luck into the Beijing Olympics," Wang said.
"After the first match, I thought ... I could control the situation better and I felt myself playing better in the next three matches," he said.
World champion and China veteran Wang Liqin, 29, swiftly wrapped up the proceedings, beating Joo Se Hyuk in straight sets.
Wang Liqin said he had been feeling the pressure to perform at these Worlds to impress China's coaches in his battle to win the coveted third spot on the team for the Olympics.
But the world No 3 was in cruise control yesterday, downing Joo in less than 30 minutes.
Wang revealed that the coach informed him straight after the final that he had been selected to head to Hong Kong for Asian qualifying for the Beijing Olympics, after his performances at these Worlds.
"I will try my best in Hong Kong," the softly spoken Wang said.
On Saturday, China won the women's event after beating a supercharged Singapore 3-1 in the final.
It was the 17th world title for the Chinese women, who had not been beaten in team championships since losing to a unified Korean team in 1991. Both Japan and Hong Kong were the third-place finishers.
China's sports authorities said that the country's veteran Wang Nan will join Wang Liqing, both nearly 30, to take part in the Asian Olympic qualification tournament in Hong Kong.
A group of coaches made the decision after "cautious consideration and careful research" of the two's performances and experience in major international matches in the past year, said Liu Fengyan, a General Administration of Sport official that oversees table tennis and badminton competitions.
Analysts say China is likely to field its three top-ranked men players -- including Wang Hao, Ma Lin and Wang Liqin - in the Beijing Olympics, along with women's players Zhang Yining, Guo Yue and Wang Nan.
But the name list is subject to change before June, according to the country's sports authorities.