China table tennis champion sued over casino debts

Kong Linghui of China returns a shot during the men's doubles final of the 48th World Table Tennis Championships against Timo Boll and Christian Suss of Germany at Shanghai Gymnasium on May 5, 2005 in Shanghai, ChinaImage copyright
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Image caption

Kong Linghui of China (in a 2005 picture) is considered one of table tennis’ all-time greats

One of China’s best-known table tennis players is being sued by a Singapore casino over alleged gambling debts.

Former world champion Kong Linghui owes Marina Bay Sands 454,375 Singapore dollars ($327,600; £255,600), according to a Hong Kong court filing.

Mr Kong, nicknamed China’s ‘Ping Pong Prince’, said the debt was accrued by someone else and that he was being “dragged into a lawsuit”.

The casino resort declined to comment to the BBC.

The 41-year-old sportsman has now been suspended from his current role as head coach of China’s women’s table tennis team.

‘Deeply disturbed’

Mr Kong said he visited Singapore for four days in February 2015, accompanied by his parents, relatives and friends.

“It is only until today after media reports have exposed the incident that I have learned someone had left some debt unsettled with the casino,” he said in a statement on Weibo.

“I am being dragged into the lawsuit. I have immediately requested the indebted to show up and clarify the facts.”

“As we are in the middle of the World Table Tennis Championships, this incident has caused negative effect on the [national] team, which I feel deeply disturbed”.

The court filing claims Mr Kong borrowed S$1m from the casino and put down a deposit to establish him as a “premium player” but has only repaid S$545,625.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Marina Bay Sands is one of Singapore’s landmark buildings.

Mr Kong was drafted into China’s national table tennis team aged 16 and went on to become one of the sport’s all-time greats.

He won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and took a gold and silver four years later in Sydney.

And in 2000 he became only the third player to win the World Championships, World Cup and Olympics in the same year.

Mr Kong retired in 2006 and was made the head coach of China’s women’s national team in 2013.

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