LONDON, England (AFP) — Li Xiaoxia stunned Ding Ning to win women’s table tennis gold in a stormy, all-Chinese women’s singles final which ended with the world number one in tears yesterday.
Li won 11-8, 14-12, 8-11, 11-6, 11-4 at ExCeL Arena as Ding, the world champion and favourite, wept and argued when she was repeatedly cautioned by the referee over her serving.
“I didn’t do very well today. I had two obstacles, not only from my opponent but from the judge,” said the crestfallen star. “Not only did she give me a yellow card but she also gave me a red. There’s nothing I can do. She judged my serving. I was only doing my best. “It’s quite a pity because I lost, not only because of my tactics but also outside the arena.” Li, dubbed ’Miss Number Two’, can now shed the moniker as she becomes China’s seventh straight women’s singles Olympic champion, extending a monopoly which goes back to the event’s introduction in 1988. “I’m very excited. This has been my dream since being a little girl — I dreamed of being an Olympic champion,” she said. “We are the same level but today I performed better than I expected.”
Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, who was born in China, beat 19-year-old Japanese player Kasumi Ishikawa to claim bronze.
Li had never beaten Ding until June, when she registered her first win over the world and Asian champion at the Beijing Open.
“My family are in China. I want to thank my parents. They have sacrificed a lot to make my dreams come true,” she said.
China won every table tennis singles medal going at the last Olympics, underlining a dominance described as “devastating” by the sport’s chief.
The performance prompted a rulechange limiting each country to two men’s and women’s singles entrants, meaning China can no longer win all three medals in each event.
Since table tennis joined the Olympic programme in 1988, China have taken 21 of the 25 available golds, including all four at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.