The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is very much in current focus, the clock is ticking; now 25 years ago at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, China’s Deng Yaping was very much in focus.
She retained both her women’s singles and women’s doubles titles; soon after the tournament concluded she gave her views as to why the event holds such a precious place in her life.
At the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, Deng Yaping (left) partnered Qiao Hong to women's doubles gold
Deng Yaping reflects:
The most important event for me is undoubtedly the Olympic Games. It is a gathering in which a wide range of sports compete and that gives the competition something extra, it makes it very special.
Also, the event only happens every four years. If you win the World Cup you keep the title for one year, if you are successful at the World Championships, you hold the title for two years, if you are the Olympic champion, the title is yours for four years, that makes the competition very special and very important.
Furthermore, you have to be a good player to qualify to compete in the Olympic Games, there are far fewer places available than in the World Championships. Also, you have few chances to succeed. If you lose you have to wait another four years; most other major championships are every two years.
Concentration and focusing on the task in hand are essential. In the Olympic Games there are more distractions than at other events where only one sport is played. You live in the Olympic village with other athletes, some very famous who attract a great deal of media attention; you must exert a great deal of self-discipline and concentrate fully on your event whether it be singles, doubles, or both.
Unquestionably, the Olympic Games is very important for table tennis. The Olympic Games provides a great deal of publicity; table tennis is more likely to be reported in a prominent fashion in the media than at a World or Continental Championships. The effect may well be that if a country has a competitor who achieves success in an Olympic Games, then that country has gained a role model for others to follow and the sport in question will grow in the country concerned.
The benefits of Olympic success can be far reaching and most certainly many governments throughout the world place a great importance on success at the Olympic Games, the event has become far more than just a gathering of sportsmen and sportswomen.
Countries will measure their success against others; that is also true of sportsmen and sportswomen. The Olympic Games provides unique opportunity, it is one of the few opportunities that occurs during a player’s career when you can measure your achievements against those sporting personalities from different disciplines and different countries.
It is unique.
Editor: Ian Marshall