China set to dominate table tennis in Olympics

July 19th, 2008 - 9:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 19 (Xinhua) China’s star-studded table tennis team is ready to display its mighty strength at the Beijing Olympic Games in hopes of clinching all four gold medals on offer. As table tennis is considered China’s national sport, pressure is mounting on the team not to let go of even a single gold medal in the discipline, especially in front of frenzied home crowds at the Peking University Gymnasium.

China is fielding its best paddlers to play in the Games, including world No. 1 Wang Hao, four-time World Cup winner Ma Lin and three-time world champion Wang Liqin.

On the women’s side, the line-up of top-ranked Zhang Yining, grand slam winner Wang Nan and Guo Yue, newly crowned champion in Zagreb, is considered virtually unbeatable.

Team leader Huang Biao, however, has played down expectations of a title sweep.

“To secure an all-around win is the aspiration of all Chinese but sports is always filled with uncertainties,” Huang said.

Ever since table tennis made its debut as a medal sport in Seoul in 1988, China has bagged an overwhelming 16 gold medals out of the total 20 on offer.

In Athens four years ago, South Korean Ryu Seung Min stunned the world by beating 20-year-old Wang Hao to claim the most-coveted men’s singles gold, the third Olympic gold medal for his country.

Despite their string of honours, none of the Chinese trio has been crowned men’s singles champion at Olympics.

Eight-ranked Ryu said recently that he felt no pressure to defend his gold medal.

“I know Wang Hao is showing great form. But he is human too, and he can be beaten,” said Ryu, whose fast footwork, explosive forehand loops and steel nerves enabled him to prevail over many opponents.

China head coach Liu Guoliang said that the threat in August would mainly come from Germany and South Korea, especially in the men’s singles.

Pundits warned that any negligence in the event may result in a replay of the Athens scenario. They added onslaught from South Korea, Japan, Singapore and North Korea would be hampering China’s efforts to clean-sweep the titles.

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