Table tennis: China aims for another free kick at Tokyo Olympics, but challenges ahead

TOKYO: China will look to win an unequivocal fourth sweep of table tennis medals at the Tokyo Olympics and despite some mixed performances heading into the Games, it will be a major shock if their paddlers are not yet on. the podium .

The Asian powerhouse has won 28 of the 32 gold medals awarded in the sport since it was added to the 1988 Games program, including all eight women’s singles titles.

Four of the top five men in the world are Chinese, as are six of the top seven women.

Ma Long returns to defend his singles title with world number one Fan Zhendong also selected in the event. Rio women’s champion Ding Ning has retired, paving the way for world number one Chen Meng and number three Sun Yingsha.

In the singles events, the Japanese hosts appear to be the biggest threat with world number two Mima Ito determined to end China’s dominance in the women’s singles and Tomokazu Harimoto hoping to cause a sensation among the men.

READ: ‘Strict’ rules at training camp in Japan but excitement mounts as Singapore table tennis team countdown to Olympics

Germans Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov will aim for gold in men’s singles, but a podium place seems their best hope, while Taiwanese mixed doubles pair Lin Yun-ju and Cheng I-ching emerge as the most serious challenge for a Chinese scan.

Preparing for the Games was not easy for China, however, with Ma and Chen losing to their teammates in domestic competitions. In the mixed doubles, Olympic Games competitor Liu Shiwen and Xu Xin also lost.

Of the five events in which the six Olympic athletes took part, they won only two.

However, the president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association, Liu Guoliang, said it was a “good thing” to make mistakes before the Games.

“This will help us better plan the next training and make more precise plans in the preparations for the Games,” Liu told Xinhua News in May.

A newly introduced mixed doubles event will kick off the table tennis program on July 24, with 16 pairs vying for the first gold medal.

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