By Henry Chen
Chen Chien-An, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, and Jang Woojin were just some of the foreign players who have posed a serious degree of threat to the Grand Slam champion Zhang Jike in the 2016 Olympic cycle.
Two of those names, Chen Chien An and Dimitrij Ovtcharov, were drawn to the same half with Zhang Jike in the Rio Olympic Singles event.
“I was certainly worried looking at the draw.” Xiao Zhan, Zhang Jike’s coach, admitted. Such worry was not because of the technical skills of the player but more about the fear that Zhang Jike might not be able to manage himself well.
Zhang Jike has definitely faced various challenges a year before the Rio Olympic Games. He encountered serious injuries which interrupted his training programme. Aside from that, he also went through a controversy which hindered him from participating in the 2015 Chinese Table Tennis Super League. All of these naturally affected the confidence of both Zhang Jike and Xiao Zhan.
Such lack of confidence was seen by the opponents. Before the start of the competition, some players wanted to take advantage of the weakness Zhang Jike had exposed.
The German Team was one of them, saying that they were confident against Zhang Jike. However, such expectations did not happen. Dimitrij Ovtharov was eliminated in the quarter-finals by Vladimir Samsonov, preventing a possible encounter in the penultimate round.
According to Xiao Zhan, many people said it was lucky for Zhang Jike not to meet Dimitrij Ovtcharov in the competition. If they did, the Chinese champion might not be able to reach the final.
But Xiao Zhan thinks that meeting the German player would have been definitely a good thing.
“I know Zhang Jike can beat him and prove himself.” Xiao Zhan said.
Zhang Jike might have showed some inconsistencies in his performance against foreign players. However, Xiao Zhan believes that Zhang Jike doesn’t really have problems against foreign opponents, including Dimitrij Ovtcharov.