European Eye on Tokyo: Table Tennis

Whilst China dominated the medal standings in the table tennis events at the Olympic Games, there were still a couple of European gems to be found in Tokyo. We review the highlights from a European – or rather German – point of view.

Germany reigned supreme at the recent European Table Tennis Championships and underlined once more that they are a powerhouse to be reckoned with, raising the expectations for the European Championships Munich 2022 at home.

They were the only European men’s team standing in the last four, facing Japan in a thrilling semi-final that went the full distance. The Germans edged out the hosts 3-2 to reach the gold medal match against heavy favourites China.

The Chinese team proved unbeatable, sweeping all their opponents 3-0 on their way to gold, including the German team. The silver medal is still one to be proud of, as Patrick Franziska confirmed: "After the initial disappointment of losing the final, I now feel extremely proud. The team spirit we had here, the way we presented ourselves, the atmosphere in the team: everyone was supportive of each other – it is a lot of fun. That's why the silver medal is worth so much. I had a few tears of joy in my eyes when we walked in for the award ceremony."

Third-party content
To protect your personal data, we have blocked third-party content from loading automatically. If you agree to have twitter.com content displayed on munich2022.com, please give your consent below. You can withdraw your consent at any time. For further information, please check our privacy policy.

The final saw Ma Long clinch a record fifth Olympic gold medal, while Dimitrij Ovtcharov now holds a record of his own. With six Olympic medals in total – two silvers and four bronzes – he has more than any other table tennis player.

Ovtcharov only realised afterwards that he is now the most decorated player: "The crazy thing is that I have never thought about it, not before and neither during the tournament. I just learned about it now and it’s simply incredible."

Worthy of Hitchcock

Prior to his success with the team, Ovtcharov had already stepped on the podium in the Tokyo Metropolitan Gym, claiming singles bronze. He experienced two final competition days that even the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock could not have scripted any better.

Both semi-finals were decided in a nail-biting seventh game, with Ovtcharov succumbing 3-4 (11-13, 8-11, 11-9, 11-9, 7-11, 11-5, 9-11) to Ma Long, who went on to beat his fellow Chinese team-mate Fan Zhendong in the final.

Despite the heart-breaking loss, the 32-year-old managed to refocus and end the competition on a high note. In a thrilling bronze medal match, he survived four match points by Chinese Taipei’s Lin Jun-Yu and eventually prevailed 4-3 (13-11, 9-11, 6-11, 11-4, 4-11, 15-13, 11-7). 

"I truly feel the last four days felt like five years. I really believed that I could go all the way. Then suddenly I was almost knocked out by Hugo (Calderano). Then I pulled myself back and had such a great match against Ma Long yesterday. Everything broke apart at the last point. I called my dad and my wife and said I never want to play table tennis again. It’s really too hard. But they gave me so much strength and my dad told me that if I was going to win again today, the world would be great again. But yesterday evening, I didn’t even believe I could lift a racquet again. My dad was right. I won today and everything feels amazing again,” he described his emotional roller-coaster ride.

"He had so many match points and I felt it was over for me. But he missed and in a blink of an eye later, I felt I had some divine help, and I was so delighted to be back in the game. Sport is incredibly crazy. On one hand, I invest so much time and effort for that one single point. On the other hand, it can be so ugly when you do so much and you lose by one point. It’s just insane."

Third-party content
To protect your personal data, we have blocked third-party content from loading automatically. If you agree to have twitter.com content displayed on munich2022.com, please give your consent below. You can withdraw your consent at any time. For further information, please check our privacy policy.

Close, but no cigar

They came close, but there were no further podium spots for Europe in the remaining table tennis events. Germany narrowly missed out on a bronze in the women’s team competition after falling 1-3 to Hong Kong, China in the third-place battle. China celebrated another gold medal, with Japan finishing second.

While there were three European teams in the mixed doubles quarter-finals, France were the only ones to reach the semi-finals. However, Emmanuel Lebesson and Jia Nan Yuan suffered two defeats to claim fourth place in the end. Japan edged out China 4-3 to win gold, while Chinese Taipei bested France 3-0 for bronze.

Germany’s Ying Han was the only European to reach the quarter-finals in the women’s singles, but lost to Sun Yingsha. The Chinese went on to win the silver medal, with her compatriot Chen Meng crowned Olympic champion and Mima Ito of Japan completing the podium in third place.

Please visit the ITTF and ETTU websites for a full recap of the Olympic table tennis events. All official results and medal standings from the Olympic Games can be found on the Tokyo 2020 website.

Tags

Table Tennis