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Olympic doubles champ sent for rural re-education

Written by: Staff

BEIJING, May 15: Olympic table tennis doubles champion Chen Qi has been sent to the countryside for ''re-education'', a Chinese newspaper reported today.

Hard labour in the fields surrounding Pan Tao -- a village in China's northern province of Hebei -- is the latest instalment of team discipline to befall 21-year-old Chen after he lost his cool at an international table tennis event over two months ago.

After losing to compatriot Wang Ha in the men's final at the Asia Cup held in Japan on March 5, Chen flung the ball to the ground and kicked a chair into the air.

The unsportsmanlike act earned Chen a ''list'' of penalties from team mates, the Beijing Times said.

He can now add ''levelling dirt... weeding and plucking cucumbers,'' as part of his rehabilitation, which has also involved heavy fines, a lengthy benching and a televised public apology.

Chen is expected to spend a week in the fields before he joins Jiangsu team mates ahead of the domestic league season.

Chinese athletes are held to strict standards of conduct and are expected to put national duties above personal interests.

Expectations in table tennis, a sport China has long dominated and considers its national game, are especially steep.

In March, table tennis prospect Qiu Yike was handed a one-year ban from the national team after he returned late from a night of drinking with friends during February's national trials for the world championships.

Chen's punishment occurs as China passes the 40th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) -- a period when Mao Zedong's ''re-education'' campaigns forcibly sent millions of city-dwelling youth, intellectuals and workers into the country to ''learn from the peasants.'' Sending players into ''poor regions'' was an idea the team had raised before, the Beijing Times quoted national team coach Liu Guoliang as saying.

''If the education proves effective, we'll consider sending the whole team,'' he said.


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