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Olympic Games: Talking point

Friday 21 May

Teams announced for the forthcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the selections are very much as expected but if there is one talking point regarding proceedings that commence on Saturday 24th July, it revolves around the three female players China has selected.

The fact that Liu Shiwen has not been named in the women’s singles has caused intense social media reaction; she is nominated in the women’s team event alongside Chen Meng and Sun Yingsha, as well as in the mixed doubles in harness with Xu Xin.

Attention to detailed preparation, no member of the Chinese party, competes in more than two events in Tokyo.

It is a decision that many not please some, but it is very difficult to argue against Chinese selections. In the history of the Olympic Games, in women’s events, only on one occasion has China not secured gold; that was in 1988 in Seoul when in the women’s doubles final Chen Jing and Jiao Zhimin lost to Korea Republic’s Hyun Junghwa and Yang Youngja.

Otherwise, women’s singles, women’s doubles, women’s team, it has always been gold! There is many a Premiership football manager who would relish that record; gain such results and their wage demands would rocket a few million English pound per year!

Now, Liu Shiwen the young lady who we first saw at the 2004 World Junior Championships in Kobe when only 13 years old, is now 30 years of age; judging by the age at which Chinese players bow out from the international scene, can we really expect Liu Shiwen to compete in 2024 in Paris?

Could Liu Shiwen, the winner in 2019 in Budapest, gain the somewhat unwanted distinction of being the only women’s singles world champion, since table tennis was introduced in Seoul in 1988 not to ever compete in the women’s singles at a World Championships?

China’s Deng Yaping, Ding Ning, Li Xiaoxia, Wang Nan and Zhang Yining all added Olympic gold to earlier success at the World Championships. Notably Deng Yaping, Wang Nan and Ding Ning succeeding in the year following their World Championship success.

Titles in the women’s singles events at both World Championships and Olympic Games; there is only one world champion who has competed in the Olympic Games and has not enjoyed medal success in multi-sport gathering.

China’s Qiao Hong, the 1989 World champion, won silver in 1992 in Barcelona, bronze four years later in Atlanta; colleague Guo Yue, the 2007 World champion, was a bronze medallist in 2008 in Beijing. Meanwhile, Korea Republic’s Hyun Junghwa, world champion in 1983 in Gothenburg, gained bronze in 1992 in Barcelona.

The odd one out is He Zhili; when representing China, she was crowned world champion in 1987 in New Delhi. She was not selected for Seoul in 1988, moved to Japan, became known as Chire Koyama and competed in just one Olympic Games. In 2000 in Sydney, she beaten at the quarter-final stage by Wang Nan.

To date, in addition to being the only World champion to compete in an Olympic Games and not win a medal, she is the only reigning World champion not to compete in the women’s singles event at the ensuing Games.

On both counts, could Liu Shiwen be the second?

Editor: Ian Marshall

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