by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Impressively Kim Song I emerged successful in five games (11-7, 11-7, 11-5, 12-14,11-5).
Competing against defensive players has not always been the favourite option for Ai Fukuhara but having beaten Ri Myoung Sun, like Kim Song I from DPR Korea at the quarter-final stage, Ai Fukuhara could enter the fray with a degree of confidence.
However, there is the well-worn phrase that all defensive players are different; that is the situation with regards to Ri Myoung Sun and Kim Song I. Both are stout in defence but Kim Song I possesses a greater variety in her armoury; in particular, she is more prepared to execute top spin strokes from the forehand.
Equally Ai Fukuhara is very different from her compatriot, Kasumi Ishikawa, the player Kim Song I had beaten in the opening round; short pimpled rubber on the backhand gives her variation but she is not the most powerful of players.
Thus long points, top spins interspersed with push strokes is her tactic in opposition to defence.
Controlled top spin strokes but the fact that they are not executed with great power meant that Kim Song I was confident to counter top spin.
Dilemma for Ai Fukuhara
The slow controlled top spin play suited the skills of Kim Song I; fast attacking strokes with minimal top spin was a possible solution for Ai Fukuhara but that carried an element of risk. There was no great margin for error.
Mistakes accrued from the racket of Ai Fukuhara. Trying to penetrate the defensive skills of Kim Song I, she made errors; playing carefully with a mixture of controlled top spin and push strokes enabled Kim Song I to seize the initiative.
Ai Fukuhara, to her great credit fought, she secured the fourth game after leading 10-8 and electing for “Time Out” at 12-11 but Kim Song I held the aces, she had the answers; the bronze medal belonged to DPR Korea.
Although I only won the bronze medal, I am very happy. I want to present this medal to our great supreme leader. Kim Song I
Success for Kim Song I gave DPR Korea their fourth medal in the table tennis events at an Olympic Games.
At the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, Li Bun Hui secured bronze in the Women’s Singles event and with Yu Sun Bok the same colour in the Women’s Doubles competition. It was the one occasion when two bronze medals were awarded, there was no play-off match.
Later in Athens in 1996, Kim Hyang Mi was the Women’s Singles silver medallist.
Meanwhile for Ai Fukuhara, fourth place which was also achieved by her colleague, Kasumi Ishikawa four years ago in London, remains the best ever finish for a Japanese player.