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China wins women's team competition

China on road to sweep table tennis golds
By the Associated Press
Posted Sunday, August 17, 2008 5:51 AM ET
China's table tennis players Guo Yue and Zhang Yining in the final against Singapore.
AFP/Getty Images
China's table tennis players Guo Yue and Zhang Yining in the final against Singapore.

BEIJING (AP) - Next up for the Chinese women's table tennis team: win more gold in singles.

The heavily favored home squad took the gold medal in the women's team competition on Sunday, beating Singapore 3-0 in another lopsided match.

The top-seeded hosts were led by Beijing native Zhang Yining, the No. 1 player in the world and a double gold medalist in Athens. China picked apart second-seeded Singapore with near-flawless execution, dishing out blistering shots to the edges and corners of the table.

"I don't think we won that easily," coach Shi Zhihao said afterward, with the team's implicit manner of refusing to acknowledge its thorough dominance of the women's game.

"For us to get this kind of result today comes from our four years of preparations," he said. "We told the athletes that we were fighting for the gold medal, we weren't defending it."

China won the inaugural gold medal for the table tennis team event, which replaces the doubles competition. China came into the evening having won nine of the ten women's table tennis golds awarded since the sport was added to the Olympic program in 1988.

The Singapore team, made up of three former Chinese athletes who went overseas in search of better playing opportunities, said previously there was little chance of a win. South Korea took the bronze, with a 3-0 victory over Japan earlier Sunday.

"China is the best team, so for us to beat all the other teams, I think we accomplished what we set out to do," Singapore's said.

The silver is the first medal won by the tiny city-state of Singapore since 1960, and the team will receive a bonus of about a half-million dollars. Had they won the gold, it would have been about $1 million.

The contest was played out in front of a nearly packed house at Peking University Gymnasium, where Chinese President Hu Jintao and International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge watched from the VIP section.

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The atmosphere was thick with anticipation as the contest began. Even with thousands of flag-waving fans, they were so still during the first few serves that the only sound was the clicking of photographers' cameras. Those who blurted out "Go China" or "Go Singapore" were shushed by angry hisses from the crowd.

A few red-and-white Singapore flags dotted the gymnasium. At one point, the NBA-style emcee broke in during a stop in play and asked everyone to yell "Go Singapore!" three times to help out the visiting team. The crowd obliged willingly. "Thanks everyone," the announcer said. "Now back to the game."

Both Zhang and teammate Wang Nan, who had previously won three gold medals, lost the first game of their matches. But in a demonstration of their skill and steely nerves, they came back to win the next three games with businesslike efficiency.

Even while cradling the gold medal in her hand, Zhang was still pointing out problems in her performance that led to her giving up the first game with Li - slow footwork, playing too close to the table. She eventually admitted that she did "OK."

"Even though I lost that first game, I think in the end I did OK, I had the right tactics. Beginning with that second game, it went a lot more smoothly," said Zhang. "So overall, I'm pretty satisfied with how I did."

In the men's team event, South Korea rallied to beat Hong Kong and Austria defeated a young Japanese team Sunday to advance to the bronze medal match.

The Koreans came into the matchup after a loss to China the night before. But they were able to pull out a 3-1 win against Hong Kong despite trailing in the first part of the last two matches.

Japan's Kan Yo won the first match over 2003 singles world champion Werner Schlager, but Austria responded with wins on the next three matches. The Japanese team, which includes 19-year-old Mizutani Jun and 21-year-old Kishikawa Seiya, could not keep up with the more experienced Austrian side.

 


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