Olympic champion Ma Long will only compete in team event at Paris 2024. GETTY IMAGES

The Chinese Table Tennis Association announced the composition of the Paris 2024 team on Tuesday and it includes reigning Olympic singles champion Ma Long. This will be the fourth Olympic Games for Long. Currently ranked third in the world, the 'Hexagonal Warrior', as he is known in his country, has a total of 5 Olympic medals. However, he will not be defending his singles title this time around.

China are aiming to be the dominant force in table tennis at Paris 2024. On Tuesday, they released the list of team members for the Olympic event. On the men's side, the giant Asian country will be represented by Wang Chuqin (world number one) and the recent winner of the triple crown at the Saudi Smash, Fan Zhendong (world number two) and Ma Long (world number three). 

Adding to the mix is Liang Jingkun (world number four). Undoubtedly, this is a team that is going to compete for gold in the team event. One surprise, however, will be the absence of world number one and reigning Olympic champion Ma Long from his title defence. His decision stems from the fact that, at 35 years of age, he wants to be at the top of his game and has decided not to compete for individual gold.

Ma Long is the player who has spent the most time at number one in the rankings. GETTY IMAGES
Ma Long is the player who has spent the most time at number one in the rankings. GETTY IMAGES

The names of the players who will make up the women's team have also been announced, headed by Sun Yingsha (world number one) and Chen Meng (world number two), along with Wang Manyu (world number three). The first two will represent China in the singles. The substitute will be Wang Yidi (world number four), as in the men's team.

The Chinese players at Paris 2024 will be as follows:

Wang Chuqin, Fan Zhendong - Men's singles

Sun Yingsha, Chen Meng - Women's singles

Ma Long, Wang Chuqin, Fan Zhendong - Men's doubles

Wang Manyu, Sun Yingsha, Chen Meng - Women's Team

Since table tennis was added to the Olympic programme in Seoul in 1988, athletes from the People's Republic of China have dominated the sport. They have won a total of 60 medals at the Games, including 32 gold medals. Ma Long holds many records, but one is particularly significant. He is the first and only male athlete to have won two titles in a row at the National Games of the People of China. 

In addition to his 17 World Championship medals, he is also the player with the most major titles (12). In 2004, he became the first player to sweep his opponent (without losing a single game) in an Olympic singles final since matches at the Olympic Games were played to seven games.

Long means dragon in Chinese, so there are plenty of nicknames for this player. Ma Long has always risen above the pressure he has been under because of the importance of the sport in his country. He is the longest reigning world number one. He held it for 5 years. 3 of those years were uninterrupted. His style and skill, especially his forehand, will never be forgotten. Ma Long uses impressive spin variations and speed changes. He leaves his opponents confused.

Table tennis is a national sport in China. It is strongly supported by the authorities. Internal competition is fierce and the collective potential is undeniable. In a discipline that the Asian giants have dominated since it became part of the Olympic programme in 1988, players such as Japan's Harimoto are trying to steal the limelight in the men's competition.