María Xiao: “I’m really excited to win a medal with Álvaro Robles”

“As a child I didn’t like table tennis at all”


Spanish table tennis player María Xiao confessed that as a child she “didn’t like” her sport at all, in which she has qualified for her second Olympic Games, this time in Paris 2024, both in the singles category and in mixed doubles with the Huelva-born paddler Álvaro Robles, with whom she is “very excited to win a medal”.

“I’m really excited to win a medal with Álvaro (Robles), because we’ve worked hard and I think it would be a reward for the work we’ve been doing these years. I think we deserve it,” Xiao said in an interview with Europa Press at the ‘Media Day’ organised by the Spanish Table Tennis Federation a month before the Paris Olympic Games begin.

The pair formed by her and the Andalusian arrive as the best European in the ranking, something that in the words of the paddler gives them “confidence to achieve a fairly good result”, without ruling out the medal. “I see it as being possible (to win a medal) because it will also depend a bit on the draw we have, and we know that if we get through the first round we will be drawn against one of the four best pairs in the world,” she warned.

Xiao is clear that these rivals “will be under a lot more pressure” and that “anything can happen,” and he also points to the psychological factor as “important” in a very demanding competition, which will be decided in just two days.

“I think I have to prepare myself very well physically. Normally we play best-of-five, but the psychological aspect, with best-of-seven matches, is going to be quite important. If you’re not mentally fit, even if you’re physically incredible and playing very well, in the end you’re not going to win that match. You have to prepare in all aspects,” he said.


Managing pressure will also be a decisive factor because playing two or three games a day means more physical and mental fatigue. “It makes you much more tired, and it demands much more from you,” she explains, while acknowledging that whenever she has an important game or doesn’t feel “comfortable,” she calls her psychologist to relax.

“Talking to him for a few minutes before the game calms me down a lot, and I’m lucky that he tells me that I can always count on him, whether it’s Saturday or Sunday. He’ll always be available for me,” he said.

The Paris Games will come for her after a year that has been “very complicated.” “At the beginning of the season things were a bit bleak because I had to defend a lot of points from last year, I had to get two or three good results to be able to get into the rankings. If not, I would be in the Pre-Olympic, where anything can happen and it is much more complicated. I had a very bad time on an individual level,” she confessed.

Xiao said that the good results at the end of the year gave him “life,” and that from January onwards he calmed down “quite a bit” because “things were a little more under control.” “In the end, I qualified in the individual and mixed categories, and that was the goal,” he concluded.


The Paris Games will be the second Olympic Games for the Spanish player, who pointed out that the fact that there will be an audience in the halls can have a particularly negative effect if a local paddler is competing. “If France is playing, there will be a lot of noise and it will be much more difficult to concentrate,” she said, while stressing that she prefers having that audience to competing in the conditions of Tokyo 2020, without spectators in the stands due to the pandemic.

At this event, he will also be able to experience first-hand what it is like to live the Olympic Games in an Olympic Village, where he will meet the best athletes in the world. “It is always exciting to be with the best in the world in all sports. You have a unique opportunity every four years, and a certain athlete may retire and you may never have the chance to get close to him and be in the same place,” he said.

The paddler, who admitted that she would be particularly happy to meet Spanish tennis players Carlos Alcaraz and Rafa Nadal in the Olympic Village, comes from a family of professional table tennis players, something that was “very hard” for her when she was little.

“As a child I didn’t like table tennis at all because it was only talked about at home, and I was at home, at school or in the gym. I found it very boring and I think that’s why I didn’t like it until a few years ago, when I saw that I was winning matches against better players,” she recalled.

From that moment on, she felt “motivated” and that made her start to like this sport. The Spaniard stressed that her parents have helped her “a lot on a technical and tactical level, and in everything related to table tennis, because they have experienced it before.” “All that experience they have accumulated as players is being passed on to me, and that gives me a bit of an advantage and makes me mature before the others, and I know things that, if they were not professionals, I would never know.”

Finally, looking ahead to Paris 2024, she is focusing on this year’s European Championships, and said that she is very motivated to “continue training after the Games”, while also noting that she would like to “be present at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028”.