Sheffield and its Chinese community is rallying round to provide a much needed sparring partner for the British Olympic Table Tennis team based in the city.
The City Council has led a collaborative effort to bring Hao Peng, an elite Table Tennis player, to Sheffield from China in order to give the team a work out in advance of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Hao Peng said: “I have had a 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 that I love.”
Jerry Cheung, Chair of the Sheffield Chinese Entrepreneurs and Professionals Association (CEPA), 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.” CEPA has led support for the visit in the local Chinese community, including arranging for Hao Peng to have money to spend in a Chinese supermarket.
Richard Yule, English Table Tennis Association Chief Executive, said: “Sheffield has fantastic elite sporting facilities for the British Olympic Table Tennis team, but what they really need is top quality competition to practice with. Hao Peng’s visit to Sheffield has been 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.”
Councillor Helen Mirfin-Boukouris, Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for Business, Jobs and Growth, Culture and Sport, said: “We were determined to give the British Olympic table tennis team the best support we could in preparation for London 2012. We know that what sportspeople need in order to really thrive is good and challenging opponents, and Hao Peng has provided just that. I would like to say a huge thank you to all the partners in the city who have made this happen.”
The team, including British No1 and triple European Champion Paul Drinkall and British No2 and the face of Table Tennis on the Wii Darius Knight, have seen their national funding cut in the last few years. This meant 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 Games and because of this the centralised programme in Sheffield was under threat.
Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Sport and Exercise Science has stepped in to support the team through the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme, providing a suite of sport science services to the team, including strength and conditioning, physiotherapy and psychological development.
Sheffield International Venues have supported the training requirements at the English Institute of Sport while Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and partners will help to stage a unique evening of interactive table tennis with the GB Olympic hopefuls and Chinese sparring partners in October to raise money for the GB players to continue working with the Chinese stars in the run up to London 2012.