Li Furong, a legendary table tennis player nicknamed the “handsome bomb carrier,” had one dominant concern before setting off for a tour of the United States in 1972.
“I felt honored but also worried. I heard every American has a gun,” Li, now 79 and honorary life president of Asia Table Tennis Union, recalled on Friday at a seminar marking the 50th anniversary of “ping-pong diplomacy.”
Two weeks later back then, Li and his teammates were telling the American media how warmly welcomed they were everywhere they went. Jan Berris, who hosted and accompanied the team throughout the trip, initially thought they were just being polite.