The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games proved very different from all those that had gone before; the first time the event was not held in the year of the event’s title, the first time no spectators were present.
There were more, primarily caused by the fact proceedings were held during a pandemic.
Furthermore, there were firsts of note in the table tennis arena.
Listed in top spot on the world rankings, China’s Fan Zhendong made his Olympic Games debut, similar to colleague Sun Yingsha who was the women’s singles silver medallist, he finished in same position in the men’s singles.
Fan Zhendong, Olympic and Youth Olympic Games gold medallist
Later both Fan Zhendong and Sun Yingsha emerged gold medallists in the respective men’s team and women’s team events. Thus, they became the first players to claim gold at both the Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games.
In Nanjing in 2014, Fan Zhendong won the men’s singles and with Liu Gaoyang, the mixed team; four years later in Buenos Aires, Sun Yingsha emerged the women’s singles champion and partnering Wang Chuqin, the mixed team winner.
Also, it was the first time both men’s singles semi-finals had been extended the full distance. Ma Long beat Dimitrij Ovtcharov (13-11, 11-8, 9-11, 9-11, 11-7, 5-11, 11-9), Fan Zhendong overcame Lin Yun-Ju (6-11, 11-9, 14-12, 13-15, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8).
In fact, those two matches, doubled the overall number!
The only other ever men’s singles semi-final to need a deciding game, since the tournament was first staged in 1998 in Seoul, was four years later in Barcelona when matches were best of five games, each to 21 points. On that occasion Frenchman Jean-Philippe Gatien beat China’s Ma Wenge (20–22, 22–20, 21–16, 12–21, 21–13).
Additionally, one can add to the list, Jun Mizutani and Koki Niwa.
They formed the doubles partnership in the men’s team event against Australia, Germany and Korea Republic; it was the first time ever two left handers had formed the doubles combination in either a men’s or women’s team event.
Certainly Tokyo 2020 was a first with a difference.
Editor: Ian Marshall
Photo Credit: ITTF