LONDON: China made sure of their first London Olympics table tennis gold when world champion Ding Ning and Li Xiaoxia both reached the women’s singles final on Tuesday.
Their success also guaranteed China would maintain a 100 percent record in the event, having won every Olympic women’s singles since table tennis first appeared in the Games at Seoul in 1988.
Top seed Ding ended the hopes of one of the sport’s brightest stars, Ai Fukuhara of Japan, and then won a controversy-tinged semi-final against Singapore’s Feng Tianwei 11-7, 11-4, 9-11, 12-10, 6-11, 11-6.
On match point at 10-3, the encounter seemed to have been settled in Ding’s favour, but after Feng hesitated, the Chinese left-hander acknowledged the ball had clipped the table on the way down on her side.
“The umpire said that I had won the point, but I said what happened to show I play fair – to show I’m not so very bad,” she said through an interpreter.
Ding won because she mixed close-to-the-table hitting and counter-hitting, with mid-court containment, and some spectacular long-distance looping and lobbing, which brought thunderous responses from the crowd.
China then became certain of gold when Li won 11-5, 11-4, 11-13, 11-6, 11-7 against Kasumi Ishikawa, the fourth seed from Japan. She beat Chinese-born Dutch player Li Jiao in her earlier match on Tuesday.
China won every individual table tennis medal at Beijing 2008, underlining a dominance described as “devastating” by the sport’s top administrator.
Countries are now limited to two men’s and women’s singles players each at the London Olympics. Wednesday’s final will be a rematch of last year’s World Championships final won by Ding, who is also the Asian title-holder.
After beating Fukuhara, Ding admitted she would disappointed if she did not win gold.
“I have prepared enough,” she said. “I am quite satisfied with what I have done and I feel confident.”
Channel News Asia