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IANS

The World Team Table Tennis Championships is set to return to action later this month after a four-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) unveiling the 66 teams including India that will be competing for titles.

This will be the only international sports competition in China this year after the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics as the country postponed the Asian Games 2022 and relinquished hosting rights of the Men's Asian Cup football scheduled in 2023 because of rising cases of Coronavirus.

With the organisers proposing special measures for the event, the ITTF unveiled the list of teams' entries for the Chengdu 2022 World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals, with Indian men's and women's teams in contention.

The tournament will be held between September 30 to October 9. The men's competition will feature 35 teams, while 31 teams will compete in the women's category.

Four years ago, when the event was last held, China took gold in the men's and women's events in Halmstad, Sweden, in 2018. The 2020 World Team Table Tennis Championships in Busan, South Korea, was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

China has taken the men's title at the last nine tournaments and will go in as the top seed. In the women's draw, China will be looking for its fifth consecutive title and enter the Chengdu competition as the world's No. 1 team.

ITTF president Petra Sorling expressed her gratitude to the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA), the local organising committee, and the city of Chengdu for making the event happen, reports Xinhua.

"As the countdown to Chengdu will soon come to an end, all members of the table tennis family should feel extremely proud," said Sorling. "The World Championships Finals in Chengdu will be an unforgettable experience which, ultimately, will bring our family together, maybe closer than it has ever been."

The first stage draw is scheduled for September 28. Teams will arrive in Chengdu on September 26 via special flights chartered by the ITTF.

Participants at the World Championships Finals will stay in a bubble, with official hotels being connected to the event venue via dedicated transport.

"The ITTF, CTTA and the organising committee are working on every detail to ensure a professional, safe, convenient and pleasant environment for all. I would also like to thank the table tennis family for their support in the lead-up to this event. I believe Chengdu can become the link that deepens our friendship and brings us closer together," commented Liu Guoliang, executive vice president of the ITTF, and World Table Tennis Director and Council Chair.

Playing on home soil this year, China will once again be the favourite to win the Swaythling and Marcel Corbillon Cups.

China has taken the men's title on the last nine occasions and will go in as the top seed. Germany as World No.2 will be set on a breakthrough performance after making four finals in the previous five editions of the event. Meanwhile, Sweden was the last team outside of China to stand at the top of the men's podium and having produced silver medallists in consecutive Men's Singles World Championships will look for a return to their golden age.

In the women's draw, China will be looking for its fifth consecutive title and enter Chengdu as the No.1 team in the world.

A spot behind them is Japan who have won silver at the last three championships and will look to their legacy for inspiration as the second most successful women's team of all time. While the traditional continental powerhouses will be in action, Pan-America will also be eyeing the podium with most teams from that region competing for the titles in the modern staging of the event. Africa will also be well represented and battling for medals with multiple teams ranked inside the Top 20 headed to Chengdu, the ITTF said in a release on Friday.

The teams will arrive in Chengdu on Monday 26 September via special flights chartered by the ITTF. Participants at the World Championships Finals will be able to enter and leave Chengdu without quarantine.

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