BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Shanxi table tennis club has paid a record 11.33 million yuan ($1.66 million) to secure the services of women’s world number four Guo Yan on a two-year loan deal, local media reported on Friday.
The 26-year-old, runner up at the 2005 world championships, was bought in an auction of players in Beijing on Thursday in which six men and three women players went for a total of 37.5 million yuan ($5.49 million).
“We never expected such a high price,” Liu Fengyan, head of the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA), told the Beijing Youth Daily.
“We want to attract rich companies to our super league so it is good as it shows the value of the league.”
Despite the increased popularity of basketball and soccer in recent years, table tennis remains China’s national sport and the 10-team super league attracts nationwide television coverage.
The previous record fee for table tennis was the 5.01 million yuan ($733,900) neighbouring Shaanxi paid to win the services of Olympic men’s singles champion Ma Lin for one year in 2006.
Guo, who also expressed her surprise at the fee, will take 1.2 million yuan of the cash, her Beijing club 3.25 million yuan with the remaining 6.88 mllion goes to the CTTA to fund the prize pot.
“We feel she’s worth it,” said Shanxi manager Bai Jian.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney and Liu Zhen; Editing by Alastair Himmer. To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org