by Wade Townsend
Duel of fates
It’s the final day of play in Rio and the German and Korea Republic teams are still without a medal. Germany were silver medallists in Beijing 2008 and bronze medallists in London 2012. Korea Republic won bronze in Beijing and silver in London. The medals won’t be getting shared around this time — only one piece of the pie remains.
Boll has made only two World Tour appearances this year, and was knocked out of in the early stages of one of them. His performance in Rio has so far been lacklustre. This match may be Boll’s Olympic Games swan song, but he is going to have to also make it his redemption song. The fans are hanging out for Boll to let loose and play less conservatively — we are waiting for Timo unleashed. The team will ultimately be relying on Ovtcharov to take two singles matches. Dima has huge strength off both wings and will be coming out swinging. He will look to overpower the more agile Koreans and the ball may just leave a dent in the San-Ei table.
Korea Republic will probably fall back on their younger players in the opening singles to get on the board. Jeoung Youngisik pushed Zhang Jike the full distance in their semi-final encounter. His backhand was like a ping pong particle accelerator, sending the ball down the line at light-speed. Reports are he has prepared with some fast food the night before this match — maybe the Ma Long diet really works. Joo Saehyuk is most likely looking at his last match in an Olympic Games. We will see if his defences hold true for one last time.
The average age of the German team is 32, while the the Korea Republic team is 28, the same age is Germany’s youngest player. In simple terms, Germany has an extra Olympics up their sleeve to rely on, while this young Korea Republic team will be out to cast an old generation aside. It will be a classic matchup of youth versus experience when the bronze medal is decided in Riocentro Pavilion 3 today.
Fire from the gods
China face one last hurdle in their quest for taking all the gold in Rio when they face Japan in the last match of the Rio Olympic Games. The odds are well and truly in China’s favour. However, the men haven’t dominated in quite the same manner as their women counterparts. Yes, they have a perfectly clean sheet, but there has been moments were it’s been in jeopardy. England and Korea Republic both almost snuck a game on the board. But each and every time China have moved up a gear. It will be really a question of if their opponents can bring something special to the table. Ma Long, Zhang Jike and Xu Xin are quite simply table tennis gods worthy of Olympian myth — can Japan be Prometheus and steal their fire?
Jun Mizutani overcame his poor head to head record against Timo Boll in the semi-final match, beating the German for only the second time in his career. Can he overcome the odds against China? He will probably be hoping to encounter either Xu Xin or Zhange Jike. He has close encounters with both players in the past, and only this year pushed Xu Xin to seven games in the Kuwait Open. Can the fisher king inspire a myth making win today in Rio? And how about Koki Niwa? He will be more relaxed with a medal assured. Niwa will be filling the highlight reel with squatting countertops and backhand chop-blocks. If his shots are connecting he is dangerous, particularly in the best of five format. Blinded by the dazzling and flashy display, he could easily sneak a win past China today.
Also take note; half the players in this match are left-handed. This is probably an Olympic record of some sort — someone call Guinness. Japan will also need a record making performance if they are going to take gold.
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