Olympics-Table Tennis-Ding hopes to emulate golden girl Zhang
LONDON, July 30 |
LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) - It is never easy walking in the shadows of greats, especially if you are Ding Ning and you are trying etch your name into an Olympic table tennis record book jam-packed full of Chinese success stories.
The world champion and overwhelming favourite powered into the Olympic quarter-finals on Monday and then said anything other than a gold medal in London would leave her nursing a sense of stinging disappointment.
That sadness would be rooted in her country's golden history in the sport with all of the women's individual Olympic champions coming from China since table tennis was introduced into the Games in 1988.
Names like Deng Yaping, who won successive singles golds in Barcelona and Atlanta, and Zhang Yining, who won four golds in the singles, doubles and team events in Athens and Beijing, make up a glittering roll call for Asia's dominant table tennis nation.
"I am not sure if I can live up to those players that have gone before, but I am trying," Ding said after an easy fourth-round workout against Hong Kong's Jiang Huajun.
"I know Zhang Yining very well and I followed her in training all the time. I learned so many things from her. Of course, I really want to win a gold medal, but I am just trying to do my best.
"Every competitor in the Olympic Games wants gold, but I would feel really disappointed if don't win it."
The 4-1 scoreline entered next to her name in the fourth-round ledger barely conveyed the ease of the encounter.
Jiang is the world number 20, but this was little more than a one-sided, mismatch that emphatically underlined Ding's gold-medal credentials.
"It was not as easy as it looked," she said. "In games four and five she did very well. I had to calm myself down and get over some complications to get through."
Ding will be joined in the quarter-finals by team mate Li Xiaoxia who also cruised into the next round with a 4-1 win over fourth-round opponent Park Miyong.
Li was given a testing workout on Sunday night by little-known 16-year-old American Ariel Hsing in front of a whooping crowd that included Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Today, however, was a different story and she never looked like losing control.
"Yesterday because it was my first game I had to get used to the arena and the spectators. Today my attitude was better," she said.
The match of the round involved Japanese fifth seed Ai Fukuhara who launched a stunning fightback to win 4-3 against the Netherlands' Li Jie having trailed 3-1.
"I would say this match was like a gold-medal match," a clearly relieved Fukuhara said.
"It was good to win, but required strong emotions so I wouldn't be defeated. Everyone watching must have thought it was a very good match.
"I thought I was going to lose at one point but I stayed very strong." (Editing by Alison Wildey)
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