08 Nov 2016

Name the major title; after eight months of the year had been completed all belonged to China’s Ma Long. In 2015 he had been crowned World champion, at the Liebherr Men’s World Cup he had ruled supreme; later at the GAC Group ITTF World Tour Grand Finals he had stood on the top step of the podium, the winner of the Men’s Singles event.

Now in 2016 he has added the crown that is now universally regarded as the pinnacle of success; Men’s Singles gold at the Olympic Games.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

It is one of the accolades gained that witnesses the name of Ma Long amongst the nominations for Male Star Player of the Year; the announcement as to the name of the winner will be made on Thursday 8th December at the Star Awards Evening to be staged in the Sheraton Hotel in Doha, Qatar.

Men’s Singles success in Rio de Janeiro came after he had led China to gold in the Men’s Team event at the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur and prior to repeating the same feat later in the proceedings in the Brazilian carnival city.

Additionally prior to his success in Rio de Janeiro, he had won Men’s Singles titles on the ITTF World Tour in Berlin and in Qatar; thus narrowing the gap on the most successful of all. He is now just four behind Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus who has 26 such titles to his credit.

The facts are simple, Ma Long won, throughout the year he was the top rated player on the Men’s World Rankings, he was expected to win but did that not make the achievement even greater?

I would suggest in sport there are more times when the favourite has not won than has emerged successful; more than any other player was Ma Long not the young man under pressure. In the vocabulary of the ranking systems he could not have an unexpected win, only an unexpected loss.

It is to his great credit that he responded; maybe the win in Suzhou one year earlier after three consecutive World Championships semi-final defeats at the hands of colleague, Wang Hao, gave him the necessary injection of confidence.

Did that win make all the difference? After that success he could look Zhang Jike in the eye; he knew that he had the necessary faculties to win at the highest of highest levels. He knew he could emulate his enigmatic colleague and add the Olympic Games title to the collection.

Years or trying came to fruition for the young man who, as a 15 year old, had departed proceedings at the quarter-final of the Boys’ Singles event at the first ever World Junior Championships, staged in 2003 in Santiago, Chile.

He was the master of all he surveyed and any doubters as to his creditability to stand alongside the most celebrated names in sport, not only table tennis, were answered. He had responded in the way all great champions respond. He had won!

A vote for handling the burden of expectation and emerging successful, no player did it better in 2016 than Ma Long.

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Voting closes on Sunday 13th November

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