by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
It was at the Volkswagen 2005 World Championships in the Chinese city of Shanghai that the fluent English speaking and most amiable Li Jiao first game to international notice.
Left handed, pen-hold grip, the expert in the art of service and first attack; a style that was no longer in fashion, she reached the quarter-final round of the Women’s Singles event, losing to the host nation’s Guo Yan.
The last eight finish was not anticipated; one round earlier she had beaten a player who was very much in form. She overcame Korea’s Moon Hyunjung by the very narrowest of margins in the decisive seventh game; in the third round of proceedings, Li Jiao had accounted for China’s Wang Nan, the defending champion.
Later, Li Jiao was to win the Women’s Singles title at the European Championships in 2007 in Belgrade and four years later in Gdansk.
Additionally she stood proudly on the top step of the podium at the Europe Top 12 on no less than four occasions. She captured the coveted title in 2007 in Arezzo, retained the title the following year in Frankfurt before performing the feat once again in Düsseldorf in 2010 and then in Liège in 2011.
Meanwhile, on the ITTF World Tour she won the Women’s Singles title in Slovenia in 2008 and two years later in 2010 in Poland; one year later in January 2011, she achieved her highest World ranking. She was listed at no.10.
Achievements but it is the contribution that Li Jiao has made to table tennis as a whole in the Netherlands that is the important factor.
Individual success brings pride to a nation but does not team success bring even greater pride?
Leading the Netherlands to the Women’s Team title at the European Championships on four consecutive occasions from 2008 in St Petersburg to 2011 in Gdansk is surely her greatest contribution?
Furthermore, it is understood that the contribution will continue; at the TMS 2014 World Team Championships in Lisbon, although a member of the Netherlands Women’s Team, her prime role was a coach for the men. It is in that role she is anticipated to continue.
Rio de Janeiro is her third consecutive appearance in an Olympic Games; earlier she played in Beijing and London.