The dynasty started in 1988 in Seoul with Chen Jing. Always the women’s singles gold medal in the table tennis events at an Olympic Games has been won by a player representing the People’s Republic of China.
Furthermore, there has always been the weight of expectation that such an outcome would be the scenario.
Time and again the player in question has been listed in top spot on the women’s world rankings, time and again the player has delivered. Now the mantle falls firmly on the shoulders of Chen Meng, the lady currently at the helm of the world order of merit.
She leads the Chinese cause in the Metropolitan Gymnasium, play commencing on Saturday 24th July.
A debut in the most prestigious sporting event on planet earth; in some sports, the Olympic Games may stand alongside or even one step below, tennis comes to mind with the Grand Slam tournaments, is winning gold at an Olympic Games more prestigious than winning Wimbledon?
In table tennis, there is no question, gold in the Olympic Games is the pinnacle, there is no higher prize.
How will Chen Meng respond? In her opening match there may be a sense of occasion. Cast your mind back to London 2012, starting proceedings in the third round Li Xiaoxia, the eventual gold medallist, struggled against 16 year old Ariel Hsing from the United States, eventually prevailing in six games. (11-4, 9-11, 11-6, 6-11, 11-8, 11-9).
Great credit to Ariel Hsing but the level displayed by Li Xiaoxia was below that exerted in the ensuing rounds.
Acclimatizing quickly to the environment, whoever Chen Meng faces will have played two matches and will be familiarized with the surroundings, it may seem that for a title favourite, the task should present no problems.
However, it is the Olympic Games and an estimated Chinese population of 1,444,888,020 as of Saturday 3rd July 2021, based on the latest United Nations data, expects a positive outcome, an authoritative response!
Evidence suggests the reply will be positive, the winner of four consecutive women’s singles titles at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals starting in 2017 in Astana, Chen Meng has proved her worth but was it not when a similar age to Ariel Hsing, that she displayed the fact she can respond when the nation expects.
At the 2011 World Junior Championships in Manama, she completed a clean sweep of titles.
After joining forces with Gu Ruochen, Gu Yuting and Zhu Yuling to secure women’s team gold, she partnered Song Hongyuan to mixed doubles success and claimed the women’s doubles top prize in harness with Gu Yuting, prior to being crowned girls’ singles champion.
The signs surely bode well for Chen Meng but could the biggest motivating factor of all, be that she was runner up in the women’s singles at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships in Budapest?
Surely, the lessons learnt from that occasion hurt but will they not put her in good stead for Tokyo?
Editor: Ian Marshall