China won the women’s team title at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on the evening of Thursday 5th August but, despite their excellence, they were not the star turn; Hong Kong China stole show.
In the gold medal fixture, China, the top seeds, recorded a clinical 3-0 win against Japan, the no.2 seeds, the win coming after Hong Kong, the no.4 seeds had recorded a 3-1 success in opposition to Germany, the no.3 seeds.
An astute change of plan reaped success for Hong Kong. Previously Lee Ho Ching and Minnie Soo Wain Yam had formed the doubles partnership; in the bronze medal encounter against Germany, Lee Ho Ching paired with Doo Hoi Kem.
It meant that Minnie Soo Wai Yam would play the potential two singles matches.
Significantly, in the second match, she would oppose the defensive skills of Han Ying, a player Doo Hoi Kem would have faced if continuing with the previous doubles order. Doo Hoi Kem is a fine player but maybe not the world’s best when opposing defenders.
Doo Hoi Kem and Lee Ho Ching lost to Shan Xiaona and Petrissa Solja (8-11, 11-5, 11-7, 15-13).
Enter Minnie Soo Wai Yam , she overcame the backspin skills of Han Ying in four games (12-10, 9-11, 11-9, 11-7) to turn the tide. Time and again Germany has relied on Han Ying winning both her singles matches; it was a major blow.
Immediately following, Doo Hoi Kem proved too consistent for Petrissa Solja winning in straight games (11-5, 11-6, 11-9).
Confident after her earlier success, Minnie Soo Wai Yam returned to the arena. She overcame Shan Xiaona to end matters (12-10, 13-11, 11-7).
It is the second ever medal won by Hong Kong in the table tennis events at an Olympic Games, the previous was in Athens (2004) when Ko Lai Chak and Li Ching (HKG) won bronze.
In Tokyo it was another celebration for Li Ching. He is the Hong Kong women’s team coach.
Significantly, the Hong Kong team is born and bred locally; in previous Olympic Games the team had included players who had learnt their skills in China, before transferring allegiance.
Success for Hong Kong, later in the day it was success for China.
Again Li Sun, the Chinese national coach, elected to field Chen Meng and Wang Manyu in the doubles; notably he showed confidence in Wang Manyu competing in her first Olympic Games, she was selected to play in two of the first three matches.
They beat Miu Hirano and Kasumi Ishikawa in four games (9-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-7).
Perhaps more pertinently, well aware that Mima Ito is considered the greatest threat to China, it meant she would face Sun Yingsha in the second match. Earlier in the tournament, Sun Yingsha had overcome Mima Ito at the semi-final stage of the women’s singles event (11-3, 11-9, 11-6, 11-4).
Sun Yingsha duly obliged and repeated the feat (11-8, 11-5, 3-11, 11-3).
Wang Manyu, increasingly adjusted to the Olympic stage, accounted for Miu Hirano to end matters (11-5, 11-9, 11-3). It was the third time when Wang Manyu (CHN) had met Miu Hirano on the international stage, the third time she had won.
Gold for China and gold on every occasion since the team events were first held in 2008 in Beijing; moreover, they continued their remarkable record, they have never surrendered a single individual match!
The record reads 51-0.
Play concludes on Friday 6th August with the men’s team medal fixture.
11.00 Bronze Medal: Japan (3) v Korea Republic (4)
19.30 Gold Medal: China (1) v Germany (2)
Editor: Ian Marshall
Photo Credit: ITTF