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Olympic Games: standard set in Seoul

Thursday 10 June

Chen Meng and Sun Yingsha are players nominated for the women’s singles event at the forthcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, play commencing in the Metropolitan Gymnasium on Saturday 24th July.

They are charged with maintaining proud tradition. It is an event that has always been won by China; the example being set when at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, staged from Friday 23rd September to Saturday 1st October, table tennis was first staged in the quadrennial spectacular.

Life was somewhat different in the women’s singles event in those day. Notably there was not parity; the men’s singles witnessed 64 players, the women’s singles 32 entrants. Also, a National Olympic Committee was permitted three players, as opposed to two since London in 2012. Matters commenced with six groups, each of eight players, the initial goal to gain a top two finish and thus advance to the main draw.

At the end of the day, China occupied all three steps of the podium, gold for Chen Jing, silver for Li Huifen and bronze for Jiao Zhimin, the player who was arguably the favourite for the title. She commenced proceedings the top seed, ahead of Korea Republic’s Yang Youngja; Chen Jing and Li Huifen occupied the respective third and fourth seeded places.

Chen Jing en route to gold in Seoul

All three completed the group stage unbeaten; five matches played, five wins, the only member of the trio to be tested being Jiao Zhimin, she was extended the full distance by the defensive skills of Olena Kovtun, on duty for the Soviet Union.

Safely through to the main draw, Chen Jing accounted for Bulgaria’s Daniela Guerguetcheva (21-15, 21-7, 22-20), the Soviet Union’s Fliura Abbate-Bulatova (21-4, 21-11, 21-2) and the Czechoslovakia’s Marie Hrachova (21-15, 21-12, 21-12) to reach the final, where Li Huifen awaited.

Earlier, Li Huifen had beaten Olga Nemes, representing Federal Germany (15-21, 21-18, 21-15, 21-10) and the Soviet Union’s Valentina Popova (21-13, 21-12, 21-19), prior to ending the hopes of Jiao Zhimin (21-16, 21-17, 21-11). In the early rounds, Jiao Zhimin had accounted for Japan’s Mika Hoshino (15-21, 21-12, 21-8, 17-21, 21-11) and Korea Republic’s Hong Chaok (21-9, 21-9, 21-11).

Impressive from Li Huifen but the title proved a step too far, despite a brave recovery, she was beaten by Chen Jing (21-17, 21-16, 21-23, 15-21, 21-15); the outcome following the win recorded by Jiao Zhimin against Marie Hrachova in the bronze medal contest (21-18, 21-10, 21-17).

The example was set, the customary conclusion now lies in the hands of Chen Meng and Sun Yingsha.

Editor: Ian Marshall

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