Sarah De Nutte and Ni Xia Lian are probably the two most successful Luxembourgish athletes in the last few years.
The two table tennis players make quite an unusual pair. At the age of 60, Ni Xia Lian is twice as old as Sarah De Nutte. But she’s known her junior for quite a while now. The two met when they were both playing in Ettelbrück. But at that point in time Ni had already won a couple of championship titles. And they didn’t know they’d become so successful as a pair.
They’ve received the bronze medal twice at the European championships, in Alicante in 2018 and in Munich in 2022. But also, at the world championship in Houston in 2021, which earned them the third place in the world ranking at that point. Now they are in 9th place.
Ni Xia Lian and Sarah De Nutte at the WC in Houston. / © Manfred Schillings/FLTT
They have also achieved remarkable results as a team alongside Tessy Gonderinger and Ariel Barbosa. At the team championship in China, in 2022, they advanced to the round of the last sixteen. On their way there, they beat the south Korean team who at the time were ranked fourth in the world rank list. Sarah De Nutte and Ni Xia Lian were both awarded “Female athlete of the year” in 2022.
© Val Wagner
Ni Xia Lian for China (until 1989)
Ni Xia Lian had already tasted victory before coming to Luxembourg. At the world championship in 1983, she won the gold medal with the Chinese national team. The same year she also won gold in doubles, together with Guo Yuehua. And in 1985 she won silver in doubles with Cao Yanhua.
Ni Xia Lian for Luxembourg (since 1991)
A photo from 1998, when Ni Xia Lian became European champion for the first time in Eindhoven, Holland. Also pictured is her son, who was 6 years old at the time. / © AFP
When Ni Xia Lian came to Luxembourg in 1990, she started as a coach. But she quickly started playing for Luxembourg and has represented the country at the highest level ever since.
She won the Euro Top 12 tournament three times in a row (1996-1998) and won the European title in singles in 1998 and 2002. That same year she also won the title in the doubles championship. In 1999 she came in fourth together with the Luxembourger Peggy Regenwetter at the world championship in Eindhoven, in the Netherlands. Then, in 2019, she won Bronze in Minsk, 36 years after her world championship title.
She has participated in 24 world championships, 22 of which under the Luxembourgish flag. And she also participated in 18 European championships.
The only thing she is missing is an Olympic medal. Having participated a total of five times, she was the oldest table tennis player at the Tokyo Olympics. And it seems like Paris will be her 6th participation in the games.
She started playing at 8 years old
Sarah De Nutte started playing at 8 years old at a table tennis club in Larochette.
She celebrated her biggest achievements in the sport together with Ni Xia Lian. In Houston she was the first Luxembourg-born person to win a medal in the women’s doubles since 1995.
De Nutte played her very first Olympics in Tokyo in 2021, which also marked the first time in history that two female Luxembourgish players participated in the prestigious games. This was a very special moment for Sarah, even if there were no spectators due to the covid pandemic.
© pressphoto (Archiv)