July 29, 2021
By Eimi Yamamitsu
TOKYO (Reuters) -World number one Chen Meng said winning gold was payback for her coach as she won the women’s singles Olympic table tennis final on Thursday, leading China to yet another incredible run of claiming every gold medal in the event in Olympic history.
Chen overcame compatriot Sun Yingsha 9-11 11-6 11-4 5-11 11-4 11-9, firing herself up with a mighty yell each time she scored a point.
Meanwhile the 20-year-old Sun in contrast silently gave a reserved fist pump as she tried to get back into the contest.
“All the coaches were supporting me so much, coach Ma Lin even jumped out of his seat. I felt they were more emotional than me,” said Chen, who rushed to hug Ma the moment she won the final.
“After we (China) lost the mixed doubles gold, the pressure on him was immense. During preparations, I felt like he was more nervous than me. But in this moment, that feeling can subside a bit.”
As she held and smilingly stared at her first Olympic gold, Chen chuckled and said that the medal “feels quite heavy”.
The two players held the national flag together right after the match to commemorate their victory in front of the cameras.
“My next goal is winning the gold for the team event,” Chen said at a post-match press conference.
Japan’s Mima Ito won the bronze medal by beating Singapore’s Yu Mengyu 4-1, earning Japan’s first-ever medal in the Olympic women’s singles, after she secured gold in the mixed doubles.
“Out of a hundred, I’m 99% frustrated. It’s very close to a hundred… I’m happy but full of regrets at the same time,” Ito told reporters.
In the men’s singles, China’s Fan Zhendong beat Taiwan’s Lin Yun Ju 4-3, while defending champion Ma Long overcame Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov by the same score to reach Friday’s final.
The results mean China provided all four finalists in the showpiece matches at the Tokyo Games in the women’s and men’s singles events as they have at every Games since 2008.
China have long been the dominant force in the sport, especially in the women’s singles where the Asian powerhouse has never been beaten to the Olympic title.
While this summer has seen some fierce rivals emerging from Japan, Taiwan, Germany and elsewhere, Chen and Sun said they would still rather compete against Chinese paddlers.
“At the finals, of course I want to fight against my team mate. That way, both the gold and the silver will become China’s,” said Chen.
Earlier on Thursday, world number three Sun had overwhelmed Ito in the semi-finals with an 11-3 11-9 11-6 11-4 victory, while Chen had beaten Yu 11-6 11-8 11-7 11-6.
(Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Shri Navaratnam/Ken Ferris/Toby Davis)