Table tennis: Russians and Belarusians excluded from the WTT Grand Smash in Singapore

SINGAPORE – The World Table Tennis (WTT) Grand Smash from March 7-20 is the first sporting event in Singapore to be hit by the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as 15 players who were supposed to feature weren’t will not appear at the price of US$2. million (S$2.72 million).

Following a recommendation from the International Olympic Committee, the international athletics, badminton, canoeing, rowing, shooting, skiing, triathlon and volleyball federations have suspended athletes from Russia and Belarus – who was a key area for the Russian invasion of Ukraine – international competitions until further notice.

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) followed suit and issued a statement on Tuesday (March 1st) that “no Russian or Belarusian players and officials will be invited or allowed in the events organized by the ITTF group, and no Russian nationals or Belarusian symbols, colors, flags or anthems will be displayed”.

In a press release on Friday, organizers said: “As recommended by the Executive Committee of the International Olympic Committee, Singapore Smash will not feature any Russian or Belarusian players or officials.”

WTT has confirmed with The Straits Times that five Russians and three Belarusians are set to feature in the Grand Smash. In addition, seven Ukrainians were unable to make the trip to Singapore.

It is believed to be the first international sporting event here to be affected by the fallout from the war.

The inaugural Singapore Smash is the sport’s biggest event and is inspired by the Grand Slams of tennis. It will see 64 of the best men’s and women’s singles players in the world, 24 of the best men’s and women’s doubles combinations, as well as 16 mixed doubles matches at the OCBC Arena.

While organizers declined to reveal names, Russia’s top players include world women’s 55th Yana Noskova, who is also part of the 13th-ranked women’s doubles duo alongside Olga Vorobeva, while Ukraine’s Margaryta Pesotska is 27th in women’s singles.

The main draw will take place from March 11-20, while a 64-man qualifying competition for men’s and women’s singles will be held Monday March 7-Wednesday.

However, fans will still be able to catch a host of stars such as Olympic champions and men’s and women’s world No. 1 Fan Zhendong and Sun Yingsha respectively, as well as home favorite and women’s world No. 9 Feng Tianwei.

The WTT also announced a list of 15 homegrown wildcards who made it to the main draw or qualifiers. Among them is SEA Games champion Koen Pang, who will play in the main draw of men’s singles and doubles (with Josh Chua) and mixed doubles (with Lin Ye).

The 19-year-old said: “Playing in front of a home crowd is always special, and I look forward to playing against the best in the world at such a prestigious event.”

Singapore Table Tennis Association President Ellen Lee added: “We are thrilled that the WTT Grand Smash is coming to Singapore. It is a great opportunity not only for our Singaporean athletes to compete against the best worlds in an event of this scale, but also for them to show their talent in front of a local audience.”

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