Jian Fang Lay is the answer to many big questions about the Olympics that would leave most Australians bewildered.
The 48-year-old mother of two is writing one of those great scripts that fits so well with the best sports show on the planet; surviving home schooling thanks to Victoria’s tough blocks last year, drafted into the Aussie squad because someone else pulled out, having to win a prelims just to make the first round.
And all of this at her sixth Olympics, the most Australian women alongside equestrian Mary Hanna.
But outside of his own table tennis circle, Lay remains a mystery to most. With all the skills of a hardened veteran, Chinese-born Lay caused her second major overflow in as many laps after knocking down Polish world No.35 Qian Li 4-2 in the ladies’ singles draw on Monday. .
Lay, who dropped to 156 in the world rankings during the COVID-19 pandemic, will now match her best-ever performance at the Olympics when she plays in the third round.
Her exploits deserve more than an empty arena, and a map to find her on one of the countless channels broadcasting the Olympic program.
But as the world battles the invisible virus that has cast such a cloud over these Games, Lay is the country’s invisible hero, working the only way she knows how.
She cried out sporadically, pumping her fists at regular intervals, as she started fast and finished even faster in her second round clash against Li.