China has now claim 28 of the 32 gold medals awarded at Olympic Games since table tennis was introduced in 1988, having completed a clean sweep of the four titles at Rio 2016 with victories in the men’s and women’s team events and in the men’s and women’s singles, won by Ma Long and Ding Ning respectively. Remember it was Long who ended Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri’s fairy-tale run in the quarter final stage of the men’s singles?
China might dominate the past and present, but for the future a new challenger is rising in the shape of Japanese 15-years-old Mima Ito, who became the youngest table tennis Olympic Games medallist as part of her country’s bronze-medal winning women’s team.
Things are promising too for Japan’s male players with 27-year-old Jun Mizutani and 23-years-olds Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura all set to be in their prime during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where backed by a home crowd they can push to improve on the men’s team silver and Mizutani singles bronze won in Rio.
Germany too had strong Games, securing silver in the women’s team event and bronze in the men’s. Unlike Japan, however, this was likely the swansong of a golden era rather than the beginning of a new one. The German contingent included a pair of 35-year-old men in Timo Boll and Bastian Steger and 33-year-old female players in Han Ying and Shan Xiaona.
One of the most unlikely successes was the women’s singles bronze medallist Kim Song 1 (PRK), who with her world ranking of No.50 and unfashionable defensive style, defied expectations all the way to the podium.