Hosts in the way of 4th straight Chinese clean sweep in TT Olympics: Table Tennis
Table tennis powerhouse China will seek their fourth straight clean sweep of table tennis titles at the Olympics while host Japan may provide the strongest challenge, as the Tokyo 2020 competitions get underway at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Saturday.
TOKYO: Table tennis powerhouse China will seek their fourth straight clean sweep of table tennis titles at the Olympics while host Japan may provide the strongest challenge, as the Tokyo 2020 competitions get underway at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Saturday.
China have won 28 out of 32 gold medals since the sport debuted at the Olympic Games at Seoul 1988, which is an unparalleled success given that even the dominant United States basketball team holds a lower win rate after taking 23 out of 30 Olympic gold.
The 32-year-old Chinese men's skipper Ma Long, a Grand Slam winner of the Olympic, world championships and World Cup, leads the squad and world No. 1 Fan Zhendong joins him in the men's singles draw, while Xu Xin completes the men's team roster, reports Xinhua.
In the women's draw, top-ranked Chen Meng will spearhead China's challenge in the singles, with 20-year-old world No. 3 Sun Yingsha and reigning world champion and record five-time World Cup titleholder Liu Shiwen joining her in the team event.
Liu, 29, who skips the singles event, will partner with Xu to represent China in the mixed doubles, a category making its debut at the Tokyo Olympics, and the current worlds winning pair is reckoned one of the favorites for the first-ever Olympic gold.
"Our target is to vie for every gold medal on offer," commented Liu Guoliang, president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association who came here as the leader of China's Olympic team of the sport.
"I've told my players not to think too much of the draw, since what really matters is your performance besides techniques and tactics, rather than who's standing at the other end of the table," Liu added as the draw has been made on Wednesday evening.
Runner-up in the table tennis medal standings at the past two Games, the hosts, who are seeded second in the women's team and the third in the men's team, is set to provide China with the strongest challenge.
Japan's world No. 2 Mima Ito is expected high to break China's dominance as the 20-year-old will compete in all three disciplines - the women's singles, the women's team and the mixed doubles.
World No. 5 Tomokazu Harimoto, whose parents were both born in China before giving birth to him and his younger sister, will lead Japan's men's team, drawn into the same half with second-seeded Germany.
"There will be the chance for gold in all events," said Yoshihito Miyazaki, development director of the Japanese Table Tennis Association, adding that Japan is hopeful of emulating South Korea's success on home soil in 1988 when the hosts won two gold medals.
Matters Falck of Sweden, the first non-Chinese player to reach a world championship singles final since 2003, won silver in Budapest in 2019 and is posing to prevent China's all-clear victories.
"Hopefully this surprise will come from the Sweden team," he said. "We have to be in top shape to beat them, but hopefully this is the year to do it." IANS