The Men's Singles saw Zhang Jike claim the gold medal to add to his 2011 World Championship gold and World Cup golds, not to mention his current World #1 status. It's definitely a golden time for Zhang. Wang Hao was the runner up for his third Olympics in a row, after being defeated in 2004 by Ryu Seung Min, and in 2008 by Ma Lin.
On the Women's side of the tournament, Li Xiaoxia got some revenge for her 2011 World Championship defeat by Ding Ning, by turning the tables and taking the gold, but not without some controversy along the way, with Ding Ning being faulted and then losing a penalty point for delay of game when she attempted to query the decision. With this win, Li has continued China's dominance in Olympic Women's Table Tennis, with China winning every gold medal since table tennis was introduced back in 1988.
Although the two player rule per country stopped China from making a clean sweep of the medals, the Chinese can still take some satisfaction in that the bronze medallist in the Women's Singles was in fact an ex-Chinese player, Feng Tianwei, who defeated Japan's Jasumi Ishikawa. This has sparked another round of the "import vs home-grown" debate that first exploded when Singapore fielded a team full of Chinese imported players while winning the 2010 World Championships Women's Team Event.
And while China has once again been dominating, there have still been moments where players from other countries have made their mark. I'm proud to say that one of these players has been a fellow Australia, William Henzell, who managed to make it to the 3rd round in the Men's Singles with two fantastic wins in the first two rounds, before falling just short against ex-World No 1 Vladimir Samsonov, going down 3-4. Vladimir then went on to push gold medal winner hard with a 4-3 loss, so that gives an indication of just how well William was playing. Onya Wookie! William has been sharing his Olympic experiences in his table tennis blog, which is well worth a read.
While William was doing well, another player who stole some of the spotlight from the Chinese was the USA's own 16 year old Ariel Hsing, who managed to also make it to the third round before playing possibly the match of her life against the #2 seed and eventual winner, Li Xiaoxia. Ariel got a bad start in the first game, but then recovered to level to 2-all with some high quality play, before eventually going down 4-2 in what many people thought was the match of the tournament up to that stage. Congatulations Ariel!
Unfortunately it was difficult to watch much of the table tennis action over here in Australia, with much of the content restricted to certain countries who had negotiated better deals for the rights, I suppose. Our free-to-air coverage of the Olympics in Australia has been so poor that it has sparked the creation of a very popular Facebook page (aptly called Channel 9 Olympics Coverage Sucks) criticizing the broadcaster's obsession with swimming and equestrian events.
Without decent access to much video of Olympic table tennis, I've been feeding my fix for news by doing a bit of web-surfing, and here are some of the interesting articles that I thought I'd share:
- Olympics: An unfulfilling treat that is table tennis. The writer argues that table tennis is not a great visual experience, although I would beg to differ.
- For you Americans out there, here's an expert analysis of the Women's Singles Final by ex-Olympian Sean O'Neill.
- Mikael Andersson's Eleven Points blog has lots of interesting content regarding the Olympics. Mikael is the ITTF's Director of Education and Training - so he has the inside scoop on a lot of events that would otherwise go unmentioned.
- Finally, here's a few fun photos from table tennis at the 2012 London Olympics.