by Simon Daish
Ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games Jens Lang set his players the minimum goal of not losing any matches to lower ranked competitors. Lang’s goal was achieved before the Games commenced as the draw saw all of the Australian squad placed against higher ranked players.
With a tough draw handed to the Australians, three out of the four singles representatives exited at the first time of asking. However, five-time Olympian Jian Fang Lay (43) equalled Australia’s personal best finish at an Olympic Games set by William Henzell at London 2012, as Lay reached the third round of the Women’s Singles event in Rio before eventually losing out to Yu Mengyu (Singapore).
Coach Jens Lang believes that Australia’s Rio 2016 campaign was a positive experience, “Overall, if we look back, we probably exceeded our expectations slightly. There were some pleasing performances that certainly give us hope moving forward.”
“I think it was a valuable learning experience to experience firsthand how the best players in the world, such as China, Korea and Japan, how they prepare for their matches, how big their attention to detail is, but also on the table during the competition how consistent they are.” – Jens Lang (Australian Head Coach).
David Powell, Chris Yan and Melissa Tapper all lost their opening matches in Rio, but coach Lang was satisfied overall especially with Tapper and Yan’s performances,
“Even though Melissa probably didn’t reach her full potential she was very competitive and only lost 2-4 so that’s an outcome that gives hope for the future,” said Lang. “The same for Chris Yan who played Aleksander Karakesevic (Serbia), a top 100 player who was also a top 20 player in the late 90s, early 2000s. Chris lost 2-4 and was competitive throughout the whole match, so that’s certainly a good indication moving forward.”
Out of the six representatives from Australia, only Lay had previously competed at an Olympic Games and with preparations for Tokyo 2020 now underway, Jens Lang believes that the five debutantes have a good chance of participating at the competition in four years’ time.
“They’ve put themselves in the best position because they qualified for these Olympic Games.” Lang added, “If they stick to their training plan, if they keep working hard toward their goals they are certainly our biggest prospects to qualify for the next Olympics.”