Table tennis Olympic and world champion Zhang Jike is set to train under a new coach after the Chinese national team announced Thursday to make the most changes in a decade to its coaching staff.
Having worked with the Grand Slam winner for eight straight years, Zhang's previous coach Xiao Zhan will turn to train the Chinese women's team, leaving the injury-hit 29-year-old further unsettled.
Zhang, who had many reasons to thank Xiao for helping him turn from no one to The One at the star-studded Chinese team, had his left foot wrenched at the end of last year while shooting for a television show.
He was forced out of last February's Qater Open before pulling out from the Chinese team's trials for the World Table Tennis Championships, scheduled to be held in Dusseldorf, Germany in May, due to a foot injury.
Xiao, 49, has been a high-level table tennis coach for 25 years, most of which was in provincial and national team. Under his discipline, Zhang set a record of collecting titles of Olympic Games, world championships and World Cup in just 445 days.
It was also because of Xiao who helped Zhang bottom out after the Shandong native lost motivation to play table tennis in post-London Olympic Games period.
“My sole objective as Zhang Jike's coach is to help him become a better player as well as a better person,” said Xiao when he addressed during the national team's competitive selection of coaching posts a week ago.
“He's a talented paddler with a big heart. I always have confidence in him,” added Xiao.
Now the former world No. 1 faces a tough test in the upcoming Asian championships, set to start this weekend at Wuxi, East China, before trying his chances in Dusseldorf.
Xiao was not the only one set to switch tracks, as retired Olympic gold medalist Ma Lin and world champion Wang Hao have both earned their posts as coaches in the national team.