Chinese table tennis superstar Ding Ning announces retirement

The 31-year-old Grand Slam-winning paddler and four-time Olympic medallist revealed on social media that she will be taking a step back from table tennis. 

By Chloe Merrell
Picture by 2012 Getty Images

After 26 years playing the sport, Chinese table tennis legend Ding Ning has officially called time on her distinguished career.

In a social media post the 31-year-old Olympic champion shared that she would be retiring from table tennis to pursue a Master’s degree in physical education at Peking University:

“Today marks my first day as a grad student at Peking University! From now on, I’m no longer ‘Ding Ning the athlete’ but ‘Ding Ning, the student,’” wrote Ding.

“As the Chinese saying goes, diligence is the only vessel to navigate the boundless seas of knowledge. I’ll continue to embrace the spirit of hard work and persistence and strive to do my part for the sports industry – in a different way.”

Widely held as one of China’s most successful female paddlers, Ding first entered the national youth set up in 2003. In 2005 she received a call up for the national team, and from there, went on to achieve extraordinary feats.

Picture by 2016 Getty Images

During the course of her career the so-called “Queen of Hearts” would be crowned singles World Champion three times (2011, 2015, 2017) and would go on to claim three singles World Cup titles (2011, 2014, 2018).

Matching her prowess on the world stage, Ding also received the highest honours in the Olympic arena.

At London 2012 she took silver in women’s singles event, and gold in the team competition. At Rio 2016 Ding went one better to clinch the gold in the singles and help defend the team title.

During her career, Ding spent an incredible 53 months (in four separate stints) as the world number 1-ranked women's singles player.

“I spent 26 years in table tennis, and every moment is a moment to cherish. In 2016, I achieved a grand slam of titles after winning gold at the Rio Olympics and was a proud flag bearer at the closing ceremony,” Ding continued.

“Table tennis has taught me the importance of courage, always to stay dauntless whether I’m on the highest peak or the deepest pit.

“Take heart that you’ll get there one day. It is more than just about winning or losing in sports.”