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    Decades ago, ping Pong players provided among the West's first openings to communist China. It was explained as ping pong diplomacy. Now ping pong may offer a different sort of opening in the Beijing Olympics. The United States will be represented by players for whom the trip to China feels just like going home. All four members were born in China. That includes the group's top female player, Gao Jun Chinese dominates the world of ping-pong, though there's an Effort to change that. Here is NPR's Frank Langfitt ping pong paddles review FRANK LANGFITT: From athletic standards, Gao Jun is older - 39 years old. Some years back she thought about retiring, then China won its bid to host the Summer Olympics Ms. GAO JUN (Ping-Pong Player): I feel like, oh, Olympics in Beijing - that's likely to be, you know, a lot of fun. So I believe, oh, perhaps I can playwith, and perhaps I can move LANGFITT: Gao used to play for China. In 1992, she won a Silver medal in the Barcelona Olympics. Afterwards, she moved into the U.S. to get married. But playing here was frustrating. Back in China, ping-pong is a serious game you can see on TV. Here it is something you play at a basement, such as air hockey Ms. GAO: ping pong in The U.S. is - I can't say it is that - but it's really no good LANGFITT: In fact, Gao says the competition is so poor here, She must live most of the year in Shanghai only to keep up her skills Gao's game looks like the one you see in American rec rooms. Here she's warming up with an opponent at a bar near her former home in Maryland. Her shoes squeak as she slides back and forth across the floor. She flicks her paddle, shooting the ball at speeds up to 70 miles an hour To get a feel for the Olympic level game, I pick up a paddle Ms. GAO: Ready? LANGFITT:. No, I'm sure I am not, but proceed best ping pong tables (Soundbite of laughter) Ms. GAO: Oh LANGFITT: That is Gao's response as I send her first function Sailing off the dining table. When she functions she pieces the ball with her paddle. It comes corkscrewing towards me. I knock this one straight into the Internet (Soundbite of ball bouncing) LANGFITT: Thus I can't get it up over the net Ms. GAO: If you cannot read my spin LANGFITT: Then I can't return it? Ms. GAO: No LANGFITT: Gao opinions on my own form. She is appalled Ms. GAO: Look how you hold your own racket. It's like you're Holding a knife LANGFITT: Yup, it is Beijing marks Gao's fourth Olympics. Some younger U.S. Players think that is too many. Not Able to Create their national group, older Chinese players often go abroad and then dominate the groups of other countries. That's what Chen Weixing did. He plays for Austria. Today he's demonstrating a function at Club Joola, a ping-pong center outside Washington, D.C Mr. CHEN WEIXING (Ping-Pong Player): You must go like this LANGFITT: Among his student's is 16-year-old Amaresh Sahu. Sahu admires Chinese-born players, but he also resents them Mr. AMARESH SAHU (Student): I think it's great for us to view Their fashions. However, I believe for them to take up so many spots over and over and again, and just refuse the gifted players here to go up to global competition is sort of wrong. And you don't really know if they are really playing for us, or they just want to go play LANGFITT: The International ping pong Federation needs to make it easier For people such as Sahu. Before this season, it left a new rule. Most overseas players must reside in their adopted country for a time period before they can compete for their new country abroad. The principle, however, does not apply to the Olympics, and it isn't retroactive Richard Lee runs Club Joola. He says the limitations may Give native-born players more chances in the home Mr. RICHARD LEE: However, the problem is once the U.S. players move Abroad and suddenly play with a Chinese participant or a European participant, they are going to get crushed Best Ping Pong Robot/Machine & How To Choose LANGFITT: Gao Jun admits she takes opportunities away Out of native-born players. But she says fans wish to see competitive games, and often that means Chinese against Chinese. With Gao pushing 40, I ask her about the long run Ms. GAO: I believe after 2008 I will stop. But perhaps, who Understands, after four years, next Olympics come, I believe, oh, nevertheless nobody could beat me at the U.S. Maybe I'll start again. I really don't understand LANGFITT: For today though she is focused on this month in the Beijing University gymnasium in which the audience will be a sell out and Nobody will Equate ping-pong with air hockey.

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