Zhuang Zedong


Zhuang Zedong

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Zhuang Zedong (simplified Chinese: 庄则栋; traditional Chinese: 莊則棟; Pinyin: Zhuāng Zédòng; Wade-Giles: Chuang Tsetung) (born 1940) is a Chinese table tennis player, three-time world men's singles champion and champion at numerous other table tennis events, a well-known political personality during the tumult of the Cultural Revolution. His chance meeting with the US table tennis player, Glenn Cowan, during the 31st World Table Tennis Championship, later referred to as Ping Pong Diplomacy, was considered in China to have triggered the thawing of the ice in Sino-American relations since 1949. Zhuang was once married to the pianist Bao Huiqiao, and his second wife is the Chinese-born Japanese Sasaki Atsuko (佐々木敦子).[1]

Contents

Early life

Zhuang was born in 1940 and he joined the Chinese National Table Tennis team as a teenager. His coach was Fu Qifang. In 1961, at the 26th World Table Tennis Championship, he won his first men's singles championship, and at the next two World Table Tennis Championships, the 27th and 28th in 1963 and 1965 respectively, he again won the men's singles championship.[1]

He also won numerous champion titles at various other regional, national and international table tennis events, and the number of his championship titles exceeds all those won by the other members of the Chinese national team combined. No single player has ever won so many championship titles.

In the fall of 1959, Zhuang Zedong met the pianist, Bao Huiqiao, in Vienna, Austria, at the 7th World Youth Peace and Friendship Festival. She was there, along with the pianist Yin Chengzong, to participate in a piano competition.

Shortly after Zhuang won his first world men's singles championship in 1961, Bao Huiqiao won the fifth place at the International George Enescu Piano Competition in Romania.

At the Spring Festival party given by Peng Zhen, the mayor of Beijing in 1962, Zhuang Zedong met Bao Huiqiao again and sent her a toy model car that he won as an award in a game at the party and they subsequently started dating each other.

On January 20, 1968, two years into the depth of the Cultural Revolution, they got married in the dormitory room of Bao Huiqiao at the National Music Conservatory in Beijing. Since the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Zhuang had not been able to pursue his career as a table tennis player as usual, nor had Bao hers as a pianist. In late 1968, Bao Huiqiao gave birth to a son, and they named him Zhuang Biao.

Unique style among penholders

Influenced by a veteran national team member and national champion Wang ChuanYao (王传耀), and encouraged by his coach, Zhuang picked up the "Dual-sided Offense" style in the 1950s when he was a teenager.

During the 50s to 60s, the majority of the pen-holding style players lack attacking or counter-attack capabilities on the backhand side, and rely solely on push-blocking. Wang is believed to be among the pioneers of the "Penholding Dual-sided Offense" style that emphasize on offensive backhand strokes and drives.

Zhuang adopted but modified Wang's style by:

1. Shorten the strokes of backhand drives - sometimes even simply use wrist or finger actions to flick the racket (referred by himself in his book as to "knock" or "snap" the ball).

2. Stand closer to the table than Wang - but still 2–3 feet away from the table, which is farther away from the table than most push-blocking penholders who are normally within 2 feet.

He did so as a result of his meticulous analysis of the physical differences between him and Wang - Wang was much taller and had a longer arm-coverage which enabled bigger, more powerful swings and strokes.

He had to streamline his strokes and instead attempted to generate a sudden burst of explosive power via a smaller motion, similar to the "one-inch-punch" in Wing Chun Kung Fu style.

He won and dominated 3 World Championships with this unique style, and encountered almost no match from the Japanese, European and his fellow Chinese players. Table tennis observers generally believe that he could have won one to two more world championships if the Cultural Revolution had not occurred. (It was evidenced by the fact the next 2 champions both had lopsided losing records against Zhuang when the Chinese team did not participate during the Cultural Revolution.)

Actor of the Ping Pong Diplomacy

In late 1969, the training of the National Table Tennis Team resumed as a result of the intervention of Premier Zhou Enlai, and in 1971, Zhuang Zedong and the Chinese team attended the 31st World Table Tennis Championship. One day during the championship in Nagoya, Japan, the US team member, Glenn Cowan, got onto the bus of the Chinese team, and Zhuang Zedong greeted him and presented him with a silk-screen portrait of the Huangshan Mountains, thus starting the so-called Ping Pong Diplomacy.[2][3] Ten months after Zhuang's chance meeting with Cowan, Richard Nixon, then the president of the United States, visited China in February, 1972. Only two months later, Zhuang led the Chinese table tennis delegation to the United States from April 18 to 30, as part of an 18-day trip including Canada, Mexico and Peru. The so-called Ping Pong Diplomacy eventually led to the normalization of Sino-US relationships in 1979.

Cultural Revolution and consequences

In 1973, Zhuang Zedong became a favorite of Jiang Qing, wife of Mao Zedong and leader of the Cultural Revolution. He was made, sequentially, to become a representative of the 10th Plenary Session of the Communist Party of China, a member of the Central Committee, vice party secretary, secretary and director of the National Sports Committee.

In 1975, Bao Huiqiao gave birth to a daughter, Zhuang Lan.

After the downfall in October, 1976 of the Gang of Four of which Jiang Qing was a member, Zhuang Zedong was jailed and investigated.[3] In 1980, the investigation ended and he was sent to Taiyuan, Shanxi to work as a coach of the provincial table tennis team, which made technical progress in leaps and bounds under the coaching of Zhuang.

New life in Beijing

In 1985, Zhuang was allowed to return to Beijing again, and it was arranged that he would coach the young table tennis players at the Palace of Youth in Beijing.

Zhuang's relationship with Bao Huiqiao had been reportedly deteriorating during the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution and was not to be repaired. On February 2, 1985, he and Bao Huiqiao were officially divorced.

And about this time, Zhuang Zedong published his book Chuang Yu Chuang (Chinese: 《闯与创》(Adventure and Creation)).

Marriage with Sasaki Atsuko

Later in 1985, the Chinese-born Japanese woman, Sasaki Atsuko met Zhuang again in Beijing and started dating him. Sasaki was born in 1944 in Zhangye, Gansu, China to Japanese parents. Her family did not move back to Japan until 1976. By this time, Sasaki had finished her high-school education in China and her father had died of cancer in Lanzhou. Sasaki Atsuko had met Zhuang Zedong previously in Japan in 1971 and 1972 and was a fan of Zhuang. Later Sasaki worked for a Japanese company that often sent her to Beijing to live there for business for long periods of time. This is how she had the opportunity to find Zhuang and start their romantic relationship.

Sasaki told Zhuang that she would be unable to bear his child, because she had had a womb tumor earlier and had had a hysterectomy. Zhuang accepted her nonetheless.

When Zhuang and Sasaki decided to get married, both had to go through a difficult political process due to the political environment in China. Zhuang had to write to Jiang Zemin and Deng Xiaoping about the matter, and Sasaki had to give up her Japanese citizenship and apply for Chinese citizenship. Eventually, Zhuang and Sasaki got married on December 19, 1987.

As of 2007, Zhuang and Sasaki have been living together happily for 20 years. Zhuang has written a book about their love story, entitled Deng Xiaoping approved our marriage. Zhuang has opened an international ping-pong club in Beijing. He visited the United States in 2007, speaking at USC and other universities about his role in fostering better relations between China and the United States.[2]

References

External links



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