by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
A first appearance in a Paralympic Games, the success recorded by Xue Juan in Rio de Janeiro far outweighs any previous achievement.
Semi-final exit in Slovenia
Earlier this year she won the Women’s Singles Class 3 title in her native China but in Slovenia bid farewell at the semi-final stage.
She was beaten by Sweden’s Anna-Carin Ahlquist (11-5, 1-11, 11-5, 11-9) who progressed to capture the top prize; notably she beat Li Qian in the final (12-10, 11-13, 11-9, 11-9).
“I was already feeling excited even before the match; this is my first Paralympic Games, so I had nothing to lose”, said Xue Juan. “I just had to play my best in every match; eventually that led me to gold.”
Bronze for Anna-Carin Ahlquist
Gold in Slovenia for Anna-Carin Ahlquist but in Rio de Janiero she had to settle for bronze.
After losing to Xue Juan one day earlier at the semi-final stage (11-9, 3-11, 11-8, 11-8), she recovered to beat Korea’s Yoon Jiyu to secure bronze (12-10, 11-7, 11-7).
“I was looking for a place in the final when I came here”, said Anna-Carin Ahlquist who had won gold in London.
“Last night after I lost I was so disappointed, I cried; however, my family is here, Ingela supported me and they relaxed me”, explained Anna-Carin Ahlquist. “Today I was nervous but I was really determined not to finish without a medal; it’s the first time I’ve played Yoon Jiyu, she’s good, she beat a lot of good players to reach the bronze medal match.”
Bronze for Anna-Carin Ahlquist but for her friend Ingela Lundbäck in Women’s Singles Class 5, it was defeat in the match to decide the third step of the podium. She was beaten by Jung Younga, like Yoon Jiyu from Korea; a four games defeat was the outcome (11-9, 17-15, 10-12, 11-9).
Success for Xue Juan was a first, for Zhang Bian it was title retained; four years ago she had emerged successful in the final in the ExCeL Exhibition Centre, the player she beat in the final, Gu Gai (11-5, 11-7,10-12, 11-7).
In Rio de Janeiro it was déjà vu.