26 Nov 2016

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games was not just a test for Zhang Jike but also for the faith of his coach, Xiao Zhan. The world saw a vulnerable Zhang Jike after he was beaten by Chinese Taipei's Chen Chien An in the 2016 ITTF World Tour Korea Open just months before the big match in Rio.

Coach Xiao Zhan can't deny that he was worried.

by Henry Chen

“I believe that Zhang Jike can win”, Xiao Zhan

That was how coach Xiao Zhan felt about the match between Zhang Jike and Chen Chien-An in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. However, before such confidence, there was doubt.

However, the defeat by Chen Chien-An in Korea did raise questions.

“I was really sad since we arrived from the Korea Open. Zhang Jike’s competitive condition and attitude were not good. We also didn’t have a lot of training at that time. Looking for ways to motivate him was very vital”, Xiao Zhan.

The coach eventually found the motivation which resulted in a big transformation in Zhang Jike during the last sprint of their training for the Olympic Games. The desire to compete and win resurfaced.

However, the coach felt that the transformation arrived a little bit late.

Chen Chien-An, the first opponent for Zhang Jike in the 2016 Olympic Singles (Photo: Rémy Gros)

Before the draw for the Singles was made, Zhang Jike asked Xiao Zhan: “Would it be possible for me to encounter a left-hand player in the first round? That question made Xiao Zhan know that there was doubt from Zhang Jike himself.

“The Olympic Games is such a coincidence. The one you are afraid of will be your opponent.” Xiao Zhan said.

The tandem duo spent the time before the competition to prepare fully for the match against Chen Chien-An. They were able to address the doubt and Zhang Jike showed an impressive performance against the familiar opponent.

Zhang Jike overcame Chen Chien An in straight games (11-5, 13-11, 12-10, 11-7).

“On the technical side, Zhang Jike had the advantages to beat his opponent. I knew that at that time that he did not have any problems. He was mentally strong and it was impossible for him to mess up in the Olympic Games.” Xiao Zhan.

It was a successful performance for Zhang Jike at this year’s Olympic Games. He survived each round and sealed his seat in the final to meet his teammate Ma Long. At that point, he had already fulfilled his mission for the Chinese National Team.

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