by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
“I think Chen Feng was really very nervous today; he let me play; he gave me confidence”, said Benedek Olah who practises in Budapest under the tutelage of Peter Aranoysi. “My parents are from Hungary but I was born in Finland; I needed to go the Hungary because the level of play is not that high at home”, added Benedek Olah who was revelling in the occasion.
“This is my Olympics; next time I may not qualify.”
I’m not so sure about that fact; the rate at which he is improving suggests that in Tokyo he may enter matters in the second round. One year ago when the London Olympic Games were taking place in the ExCeL Arena, he stood at no.188 on the World rankings, he is now in the no.70 spot.
“I was surprised by his tactics, he played very slowly, I was not able to play hard against him”, continued Benedek Olah. “Also, he is smart, his serves are difficult to read, more than once I gained a lead and then he came back; however, I was able to finish the match.”
Home Town Hero
An impressive performance from one player on Olympic Games debut; to the delight of the crowd there was success for another. Hugo Calderano, born and bred in Rio de Janeiro, accounted for Puerto Rico’s Andy Pereira (11-6, 11-7, 11-7, 11-4). “I feel very good after winning this match”, explained Hugo Calderano. “Andy Pereira is strong and a good player in Latin America; we know each other well, so it is always strange to play against him, I am very happy.”
Very happy, so was the crowd, they were delirious. “I wasn’t expecting so many people in table tennis”, he said. “It is a fantastic experience with everyone supporting me and shouting my name.”
Success for Experience
Success for Hugo Calderano and Benedek Olah, on debut; there was also success for a player at the other end of the spectrum. Nigeria’s Segun Toriola, playing in his seventh consecutive Olympic Games, accounted for the Czech Republic’s Dmitrij Prokopcov (8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8). “I’ve played him in the French League three times and I’ve lost every time”, said Segun Toriola. “Today I felt confident before the match, I played without any fear; my first attack was strong and he made mistakes, the main problem for me was that I made mistakes when playing short.”
Opening Round Wins
Meanwhile, as play commenced in the first round of the Men’s Singles event, there were wins for Hungary’s Adam Pattantyus, Canada’s Eugene Wang and Spain’s He Zhiwen.
Adam Pattantyus beat Kazakhstan’s Krill Gerassimenko (11-9, 11-9, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9), Eugene Wang defeated Jorge Campos, like Andy Pereira from Cuba (6-11, 13-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-6); whilst He Zhiwen proved too clever for Feng Yijun of the United States (11-6, 7-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-9, 11-4). Likewise and somewhat against expectations, there was success for Uzbekistan’s Zokhid Kenhaev against the Czech Republic’s Lubomir Jancarik (8-11, 11-2, 13-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-9) and for Thailand’s Padasak Tanviriyavechakul when opposing India’s Soumyajit Ghosh (11-8, 11-6, 12-14, 11-6, 13-11).