Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Beijing pensioners brave freezing winter for love of table tennis



Beijing pensioners brave freezing winter for love of table tennis

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Two men play table tennis in a park opposite the central business district in Beijing. AFP

Beijing pensioners brave freezing winter for love of table tennis

Chinese pensioner Ren Qian’s passion for table tennis keeps him playing outside all year round, even in the depths of Beijing’s brutally cold winters.

The 73-year-old has been coming to Qingfeng Park in the city’s east with his wife for the past two years, in a bid to stay fit. “When I was in school, you could see students play table tennis almost everywhere,” he remembers.

“We had ping-pong school teams, and almost all the schools held ping-pong competitions every year – that’s why many people in my age play very well.”

His own interest was piqued in 1959 when, 10 years after the founding of communist China, Rong Guotuan became the country’s first world champion not just in table tennis, but in any sport.

“That’s how it became popular. Almost all the Chinese started to play ping-pong since then,” he said.

The skyscrapers of Beijing’s business district tower over the tables, tucked away in a quiet corner in Qingfeng Park.

Even as temperatures plunge to freezing, Ren and his wife have to compete for a table with fellow ping-pong lovers.

The park’s 10 public tables are usually packed from 8:00am to 10:00pm.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
An elderly couple play table tennis at a park in Beijing. For many at the park, ping-pong harks back to their childhood and continues to be a way to remain active even as they enter late life. AFP

People come bundled up against the cold in hats and gloves, wearing face masks because of the ever-present threat of the coronavirus –but as they heat up, bouncing around the court, the layers gradually start coming off.

It’s a scene replicated in parks across the city. Anyone can play here without booking, but must bring their own bats and balls.

Some even come on their own to practise, hitting balls repeatedly over the net – by the end, dozens lie scattered on the ground.

Most of the players are older men but there are women too, also usually retirees. For many, ping-pong harks back to their childhood and is a way to remain active even as they enter late life.

Ren and his wife live nearby and play for about an hour each day.

Many of those playing in the park also see China’s enduring success in the sport as a source of national pride – at the 2016 Rio Olympics, China won all four gold medals.

“China wins almost every international ping-pong competition nowadays,” said Ren’s wife Bi Jinglan, 70.

“So for the Chinese, we are very proud and delighted to play ping-pong.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Banteay Meanchey gunfight sees 15 Thais arrested, three officers injured

    The Banteay Meanchey Military Police have arrested 15 Thai suspects and their accomplices after a gun battle between two Thai groups caused injuries to three police officers in the early hours of November 21, local authorities said. National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said that according to

  • Locally-trained commercial pilots to lift Cambodia’s aviation standard

    The Kingdom is boosting its civil aviation sector with the establishment of a flight school with a local airline to meet growth demands once air travel recovers At 22, First Officer Reachta Lim is the youngest commercial pilot in Cambodia. He flies with the national flag