Ai Fukuhara

Beijing Review - - THIS WEEK PEOPLE & POINTS -

Ja­panese ta­ble ten­nis star ex­pressed spe­cial thanks to China and her Chi­nese fans when she an­nounced on Oc­to­ber 21 that she is re­tir­ing from the sport.

“I first gripped a racket at the age of three, turned pro­fes­sional at 10 and be­gan play­ing for the na­tional team at 11,” she wrote in a state­ment, adding that it had been a long jour­ney.

Fukuhara, 29, was re­garded as a child prodigy in Japan. She moved to China for train­ing at five and speaks flu­ent Man­darin with a north­east­ern ac­cent. She is well known to her mil­lions of fans in China as the “Ja­panese Doll.”

The Ja­panese women’s ta­ble ten­nis team led by Fukuhara won sil­ver at the Lon­don Olympics in 2012 and bronze at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Fukuhara mar­ried a ta­ble ten­nis player orig­i­nat­ing from Chi­nese Taipei in 2016 be­fore giv­ing birth to a baby girl last year. She has not com­peted since then.

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