Going to Rio: China veteran Li Xiaoxia clinches Games berth after beating world No 4
The 2012 London Olympic Games women’s champion has no trouble overwhelming her Japanese opponent Kaumi Ishikawa, while in the men’s Ma Long dominates compatriot Fan Zhendong
Veteran Li Xiaoxia of China has proven that she is still the player to beat after snatching the East Asia olympic berth with an overwhelming victory against Kasumi Ishikawa of Japan at Queen Elizabeth Stadium on Thursday.
One of the few grand slam winners in table tennis, the 28-year-old was in tremendous form in Hong Kong when she ousted Ishikawa, the world number four, in straight games 11-9, 11-8, 11-3, 11-4 in a quick-fire 25-minute final of the stage one competition of the qualification tournament.
In the men’s all-China final, world number one Ma Long beat compatriot Fan Zhendong, clinching his Olympic berth with a 4-1 win (16-18, 11-3, 11-6, 11-7, 13-11).
“It was not easy to win the final after a difficult start, but the victory proved my hard work,” said Ma, who is going to make his singles Olympic debut after only representing China in the team event at the London Games four years ago.
“It’s too early to talk about the Rio Games as I will need to fine-tune my form through some systematic training in the remaining months before testing myself against the best players in Rio.”
Li, the 2012 London Olympic Games women’s champion, was surprised to find herself the only mainlander in the women’s last four of the competition.
“I never expected to become the only woman survivor from China in the semi-finals,” said Li.
“Possibly my mental strength has helped me through and that’s why I can become the champion in this qualification.”
The 2012 London Games women’s singles champion earlier also ended the fairy-tale run of Doo Hoi-kem, handing the home player a harsh 4-1 defeat in the semi-finals.
In the other semi-final, Ishikawa received a walkover from her teammate Mima Ito due to an injury. The 15-year-old Ito had upset reigning world champion Ding Ning of China in the previous round with a surprising 4-2 win.
Hong Kong’s Doo also stunned world number one Liu Shiwen of China in the second round before routing out another former mainland player Jeon Jihee, who now represents South Korea, in the quarters.
But Doo hit the wall against Li, who also won the singles titles at the 2013 World Championships and 2009 World Cup.
“I knew it would be tough against Li as she was the only Chinese player remaining in the semi-finals. They just could not afford to lose any more,” said the 19-year-old after her 12-10, 11-2, 11-6, 7-11, 11-2 defeat.
Another Hong Kong player Lee Ho-ching saw her campaign end after losing 4-1 to Ishikawa in the last eight.
Earlier, Hong Kong’s Wong Chun-ting suffered a 4-0 defeat from Ma Long in the men’s quarter-finals, showing he still has a lot more to learn at the highest level.
Wong came close in the second and third games, but never really looked like pulling off a stunning upset in front of his home fans.
“I have trained with the China national team in Beijing before the tournament and they are just in a class of their own,” said Wong, who became Hong Kong’s highest world-ranked home-grown player with ninth in this month’s rankings list.
“They have sent four players here and each one of them has the quality of becoming the Olympic singles champion in Rio. We still lag far behind them and need to work harder to find a way to beat them one day.”