Top table tennis stories in Rio
The table tennis competitions at the Rio Games will feature hundreds of storylines, but these five are the most exciting.
How will the United States fare?
The United States has its largest-ever table tennis team in Rio with six athletes competing in each of the four categories (men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s team).
What’s more, Rio will mark the first Games where the Americans have a men’s table tennis team.
The women’s players will likely provide the best results. Wu Yue won women’s singles at last year’s Pan American Championships, while Lily Zhang won a singles bronze medal at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
Will China sweep gold?
China dominates Olympic table tennis: They’ve won 24 out of a possible 28 gold medals. The last time a player from another country won gold in one of the sport’s four categories was at the 2004 Athens Games: South Korea’s Ryu Seung-Min won men’s singles gold, while China’s Wang Hao earned silver and Wang Liqin, also from China, took bronze.
At the last Olympics, China won gold in all divisions. World rankings suggest the country will repeat the feat in Rio, but anything could happen.
Ma Long and Zhang Jike each try to make singles history
Ma Long has been the World No. 1 table tennis player on-and-off since 2010, never leaving the world rankings’ top three since September 2011. However, China did not let him compete in the singles competition at the London 2012 Games (he still helped his country win gold in men’s team). Instead, top Chinese player Zhang Jike won singles gold, thus achieving a “career Grand Slam” – winning singles competitions at several major tournaments, including the World Championships, World Cup and Olympics.
Both Long and Jike will compete in singles at the Rio Games. If he were to win gold, Long would complete his own career Grand Slam; but if Jike were to take the top spot, he’d be the only male table tennis Olympian to own two singles gold medals.
The female World No. 1 singles player won’t compete in the category
Similar to the situation with Ma Long at the London 2012 Games, current World No. 1 Liu Shiwen won’t get to compete in singles at the upcoming Games. Instead, reigning singles gold medalist Li Xiaoxia and reigning silver medalist Ding Ning will play in the category.
Still, the 25-year-old Shiwen – who won gold in team at this year’s World Championships – will get to compete in that competition alongside her Chinese compatriots.
Ding Ning fights for golden redemption
China’s World No. 2 Ding Ning lost a dramatic London 2012 singles final to compatriot Li Xiaoxia. She’ll have a shot to redeem herself at the Rio Games, where she’s set to play both singles and team. Li has since sunken to World No. 5 status, but she will aggressively defend her gold medal.